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The role of vocabulary and grammar knowledge in second-language oral fluency: A correlational study. Nel de Jong , Free University Amsterdam Laura Halderman, University of Pittsburgh SLRF 2009, Michigan State University. Oral Fluency in L2 Speakers.

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the role of vocabulary and grammar knowledge in second language oral fluency a correlational study

The role of vocabulary and grammar knowledge in second-language oral fluency: A correlational study

Nel de Jong, Free University Amsterdam

Laura Halderman, University of Pittsburgh

SLRF 2009, Michigan State University

oral fluency in l2 speakers
Oral Fluency in L2 Speakers
  • Broad vs. narrow definition (Lennon, 1990)
    • Broad: general oral proficiency
    • Narrow: speed and smoothness of oral delivery
  • Oral fluency depends on fast and automatic retrieval of vocabulary and processing of grammar knowledge (e.g., Levelt, 1999; Kormos, 2006; Schmidt, 1992)
  • Lexical and grammatical knowledge play a large role in second language oral fluency
lexical knowledge
Lexical knowledge
  • Lexical retrieval in writing
    • Lexical retrieval training of words lead to greater use of those items and more essential content elements were expressed. No effect on global text quality. (Snellings et al., 2004)
  • Lack of (access to) lexical knowledge is a major cause of dysfluencies (Hilton, 2007)
aspects of lexical knowledge
Aspects of Lexical Knowledge
  • Breadth
    • How many words a person knows
    • Greater breadth leads to fewer lexical searches
  • Depth
    • How well a person knows a word
    • Greater depth leads to easier integration into context
  • Lexical retrieval speed
    • How fast a person retrieves a word
    • Faster retrieval leads to less dysfluencies
grammatical knowledge
Grammatical knowledge
  • Automatic syntactic encoding is fast and requires little attention
    • (Anderson et al., 2004; Kormos, 2006; Segalowitz & Hulstijn, 2003)
  • Automaticity leads to oral fluency
    • (De Jong & Perfetti, in preparation; Towell, Hawkins, & Bazergui, 2006)
  • Implicit grammatical knowledge can tell us what structures have been proceduralized
research goal
Research Goal

Examine the relationship between lexical and grammatical knowledge and oral fluency in a sample of English Language Learners

our tests
Our Tests
  • Picture Naming – Immediate & Delayed
    • Breadth of Lexical Knowledge
    • Lexical Retrieval Speed (Immediate)
    • Articulation Rate (Delayed)
  • Vocabulary Knowledge Scale
    • Depth of Lexical Knowledge
  • Elicited Imitation
    • Grammatical Knowledge
  • Two minute recorded monologue
    • Oral production sample
measures of oral fluency
Measures of Oral Fluency
  • Temporal Measures:
    • Length of fluent runs
      • Number of syllables between pauses
    • Length of pauses
    • Phonation/time ratio
      • % of time filled with speech
    • Articulation rate
      • Syllables per minute

(Kormos & Dénes; Towell et al., 1996)

hypotheses
Hypotheses
  • Greater breadth of vocabulary [PN accuracy] => longer fluent runs; higher phonation/time ratio
  • Faster lexical retrieval [Imm. PN RT] => shorter pauses
  • Greater vocabulary depth [VKS] => longer fluent runs
  • Greater grammatical ability [EI] => longer fluent runs
participants
Participants
  • 23 students enrolled in English language courses; Speaking course
  • High intermediate (~60-79 on Michigan Test of English Language Proficiency)
  • L1s: Arabic (3), Chinese (3), French (1), Italian (2), Japanese (3), Korean (5), Russian (1), Slovak (1), and Spanish (1), Turkish (3)
picture naming
Picture Naming
  • Immediate
    • Timing began as soon as the picture was shown
  • Delayed
    • Timing began at the onset of a “beep” that was played 3 seconds after the picture appeared
  • 24 pictures of nouns each
  • Frequency bands sampled
    • 1-1000, 1001-2000, 2001-3000 & 3001-10,000
  • Measures – Accuracy & Reaction Time
vocabulary knowledge scale
Vocabulary Knowledge Scale
  • 12 nouns, 12 verbs
  • Four frequency bands:
    • 1-2000, 2001-3000, 3001-5000 & 5001-10,000
  • Definitions:
    • 1-9 words; avg. 4.0 words
    • Only 2,000 most frequent words
    • Distracter definitions adapted from Vocabulary Levels Test
slide13

