Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Production vs. Comprehension: Differences in Underlying Competences

  • Suzanne Flynn (a1)
Abstract

In this paper empirical data are presented that demonstrate significant differences in the manner in which two commonly used experimental tasks evaluate developing linguistic competence in adult second language (L2) learners. Results indicate that production tests principally evaluate a learner's developing structural competence in the L2. On the other hand, comprehension tests provide a less direct measure of structural competence and are significantly influenced by pragmatic context.

Fifty-one adult Spanish speakers at three levels of ESL ability were tested in both their elicited imitation (production) and act-out (comprehension) of complex sentences that were structurally identical. The stimuli varied in terms of the pre- and post-posing of a subordinate adverbial when clause and in terms of the direction of pronoun anaphora (forward and backward). Results from the production test indicate a significant effect of directionality, i.e., a preference for forward pronouns in post-posed clauses at the intermediate level. Results from the comprehension test did not show a significant directionality constraint at any level. They did, however, demonstrate a significant effect due to the use of a biasing pragmatic lead. Such findings are comparable to those found in early first language acquisition (Lust, Loveland, & Kornet, 1980). Implications of these findings for experimental methodology are discussed.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Brandsford, J.D. & Johnson, M.K.. 1972. Contextual prerequisites for understanding some investigations of comprehension and recall. Journal of Verbal Language and Verbal Behavior 11; 717–26.
Carrell, P. 1983. Three components of background knowledge in reading comprehension. Language Learning 33; 183207.
Chaslain, K. 1979. Testing comprehension tests. TESOL Quarterly 13; 81–8.
Chomsky, N. 1980. Rules and representations. New York: Columbia University Press.
Chomsky, N. 1984. Changing perspectives on knowledge and use of language. Unpublished manuscript, MIT.
Flynn, S. 1981. The effects of first language branching direction on the acquisition of second language. In Harbert, W. & Herschensohn, J. (eds), Working Papers in Linguistics, pp. 5063. Ithaca: Cornell University.
Flynn, S. 1983a. A study of the effects of principal branching direction in second language acquisition: The generalization of a parameter of universal grammar from first to second language acquisition. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Cornell University.
Flynn, S. 1983b. Differences between first and second language acquisition: Setting the parameters of universal grammar. In Rogers, D. & Sloboda, J. (eds.), Acquisition of symbolic skills, pp. 485500. London: Plenum Press.
Flynn, S. 1984. A universal in L2 acquisition based on a PBD typology. In Eckman, F.. Bell, L., & Nelson, D. (eds.), Universals of second language acquisition, pp. 7587. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
Flynn, S. In press. L2 acquisition of pronoun anaphora: Resetting the parameter. In Lust, B. (ed.), Studies in the acquisition of anaphora: Applying the constraints, Vol. II. Dordrecht: Reidel Press.
Flynn, S. forthcoming. Adult L2 acquisition: Resetting the parameters of universal grammar. Dordrecht: Reidel Press.
Flynn, S. & Espinal, I.. 1985. Head-initial/head-final parameter in adult Chinese L2 acquisition of English. Second Language Acquisition Research I; 93117.
Fraser, C., Bellugi, U., & Brown, R.. 1963. Control of grammar in imitation, comprehension, and production. Journal of Verbal Language and Verbal Behavior 2; 121–35.
Gallimore, R. & Tharp, R.. 1981. The interpretation of elicited sentence imitation in a standardized context. Language Learning 2; 349–92.
Gass, S. 1983. Language transfer and universal grammatical relations. In Gass, S. & Selinker, L. (eds.), Language transfer in language learning, pp. 6982. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
Hamayan, E., Saegert, J., & Larudee, P.. 1975. Elicited imitation in second language learners. Working Papers in Bilingualism 6; 46–8.
Hood, L. & Lightbown, P.. 1978. What children do when asked to “say what I say”: Does elicited imitation measure linguistic knowledge? Allied Health and Behavioral Sciences I; 195219.
Hust, J. & Brame, M.. 1976. Jackendoff on interpretive semantics. Linguistic Analysis 2; 243–77.
Jaeggli, O. 1980. On some phonologically null elements in syntax. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, MIT.
