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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.
Grammaticality judgment tests (GJTs) have been used to elicit data reflecting second language (L2) speakers’ knowledge of L2 grammar. However, the exact constructs measured by GJTs, whether primarily implicit or explicit knowledge, are disputed and have been argued to differ depending on test-related variables (i.e., time pressure and item grammaticality).
Using eye-tracking, this study replicates the GJT results in R. Ellis (2005). Twenty native and 40 nonnative English speakers judged sentences with and without time pressure. Analyses revealed that time pressure suppressed regressions (right-to-left eye movements) in nonnative speakers only. Conversely, both groups regressed more on untimed, grammatical items. These findings suggest that timed and untimed GJTs measure different constructs, which could correspond to implicit and explicit knowledge, respectively. In particular, they point to a difference in the levels of automatic and controlled processing involved in responding to the timed and untimed tests. Furthermore, untimed grammatical items may induce GJT-specific task effects.
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