Skip to main content


  • Megan Solon (a1), Avizia Y. Long (a2) and Laura Gurzynski-Weiss (a3)

This study tests the theoretical predictions regarding effects of increasing task complexity (Robinson, 2001a, 2001b, 2007, 2010; Robinson & Gilabert, 2007) for second language (L2) pronunciation. Specifically, we examine whether more complex tasks (a) lead to greater incidence of pronunciation-focused language-related episodes (LREs) and (b) positively impact accuracy of phonetic form during task completion. Seventeen dyads of intermediate L2 Spanish learners completed simple (+few elements) and complex (-few elements) information-gap map tasks in which the pronunciation of Spanish vowels was made task essential through the inclusion of minimal pair street names (e.g., Calle Copa “Copa Street” and Calle Capa “Capa Street”). Results revealed no statistical difference in learner-produced pronunciation-related LREs in the simple and complex tasks. Vowel production, however, moved in a targetlike direction for one of five segments (/e/) during the complex task. Results therefore point to some benefits of task complexity manipulations for L2 pronunciation.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Megan Solon, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Humanities 216, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222. E-mail:
Hide All

We would like to thank the instructors who permitted us to use their classes for data collection as well as the students who partook in the study’s activities. We also thank all contributors to this issue and audience members at the 2015 TBLT Conference colloquium for their feedback on the original presentation. Thanks also go to the Indiana Statistical Consulting Center at Indiana University for its assistance with the statistical analyses. Finally, we extend our thanks to the SSLA editors and anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved the manuscript. All remaining errors are our own.