Kayne, R. 1984. Connectedness and binary branching. Dordrecht: Foris Publishers.
Keppel, G. 1973. Design and analysis: A researcher's handbook. Englewood, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Koopman, H. 1984. The syntax of verbs: From verb-movement rules in Kru languages to universal grammar. Dordrecht: Foris Publishers.
LoCoco, V. 1976. A comparison of the three methods for the collection of L2 data: Free compositions, translations, and picture description. Working Papers in Bilingualism 8; 5996.
Lust, B. 1981. A constraint on anaphora in early child language: A prediction for a universal. In Tavakolian, S. (ed.), Linguistic theory and first language acquisition, pp. 7496. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lust, B. In press. Introduction. In Lust, B. (ed.), Studies in the acquisition of anaphora, defining the constraints, Vol. I. Dordrecht: Reidel Press.
Lust, B. & Barazagni, N.. The structure of coordination in first language acquisition of Syrian Arabic. Unpublished manuscript, Cornell University.
Lust, B. & Wakayama, T.. 1979. The structure of coordination in young children's acquisition of Japanese. In Eckman, F. & Hastings, A. (eds.). Studies in first and second language acquisition, pp. 134–52. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
Lust, B.Loveland, K., & Kornet, R.. 1980. The development of anaphora in first language: Syntactic and pragmatic constraints. Linguistic Analysis 6; 359–92.
Lust, B. & Mervis, C.. 1980. Coordination in the natural speech of young children. Journal of Child Language 7; 279304.
Lust, B. & Mangione, L.. 1983. The principal branching direction parameter in first language acquisition of anaphora. In Sells, P. and Jones, C. (eds.), North East Linguistic Society 13, pp. 145–60. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Linguistics Department.
Lust, B. & Chien, Y. C.. 1984. The structure of coordination in first language acquisition of Mandarin Chinese: Evidence for a universal. Cognition 17; 4983.
Lust, B.Chien, Y. C., & Flynn, S.. In press. What Children Know: Comparison of experimental methods for the study of first language acquisition. In Lust, B. (ed.), Studies in the acquisition of anaphora: Defining the Constraints Vol. 1. Dordrecht: Reidel Press.
Maratsos, M. 1983. Some current issues in the study of the acquisition of grammar. In Flavell, J. & Markman, E. (eds.), P. Mussen Carmichael's handbook of child psychology (4th ed.). Vol. 3, Cognitive Development, pp. 707–86. New York: John Wiley.
Naiman, N. 1974. The use of elicited imitation in second language acquisition research. Working Papers in Bilingualism 2; 137.
Nurss, J. R. & Day, D. E.. 1971. Imitation, comprehension and production of grammatical structures. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 10; 6874.
Oiler, J. 1973. Cloze tests of second language proficiency and what they measure. Language Learning 23; 105–8.
Reinhart, T. 1976. The syntactic domain of anaphora. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, MIT.
Reinhart, T. 1983. Anaphora and semantic interpretation. Kent, England: Croom Helm.
Rizzi, L. 1982. Wh movement, negation, and the pro-drop parameter. In Rizzi, L. (ed.). Issues in Italian Syntax, pp. 5590. Dordrecht: Foris.
Rutherford, W. 1984. Description and exploration in inter-language syntax. Language Learning 3; 127–55.
Savignon, S. 1982. Dictation as a measure of communicative competence in French as a second language. Language Learning 32; 3352.
Scott, M. & Tucker, G.. 1974. Errors analysis and English language strategies of Arab students. Language Learning 24; 6997.
Solan, L. 1983. Pronominal reference: Language acquisition and the theory of grammar. Dordrecht: Reidel Press.
Stowell, T. 1981. Origins of phrase structure. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, MIT.
Swain, M., Dumas, G., & Naiman, N.. 1974. Alternatives to spontaneous speech: Elicited translation and imitation as indicators of second language competence. Working Papers in Bilingualism 3; 6879.
Torrego, E. 1981. On the non-evidence for a special comp. structure in Spanish. Unpublished manuscript. University of Massachusetts.
Travis, L. 1984. Parameters and effects of word order variation. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, MIT.
Wasow, T. 1972. Anaphoric relations in English. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, MIT.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Studies in Second Language Acquisition
  • ISSN: 0272-2631
  • EISSN: 1470-1545
  • URL: /core/journals/studies-in-second-language-acquisition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed