Longitudinal gain of higherorder inferential abilities in L2 English: Accuracy, speed, and conventionality

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Pragmatic comprehension entails understanding both the literal meaning of an utterance and the force behind the words imbued by speaker’s intention (Thomas, 1995). Given these high-order inferential processing demands, pragmatic comprehension is an area for the development of advanced L2 capacities, requiring efficient listening abilities that draw on well-developed and subtle representations of implicit and explicit knowledge. Rapid, effortless, and accurate skill execution in pragmatic processing is a fundamental characteristic of advanced second language use (Segalowitz, 2003). Hence, accuracy and speed of pragmatic processing can be investigated as two distinct, yet complementary aspects of advancedness in language proficiency. The present study employed this framework to examine the longitudinal development of pragmatic comprehension ability among Japanese college students studying English. Twenty native speakers of English and 92 Japanese learners of L2 English completed a computerized listening test that measured their ability to comprehend implied meaning. The L2 learners completed the test twice, before and after a seven-week course that did not involve pragmatic instruction. Results showed that over a seven-week period these L2 learners made a significant improvement in accuracy (i.e., the number of items answered correctly) and speed (i.e., time taken to answer each item correctly). However, the magnitude of effect was smaller for the speed gain than that for the accuracy gain. In addition, the gain over the seven-week period for comprehension of more conventionalized and less conventionalized items was similar in size. The findings have important implications for theoretical discussions of whether accuracy and speed of pragmatic processing develop in a parallel manner and jointly characterize the course of second language acquisition. They also offer insights on how the gradual development of advanced pragmatic comprehension abilities can be fostered in foreign language contexts which offer limited opportunities for pragmatic awareness and associative practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Longitudinal Study of Advanced L2 Capacities
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780203871652
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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