Hide All
Baralt, M. (2013). The impact of cognitive complexity on feedback efficacy during online versus face-to-face interactive tasks. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 35, 689725.
Baralt, M. (2014). Task complexity and task sequencing in traditional versus online language classes. In Baralt, M., Gilabert, R., & Robinson, P. (Eds.), Task sequencing and instructed second language learning (pp. 59122). London, UK: Bloomsbury.
Baralt, M., Gilabert, R., & Robinson, P. (Eds.). (2014). Task sequencing and instructed second language learning. London, UK: Bloomsbury.
Bitchener, J. (2004). The relationship between the negotiation of meaning and language learning: A longitudinal study. Language Awareness, 13, 8195.
Block, R. A., Hancock, P. A., & Zakay, D. (2010). How cognitive load affects duration judgments: A meta-analytic review. Acta Psychologica, 134, 330343.
Boersma, P., & Weenink, D. (2014). Praat: Doing phonetics by computer [Computer program]. Version 5.3.85. Retrieved from
Bongaerts, T. (1999). Ultimate attainment in foreign language pronunciation: The case of very advanced late language learners. In Birdsong, D. (Ed.), Second language acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis (pp. 133159). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Bowles, M. A., Toth, P. D., & Adams, R. J. (2014). A comparison of L2–L2 and L2–heritage learner interactions in Spanish language classrooms. Modern Language Journal, 92, 497517.
Bradlow, A. R. (1995). A comparative acoustic study of English and Spanish vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 97, 19161924.
Bradlow, A. R., Pisoni, D. B., Akahane-Yamada, R., & Tohjura, Y. (1997). Training Japanese listeners to identify English /r/ and /l/: IV. Some effects of perceptual learning on speech production. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 101, 22992310.
Bueno-Alastuey, M. C. (2012). Focus on form and negotiation of meaning in synchronous voice-based computer mediated communication: Effect of dyad. Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences, 34, 3944.
Bueno-Alastuey, M. C. (2013). Interactional feedback in synchronous voice-based computer mediated communication: Effect of dyad. System, 41, 543559.
Cobb, K., & Simonet, M. (2015). Adult second language learning of Spanish vowels. Hispania, 98, 4760.
Derwing, T. M., & Munro, M. J. (2015). Pronunciation fundamentals: Evidence-based perspectives for L2 teaching and research. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Benjamins.
Díaz, M., & Simonet, M. (2015). Second language acquisition of Spanish /e/ and /ei/ by native English speakers. Hispania, 98, 750761.
Elliott, R. (1997). On the teaching and acquisition of pronunciation within a communicative approach. Hispania, 80, 95108.
Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Ellis, R., Basturkmen, H., & Loewen, S. (2001). Learner uptake in communicative ESL lessons. Language Learning, 51, 281318.
Flege, J. E. (1987). The production of “new” and “similar” phones in a foreign language: Evidence for the effect of equivalence classification. Journal of Phonetics, 15, 4765.
Flege, J. E., Takagi, N., & Mann, V. (1995). Japanese adults can learn to produce English /r and /l/ accurately. Language and Speech, 38, 2556.
García Mayo, M. D. P. (2005). Interactional strategies for interlanguage communication: Do they provide evidence for attention to form? In Housen, A. & Pierrard, M. (Eds.), Investigations in instructed second language acquisition (pp. 383405). New York, NY: Mouton de Gruyter.
Giegerich, H. J. (1992). English phonology: An introduction. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Gilabert, R., Barón, J., & Llanes, À. (2009). Manipulating cognitive complexity across task types and its impact on learners’ interaction during oral performance. IRAL, 47, 367395.
Hualde, J. I. (2005). The sounds of Spanish. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Issacs, T., & Trofimovich, P. (2012). Deconstructing comprehensibility: Identifying the linguistic influences on listeners’ L2 comprehensibility ratings. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 34, 475505.
Jackson, D., & Suethanapornkul, S. (2013). The cognition hypothesis: A synthesis and meta-analysis of research on second language task complexity. Language Learning, 63, 330367.
Jenkins, J. (2000). The phonology of English as an international language. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Kim, Y. (2009). The effects of task complexity on learner-learner interaction. System, 37, 254268.
Kim, Y. (2012). Task complexity, learning opportunities, and Korean EFL learners’ question development. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 34, 627658.
Kim, Y. (2013). Effects of pretask modelling on attention to form and question development. TESOL Quarterly, 47, 835.
Kim, Y., & McDonough, K. (2008). The effect of interlocutor proficiency on the collaborative dialogue between Korean as a second language learners. Language Teaching Research, 12, 211234.
Kim, Y., & Taguchi, N. (2015). Promoting task-based pragmatics instruction in EFL classroom contexts: The role of task complexity. Modern Language Journal, 99, 656677.
Kim, Y., & Tracy-Ventura, N. (2011). Task complexity, language anxiety and the development of past tense. In Robinson, P. (Ed.), Second language task complexity: Researching the Cognition Hypothesis of language learning and performance (pp. 287306). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Benjamins.
Kuznetsova, A., Brockhoff, P. B., & Christensen, R. H. B. (2016). lmerTest: Tests in liner mixed effects models (Version 2.0-32). Available at
Ladefoged, P. (2006). A course in phonetics (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Thomson.
Lee, J., Jang, J., & Plonsky, L. (2015). The effectiveness of second language pronunciation instruction: A meta-analysis. Applied Linguistics, 36, 345366.
Leeser, M. J. (2004). Learner proficiency and focus on form during collaborative dialogue. Language Teaching Research, 8, 5581.
Loewen, S. (2005). Incidental focus on form and second language learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27, 361386.
Long, M. H. (1985). A role for instruction in second language acquisition: Task-based language teaching. In Hyltenstam, K. & Pienemann, M. (Eds.), Modelling and assessing second language acquisition (pp. 7799). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Long, M. H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition. In Ritchie, W. & Bjatia, T. (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 413468). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Long, M. H. (1998). Focus on form in task-based language teaching. University of Hawai’i Working Papers in ESL, 16, 3549.
Long, M. H. (2015). Second language acquisition and task-based language teaching. Malden, MA: Wiley.
Long, M. H., & Norris, J. M. (2000). Task-based teaching and assessment. In Byran, M. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of language teaching (pp. 597603). London, UK: Routledge.
Long, M. H., & Porter, P. A. (1985). Group work, interlanguage talk, and second language acquisition. TESOL Quarterly, 19, 207228.
Mackey, A., Oliver, R., & Leeman, J. (2003). Interactional input and the incorporation of feedback: An exploration of NS–NNS and NNS–NNS adult and child dyads. Language Learning, 53, 3566.
Menke, M. R. (2010). The acquisition of Spanish vowels by native English-speaking students in Spanish immersion programs (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.
Menke, M. R., & Face, T. L. (2010). Second language Spanish vowel production: An acoustic analysis. Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, 3, 181214.
Moyer, A. (1999). Ultimate attainment in L2 phonology. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 81108.