Target word

Definitions shown when 3 - 5 is selected

Textbox to type sentence

elicited imitation
Elicited Imitation
  • 32 sentences, 16 were grammatically incorrect
  • 8 grammatical structures:
    • third person singular –s – regular plural nouns
    • embedded questions – regular past tense
    • indefinite articles – relative clauses
    • Modals – verb complements
  • Sentences: 6-11 words, avg. 8.2
  • Sampled from Erlam (2006)
results time 1
Results: Time 1

* p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001

† Frequency 1-1000 & 2001-3,000 only

results time 2
Results: Time 2

* p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001

† Frequency 1-1000 & 2001-3,000 only

conclusions from correlations
Conclusions from Correlations
  • PN accuracy (breadth) correlates with MLP and PTR, but inconsistently
      • Outlier in the Pretest measures?
      • Easier to find appropriate word (more fluent)
  • EI (grammatical ability) and VKS (depth) correlate with LFR
    • Building sentence structures
  • EI (grammatical ability) and VKS (depth) correlate with AR
    • Do students slow down their articulation rate for planning?
gains time 1 time 2 picture naming accuracy
Gains Time 1 – Time 2:Picture Naming Accuracy
  • Main effect of pre/post
  • Main effect of frequency
  • Interaction - naming type by frequency
    • Frequency effect only in Immediate Naming:
    • Naming under time pressure is less accurate
gains time 1 time 2 picture naming reaction time
Gains Time 1 – Time 2:Picture Naming Reaction Time
  • Main effect of naming type
  • Interaction - naming type by time
    • Effect of time only in Delayed Naming:
    • No improvement in lexical retrieval, but in initiation of articulatory processes (cf. Barry et al., 2001)
gains time 1 time 2 elicited imitation
Gains Time 1 – Time 2:Elicited Imitation
  • Main effects
  • time, structure, accuracy
  • Interaction (marginally sign.)
  • structure X accuracy X pretest/posttest
conclusions from pre post tests
Conclusions from Pre/Post-tests
  • Improvement in vocabulary breadth
  • Improvement in initiation of articulatory processes
  • Naming under time pressure is less accurate
    • Lexical retrieval in speeches also occurs under time pressure
  • Improvement in grammatical ability
    • Mostly noun plurals, relative clauses, verb complements
hypotheses23
Hypotheses

Greater breadth of vocabulary [PN accuracy] => longer fluent runs; higher phonation/time ratio

PTR: yes; MLFR: no

Faster lexical retrieval [Imm. PN RT] => shorter pauses

No support

Greater vocabulary depth [VKS] => longer fluent runs

Yes; and higher articulation rate

Greater grammatical ability [EI] => longer fluent runs

Yes; and higher articulation rate

possible explanations
Possible Explanations
  • Curriculum focuses on academic vocabulary acquisition
    • Our Pictures sample more general vocabulary and highly imageable nouns
  • Recorded monologues are very open-ended
    • It’s hard to predict what vocabulary and grammatical structures they will use
many thanks to
Many thanks to:
  • Co-PIs: Prof. Charles Perfetti, Dr. Laura Halderman
  • Research assistants: Colleen Davis, Mary Lou Vercellotti
  • The students and teachers at the ELI
  • The Robert Henderson Language Media Center
  • Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center
  • Contact: cam.de.jong@let.vu.nl, lkh11@pitt.edu

This work was supported in part by the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center, which is funded by the National Science Foundation award number SBE-0354420.

correlations gains gains
Correlations Gains – Gains

Gain in PTR with gain in Delayed Picture Naming

r = .477, p = .053n = 17

All other correlations n.s.

overall conclusions
Overall Conclusions
  • Vocabulary breadth predicts fluency
    • At single points in time: MLP and PTR
    • Gain: only Accuracy on Delayed Naming with PTR
  • Lexical retrieval speed predicts articulation rate
    • Articulation rate is not a reflection of proceduralization
  • Vocabulary depth predicts fluency
    • At single points in time: MLFR, AR
    • Gain: no post-test
  • Implicit Grammar Knowledge predicts fluency measures the most
    • At single points in time: MLFR, AR
    • Gain: no significant correlations with temporal measures