Fluency Summer Intern Project 2010

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Background and significance

De Jong & Perfetti (in press) showed that ESL students who repeated a speech on the same topic in 4 minutes, then 3 minutes, then 2 minutes (the“4/3/2 task”) had greater gains in oral fluency on a post-test compared to students who gave their speeches on three different topics.

There was significant lexical overlap across retellings for the students who repeated the same topic, but the lexical overlap did not transfer to the post-tests. Since fluency gains cannot be attributed to faster lexical access of these specific vocabulary words, it is possible that the repetition of grammatical contexts in which the repeated words occurred is driving these fluency gains.

Oral fluency depends primarily on the proceduralization of declarative linguistic knowledge (Towell, Hawkins, & Bazergui, 1996). Linguistic knowledge becomes proceduralized through repeated practice, such that language knowledge is accessed automatically from long-term memory (Towell et al., 1996). From the constructionist perspective, specific lexical items become associated with certain grammatical constructions (Ellis, 2002) With frequent use, these structures become abstract representations in the speaker’s mind and can generalize to other lexical items (Bybee, 2005).

Research questions

  • Do students in the repetition condition repeat words in the same grammatical structures? Do they use these words with the structures more than the students in the no-repetition condition?
  • Does the repetition of these words and their grammatical structures lead to increased use of the abstract grammatical structure in a post-test?


Independent variables

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Dependent variables

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Further information

The data preparation and analysis of this part of the project has been performed by Mariah Warren from ... (summer intern in June-July 2010), under supervision of Mary Lou Vercellotti and Dr. Laura Halderman from the University of Pittsburgh, and Dr. Nel de Jong from the Free University in Amsterdam

This internship was part of the project Fostering fluency in second language learning by Nel de Jong, Laura Halderman, and Charles Perfetti.