Munro, M. J., & Derwing, T. M. (2008). Segmental acquisition in adult ESL learners: A longitudinal study of vowel production. Language Learning, 58, 479502.
Nuevo, A.-M. (2006). Task complexity and interaction: L2 learning opportunities and interaction (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Washington, DC: Georgetown University.
Nuevo, A.-M., Adams, R., & Ross-Feldman, L. (2011). Task complexity, modified output, and L2 development in learner-learner interaction. In Robinson, P. (Ed.), Second language task complexity: Researching the cognition hypothesis of language learning and performance (pp. 1752020). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Benjamins.
Pennington, M. C., & Richards, J. C. (1986). Pronunciation revisited. TESOL Quarterly, 20, 207225.
Pica, T., Lincoln-Porter, F., Paninos, D., & Linnell, J. (1996). Language learners’ interaction: How does it address the input, output, and feedback needs of L2 learners? TESOL Quarterly, 30, 5984.
Plonsky, L., & Oswald, F. L. (2014). How big is “big”? Interpreting effect sizes in L2 research. Language Learning, 64, 878912.
Porter, P. A. (1983). Variations in the conversations of adult learners of English as a function of the proficiency level of the participants (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Stanford, CA: Stanford University.
R Core Team (2016). R: A language and environment for statistical computing (Version 3.2.4) [Computer software]. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Available at
Révész, A. (2009). Task complexity, focus on form, and second language development. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 31, 437470.
Révész, A. (2011). Task complexity, focus on L2 constructions, and individual differences: A classroom-based study. Modern Language Journal, 95, 162181.
Révész, A. (2014). Towards a fuller assessment of cognitive models of task-based learning: Investigating task-generated cognitive demands and processes. Applied Linguistics, 35, 8792.
Robinson, P. (2001a). Task complexity, cognitive resources, and syllabus design: A triadic framework for investigating task influences on SLA. In Robinson, P. (Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction (pp. 287318). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Robinson, P. (2001b). Task complexity, task difficulty, and task production: Exploring interactions in a componential framework. Applied Linguistics, 22, 2757.
Robinson, P. (2007). Task complexity, theory of mind, and intentional reasoning: Effects on L2 speech production, interaction, uptake and perceptions of task difficulty. IRAL, 45, 193213.
Robinson, P. (2010). Situating and distributing cognition across task demands: The SSARC model of pedagogic task sequencing. In Pütz, M. & Sicola, L. (Eds.), Cognitive processing in second language acquisition (pp. 243268). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Benjamins.
Robinson, P. (2011). Task-based language learning: A review of issues. Language Learning, 61 (Suppl. 1), 136.
Robinson, P., & Gilabert, R. (2007). Task complexity, the Cognition Hypothesis and second language learning and performance. IRAL, 45, 161176.
Saito, K. (2013). The acquisition value of recasts in instructed second language speech learning: Teaching the perception and production of English /ɹ/ to adult Japanese learners. Language Learning, 63, 499529.
Saito, K., & Lyster, R. (2012a). Effects of form-focused instruction and corrective feedback on L2 pronunciation development of /ɹ/ by Japanese learners of English. Language Learning, 62, 595633.
Saito, K., & Lyster, R. (2012b). Investigating the pedagogical potential of recasts for L2 vowel acquisition. TESOL Quarterly, 46, 387398.
Saito, K., Trofimovich, P., & Issacs, T. (2015). Using listener judgments to investigate linguistic influences on L2 comprehensibility and accentedess: A validation and generalization study. Applied Linguistics. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1093/applin/amv047
Sanako Corporation. (2013). Sanako Study Lab 1200 (Version 6.10) [Computer software]. Turku, Finland.
Sato, M., & Lyster, R. (2007). Modified output of Japanese EFL learners: Variable effects of interlocutor vs. feedback types. In Mackey, A. (Ed.), Conversational interaction in second language acquisition: A collection of empirical studies (pp. 123142). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 11, 129158.
Schmidt, R. (2001). Attention. In Robinson, P. (Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction (pp. 332). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Schwegler, A., Kempff, J., & Ameal-Guerra, A. (2010). Fonética y fonología españolas (4th ed.) Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Sicola, L. (2008). “No, they won’t ‘just sound like each other’”: NNS-NNS negotiated interaction and attention to phonological form on targeted L2 pronunciation tasks (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.
Simoẽs, A. R. M. (1996). Phonetics in second language acquisition: An acoustic study of fluency in adult learners of Spanish. Hispania, 79, 8795.
Skehan, P. (1996). A framework for the implementation of task-based instruction. Applied Linguistics, 17, 3862.
Skehan, P. (1998). Task-based instruction. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 18, 268286.
Skehan, P. (2009). Modeling second language performance: Integrating complexity, accuracy, fluency and lexis. Applied Linguistics, 28, 510532.
Solon, M. (2013, October). Measuring proficiency in cross-sectional L2 phonetic production studies: An examination of three methods. Paper presented at the Second Language Research Forum, Provo, UT.
Solon, M. (in press). Interaction and phonetic form in task completion: An examination of interlocutor effects in learner-learner and learner-heritage speaker interaction. In Gurzynski-Weiss, L. (Ed.), Expanding individual difference research in the interaction approach: Examining learners, instructors, and researchers. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Benjamins.
Stockwell, R. P., & Bowen, D. (1965). The sounds of English and Spanish. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Swain, M. (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning. In Cook, G. & Seidlhofer, B. (Eds.), Principle and practice in applied linguistics: Studies in honour of H.G. Widdowson (pp. 125144). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Swain, M. (2005). The output hypothesis: Theory and research. In Hinkel, E. (Ed.), Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning (pp. 471483). New York, NY: Routledge.
Swain, M., & Lapkin, S. (2001). Focus on form through collaborative dialogue: Exploring task effects. In Bygate, M., Skehan, P., & Swain, M. (Eds.), Researching pedagogic tasks: Second language learning, teaching, and testing (pp. 99118). New York, NY: Routledge.
Thomas, E. R., & Kendall, T. (2012). NORM (Version 1.1) [Software]. Retrieved from
Tremblay, A. (2011). Proficiency assessment standards in second language acquisition research: “Clozing” the gap. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 33, 339372.
Varonis, E. M., & Gass, S. (1985). Non-native/Non-native conversations: A model for negotiation of meaning. Applied Linguistics, 6, 7190.
Willis, E. W. (2005). An initial examination of Southwest Spanish vowels. Southwest Journal of Linguistics, 24, 185198.
Willis, E. W. (2008). No se comen, pero sí se mascan: Variación de las vocales plenas en la República Dominicana. Actas del XV Congreso Internacional de la Asociación de Lingüística y Filología de América Latina (ALFAL), Montevideo, Uruguay. p. 6.
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? *


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