How does TBLT Affect the Emergence of Complexity?
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How does TBLT Affect the Emergence of Complexity? :Usage-based Analysis of Written Production of an EFL Learner. Tomoko Tode (Niigata University of Health and Welfare) tode@nuhw.ac.jp Hideki Sakai (Shinshu University). This Study….

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How does TBLT Affect the Emergence of Complexity?:Usage-based Analysis of Written Production of an EFL Learner

Tomoko Tode (Niigata University of Health and Welfare) tode@nuhw.ac.jp

Hideki Sakai (Shinshu University)


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This Study…

  • the purpose = to explore how a task-based language teaching (TBLT) affects interlanguage development

  • a case study of one learner receiving TBLT

  • Time-series analysis was conducted in the framework of a usage-based theory of second language acquisition



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Children’s early language is item-based

  • Verb-Island Hypothesis (Tomasello, 1992)

    • __ kick __. Brush ___.

  • “… the best predictor of this child’s use of a given verb on a given day was not her use of other verbs on the same day, but rather her use of that same verb on immediately preceding days.” (Tomasello, 2003, pp. 117-118)




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L2 acquisition is basically usage-based. operations

  • L2 knowledge of beginning or false-beginning EFL learners is item-based. (Tode, 2003; Tode, submitted for publication)

  • item-based constructions → schematization (e.g., Mellow, 2006; Zyzik, 2006)


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However… operations

  • various factors specific to L2 acquisition (e.g., cognitive development; L1 transfer; explicit instruction)

  • Complexity Theory: need for in-depth longitudinal case studies (De Bot et al. 2007; Larsen-Freeman, 2006; Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008)




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Research Questions operations

  • How does the participant produce novel language during the period of the TBLT?

  • How does the TBLT affect the interlanguage development of the participant?


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the Participant Taro operations

  • a freshman majoring in speech, language and hearing sciences

  • taking a required EFL class for freshmen of a university

  • English proficiency: false-beginning level

  • He volunteered to participate in the data collection of this study.


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the EFL class Taro took operations

  • 90-minute class; once a week (14 meetings)

  • Instruction period: October 1, 2008 – January 7, 2009

  • the teacher = the first researcher of the study

  • The teacher designed tasks based on the coursebook, which is not task-based by itself.

  • Coursebook used: a collection of reading material on the topic of health & social welfare issues


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Syllabus operations



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Data Collection disability sports

  • Main data: English essays

    • Written in the first researcher’s office on an individual basis

    • 5 times during the study period (twice per month)

    • Under the same title “My Role as a QOL Supporter”

    • Without consulting anything

  • Subordinate data: Stimulated recall responses, collected immediately after writing the essay

  • Instructional data: instructional log, teaching material, written production the participant made in the classroom etc.


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RQ1:How does Taro produce novel language? disability sports

Analyses and Results


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Method of Analysis disability sports

  • Sources of novel language in each essay except the first essay were identified.

    • similar expressions or subschema in previous essays (←previous essays, SR)

    • pedagogical intervention that seems to have affected the novel language (←instructional data, SR)

    • explicit knowledge learned in middle or high school (←SR)


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Results disability sports


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Previous essays disability sports


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TBLT disability sportsexample of enable and encourage

  • Input from the text: They’re about enabling and encouraging disabled people to take part in sport….

    + FFI: encourage(a person)to do

  • ⇒ 2nd essay: I’m enable and encouraging him/her to speech and hear.


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TBLT disability sportsexample of communicate

  • Production by Taro & his partner : Therefore, he can’t communication ….

  • ⇒Teacher’s written feedback: “communication is a noun. The verb is communicate.”

  • ⇒Reproduction: Therefore, he couldn’t communicate….

  • ⇒5th essay: I can’t speak and communicate with patient well.


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Previous essay + TBLT disability sportsexample of that Clause

  • 2nd essay: I’m interesting aphasia… that disabled people can’t do communication well.

  • ⇒Input from text: The abuse should be reported…so that proper measures can be taken to help and protect the victim.

  • ⇒Input from text: The local health department requests …so that the burden on his wife may be reduced.

  • ⇒4th essay: I’m challenge that I don’t repeat mistake. (meaning I’ll challenge so that I will not repeat making mistakes.)


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Explicit knowledge disability sports

  • 5th essay: I like speaking with my friends.

    (SR: First I wrote I like speak…. Then I modified it into I like speaking, because I knew that two verbs cannot be used together.)


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Summary of the Results disability sports

  • Taro created utterances based mainly on expressions produced in previous essays.

