The processing of formulaic language on elicited imitation tasks by second language speakers

Xun Yan, Purdue University


The present study investigated the processing of formulaic language, in an effort to examine how the use of formulaic language may or may not contribute to second language (L2) fluency in speaking performance. To examine the effect of formulaic language on L2 fluency, this study utilized elicited imitation (EI) tasks designed to measure general English language proficiency in order to compare repetition of individual sentences containing formulaic sequences (FS) to repetition of sentences that do not. In addition to the presence of FS, the length of stimuli sentences was manipulated and compared to a second independent variable. Responses to EI tasks were automatically measured for articulation rate (AR) and number of silent pauses (NumSP), two important measures of L2 fluency. Repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted to examine the main and interaction effects of FS and sentence length (SL) on AR and NumSP. Results of analyses of EI performances showed that both SL and FS had a significant effect on L2 fluency in speech production; however, these two variables had differential effects on AR and NumSP. SL had a strong effect on NumSP on EI performances: as the stimulus sentence becomes longer, NumSP on EI performances increases. The presence of FS had a larger effect on AR than on NumSP: higher proportion of formulaic sequences in language use contributes to faster articulation rate, while the processing advantage of formulaic sequences helps reduce the number of silent pauses when the processing load is large. Findings of this study suggest that the presence of formulaic sequences create a processing advantage for L2 speakers and that EI tasks prompt language comprehension and processing. Findings have important implications for language teaching and assessment, in particular with respect to the teaching of formulaic sequences and the use of EI as a measure of L2 proficiency. Recommendations for future research of formulaic sequences and development of EI tasks are discussed.




Ginther, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational tests & measurements|English as a Second Language

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