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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 June 2017

Patti Spinner*
Michigan State University
Sehoon Jung
Michigan State University
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Patti Spinner, Michigan State University, Department of Linguistics and Languages, B-258 Wells Hall, 619 Red Cedar Rd., East Lansing, MI 48824. E-mail:


The purpose of this study was to determine whether processability theory (PT; Pienemann, 1998, 2005) accounts for the emergence of grammatical forms and structures in comprehension. Sixty-one learners of English participated in oral interviews that elicited a variety of structures relevant to PT. Learners were divided into two groups: those who produced these structures productively in speech (high level) and those who did not (low level). These groups then read grammatical and ungrammatical sentences with PT structures in a self-paced reading task. Based on Pienemann (1998), PT predicts that the high-level group should perform similarly to native speakers. However, only the native speaker control group demonstrated sensitivity to ungrammaticalities. There was evidence that learners might have acquired lower-stage structures in an implicational order in comprehension, but it was quite mixed. These results have implications for PT and for models of the L2 linguistic system that include both production and comprehension.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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Thanks to Jihyun Park, Suzie Johnston, Carlee Salas, Maggie Vosters, and Roman Chepyshko. We are grateful for the comments of anonymous reviewers, which improved this article greatly, although of course all errors remain our own. Parts of this study were presented at SLRF 2014 and the UIC Bilingualism Forum 2014.



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