  • He also actively made use of exemplars or slot-and-frame patterns experienced in the TBLT (e.g., encourage [a person] to do).

  • Explicit knowledge learned in middle and high schools was also drawn on, but not so often.


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RQ2: How does the TBLT affect Taro’s interlanguage development?

Analyses and Results


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Methods of Analyses development?

  • To examine how accuracy and complexity changed

  • To examine how the same meaning is expressed before and after relevant TBLT intervention

  • To examine how the same meaning is expressed in more than 1 essay without any relevant TBLT intervention


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Definitions of development?Accuracy and Complexity

  • Accuracy score

    • Proportion of accurate clauses to the total number of clauses plus independent sub-clausal unit

    • accurate in terms of word order, verb argument structures, the usage of conjunctions, etc.

  • Complexity score

    • average number of clauses per AS-unit


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Change in accuracy development?

Change in complexity

a) Results


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Analysis b) development?


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Example) to be a speech therapist development?

  • 1st essay: My dream is ST. ⇒2nd essay: I want to ST in the future.

  • Output (in class, not in the elicitation writing task) : I want to be child welfare facility. ⇒FFI: I want to work for child welfare facility. + My dream is to be child welfare specialist in the future.⇒Reproduce: I want to work for child welfare facility.

  • ⇒3rd essay: My dream is to be ST in the future.

    ⇒4th essay: I want to be ST in the future.

    ⇒5th essay: I will be ST in the future.


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Analysis c) development?


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Example) I study… development?

  • 1st essay: I study hard every day.

  • 2nd essay: I’m studying every day in Niigata University of Healthy.

  • 3rd essay: I study hard every day in Niigata University of Health.

  • 4th essay: I studying hard in Niigata University of Health.

  • 5th essay: I’m studying hard every day.


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Summary of the Results development?

  • A trade-off between accuracy and complexity development was observed.

    • At first, very complex, but not accurate

    • Later, more and more accurate

  • In some cases, experience in the TBLT contributed to Taro’s improvement in accuracy, but, in other cases, did not.

  • There was no evidence that accuracy improved without pedagogical intervention.


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Answer to RQ1 development?

  • Taro produces new language, based on exemplars or subscema, which drive from his previous experience consisting essay-writing and TBLT.

    = use of usage-based syntactic operations

  • He also draws on explicit knowledge.


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Answer to RQ 2 development?

  • TBLT has impact on Taro’s interlanguage development.

    TBLT

  • complex but inaccurate → more accurate

  • TBLT consisting of input, output and FFI may have contributed to his accuracy improvement.

  • The way TBLT affects the development seems to be a complex process.

    • Sometimes it has an effect, but at other times, no change at all. Performance waxes and wanes.


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Limitations development?

  • It is not clear what aspects (reading activities [input], production activities [output], FFI) of the TBLT have contributed to his development in what ways.

  • Repetition of essay writing as a data collection method may have motivated Taro to pay more focused attention to classroom input than usual.


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References development?

  • De Bot, K., Lowie, W., & Verspoor, M. (2007). A dynamic system theory approach to second language acquisition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 10. 7-21.

  • Langacker, R. W. (2000). A dynamic usage-based model. In M. Barlow & S. Kemmer (Eds.), Usage-based models of language (pp. 1-63). Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

  • Larsen-Freeman, D. (2006). The emergence of complexity, fluency, and accuracy in the oral and written production of five Chinese learners of English. Applied Linguistics, 27, 590-619.

  • Larsen-Freeman, D. & Cameron, L. (2008). Complex systems and applied linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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  • Lieven, E., Behrens, H., Speares, J., & Tomasello, M. (2003). Early syntactic creativity: a usage-based approach. Journal of Child Language, 30. 333-370.

  • Mellow, J. D. (2006). The emergence of second language syntax: A case study of the acquisition of relative clauses. Applied Linguistics, 27. 645-670.

  • Tode, T. (2003). From unanalyzed chunks to rules: The learning of the English copula be by beginning Japanese learners of English. IRAL, 41, 23-53.

  • Tode, T. (submitted for publication). Schematization and sentence processing by classroom foreign language learners: A reading-time experiment and a stimulated-recall analysis.


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  • Tomasello, M. (1992). (2003). Early syntactic creativity: a usage-based approach. First verbs: A case study of early grammatical development. New York: Cambridge University Press.

  • Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a language: A usage-based theory of language acquisition. MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Willis, D. & Willis, J. (2007). Doing task-based teaching. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  • Zyzik, E. (2006). Transitivity alternations and sequence learning: Insights from L2 Spanish production data. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 28, 449-485.