The relationships between oral fluency, multiword units, and proficiency scores

Shigetake Ushigusa, Purdue University


This descriptive study examines how two sets of variables, temporal measures of fluency and different types of prefabricated sequences of words (prefabs), are related to each other and to examinees’ scores on the Oral English Proficiency Test (the OEPT). The OEPT is used as a screening examination of prospective international teaching assistants at Purdue University. The study found significant correlations between the use of certain categories of prefabs, i.e., multiword units and oral proficiency test score, between some temporal measures of oral fluency and test score, and between the use of multiword units and temporal measures of oral fluency. Many researchers claim that building a mental store of prefabs may help second language (L2) learners increase fluency in their second languages. However, there have not been studies of the use of prefabs as a quantitative variable with respect to their relationship to English as a second language (ESL) fluency. This study examines the relationship between fluency and different types of multiword units, which are subsets of prefabs. The study focuses on the examination of observed patterns of the use of multiword units and fluency as measured by temporal variables. The use of multiword units, prefabs which are argued to be stored in and retrieved from memory, is associated with proceduralization or automaticity. The use of multiword units is argued to reduce speech-planning and speech-production time. Seven dictionaries of idioms and phrasal verbs, as well as two general dictionaries, were used as the primary resources for the identification of prefabs. Examinee response data were analyzed for temporal variables using PRAAT software. Fifty examinees' responses to the test item Offer Advice of the OEPT were analyzed to address the question: What are the relationships between temporal measures of fluency, the use of multiword units, and oral proficiency score?




Ginther, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Linguistics|Behavioral psychology|Educational tests & measurements

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