You are on page 1of 0

Comprehension and Production Processes

in Second Language Learning: In Search

of the Psycholinguistic Rationale of the
Output Hypothesis
Shinichi Izumi
Sophia University
The output hypothesis claims that production makes the learner move from
`semantic processing' prevalent in comprehension to more `syntactic processing'
that is necessary for second language development. The purpose of this article is
to illuminate the psycholinguistic mechanisms that underlie this claim by
reviewing previous literature in language acquisition and cognitive psychology
on the comprehension and production processes in language use and language
learning. In speech comprehension, the interactive and compensatory nature of
the human comprehension system can both promote comprehension and
hinder language development for second language learners, unless the learners
are somehow pushed to attend to formmeaning connections during input
processing. In elucidating the mechanisms by which output promotes SLA, it is
argued, by drawing on Levelt's (1989, 1992, 1993) speech production model,
that the processes of grammatical encoding during production and monitoring
to check the matching of the communicative intention and the output enable
language learners to assess the possibilities and limitations of their inter-
language capability. This may, under certain conditions, serve as an internal
priming device for consciousness raising for the learners, which in turn creates
an optimal condition for language learning to take place. It is argued that
understanding of the constraints and potentials for learning created by input
and output processing is crucial for devising pedagogical tasks that eectively
promote interlanguage development.
In the teaching of second/foreign languages (L2) all over the world, producing
the target language (TL), or output, has long been considered as forming an
important part of language learning. Such a favourable view of output may be
reected in advice which may be commonly heard in conversations between a
language teacher and his/her students, such as, `you have to use the language
if you want to become good at it', or `speak more actively in class and outside
if you want to improve your English'. However, precisely what these `words
of wisdom' may mean and how benecial it is to produce output are often left
quite vague. This paper presents an attempt to grapple with these challenging
yet important questions for both second language acquisition (SLA) theory
and L2 pedagogy. Specically, it reviews relevant literature in language
acquisition and cognitive psychology on the comprehension and production
Applied Linguistics 24/2: 168196 # Oxford University Press 2003
processes in language use and learning with the ultimate aim of advancing
our understanding of the output hypothesis in SLA.
First, we start with a general background of the output hypothesis. In the SLA
literature, it has often been assumed that output is only a sign of SLA that has
already taken place and that it does not serve any signicant function in
language acquisition processes (e.g. Krashen 1985, 1989). However, such a
limited view of output has been questioned since the publication of Swain's
seminal article in which the `output hypothesis' was rst proposed (Swain
1985). The output hypothesis postulates active roles played by output in the
overall SLA processes. It was formulated essentially in reaction to Krashen's
claim about the major role of `comprehensible input' in SLA and is based on
many years of research on Canadian immersion programmes. The immersion
programmes, which aim at the achievement of both academic and L2 learning
through an integration of language teaching and content teaching, generally
have great success in many areas of the students' language development (e.g.
listening comprehension, uency, functional abilities, condence in using the
L2); however, these learners have also been found to have problems in some
aspects of the TL grammar, especially in morpho-syntactic areas, even after
many years in these programmes (Harley and Swain 1984; Harley 1986, 1992;
Swain 1985).
Swain (1985) argued that one of the important reasons for this is that these
learners engage in too little language production, which prevents them from
going beyond a functional level of L2 prociency. Immersion students, Swain
(1985) argues, lack output opportunities in two ways:
First, the students are simply not givenespecially in later grades
adequate opportunities to use the target language in the classroom
context. Second, they are not being `pushed' in their output. That is to
say, the immersion students have developed, in the early grades,
strategies for getting their meaning across which are adequate for the
situation they nd themselves in: they are understood by their teachers
and peers. There appears to be little social or cognitive pressure to
produce language that reects more appropriately or precisely their
intended meaning: there is no push to be more comprehensible than
they already are (Swain 1985: 249).
Observational studies of interaction in French immersion classrooms have
indicated that immersion classes are largely teacher-centred and that students
are not required to give extended answers (Allen et al. 1990). This permits
students to operate successfully with their incomplete knowledge of the
language; communication between students and between the teacher and
students is quite satisfactory in spite of numerous errors in the students'
speech. Observations such as these have led Swain to conclude that
comprehensible input, while invaluable to the acquisition process, is not
sucient for these students to fully develop their L2 prociency. What these
students need, Swain argued, is not only comprehensible input, but
`comprehensible output' if they are to improve both uency and accuracy
in their interlanguage (IL).
The construct of comprehensible output posits that when learners
experience communication diculties, they will be pushed into making
their output more precise, coherent, and appropriate, and this process is said
to contribute to language learning. In general terms, the importance of output
in learning may be construed in terms of the learners' active deployment of
their cognitive resources. That is, the output requirement presents learners
with unique opportunities for processing language that may not be decisively
necessary for comprehension. As Swain states,
[i]n speaking or writing, learners can `stretch' their interlanguage to
meet communicative goals. They might work towards solving their
linguistic limitations by using their own internalized knowledge, or by
cueing themselves to listen for a solution in future input. Learners (as
well as native speakers, of course) can fake it, so to speak, in
comprehension, but they cannot do so in the same way in production.
. . . [T]o produce, learners need to do something; they need to create
linguistic form and meaning and in so doing, discover what they can
and cannot do (Swain 1995: 127).
Thus, it is claimed that producing the TL may serve as `the trigger that forces
the learner to pay attention to the means of expression needed in order to
successfully convey his or her own intended meaning' (Swain 1985: 249).
Since the output hypothesis was rst proposed, Swain has rened her
hypothesis and specied the following four functions of output (Swain 1993,
1995, 1998). First, output provides opportunities for developing automaticity
in language use. This is the uency function. In order to develop speedy access
to extant L2 knowledge for uent productive performance, learners need
opportunities to use their knowledge in meaningful contexts, and this
naturally requires output. The second function of output is a hypothesis-testing
function. Producing output is one way of testing one's hypotheses about the
TL. Learners can judge the comprehensibility and linguistic well-formedness
of their IL utterances against feedback obtained from their interlocutors.
Third, output has a metalinguistic function. It is claimed that `as learners reect
upon their own TL use, their output serves a metalinguistic function, enabling
them to control and internalize linguistic knowledge' (Swain 1995: 126). In
other words, output processes enable learners not only to reveal their
hypotheses, but also to reect on them using language. Reection on
language may deepen the learners' awareness of forms, rules, and form
function relationships if the context of production is communicative in
nature. Finally, output serves a noticing/triggering (or consciousness-raising)
function. Namely, in producing the TL `learners may notice a gap between
what they want to say and what they can say, leading them to recognize what
they do not know, or know only partially' (Swain 1995: 1256). The
recognition of problems may then prompt the learners to attend to the
relevant information in the input, which will trigger their IL development.
In sum, Swain's output hypothesis claims that output can, under certain
conditions, promote language acquisition by allowing learners to try out and
stretch their IL capabilities. In so doing, learners may recognize problems in
their IL through internal feedbackoutput promotes syntactic processing and
self-monitoringor external feedbackoutput invites feedback from inter-
locutors, teachers, etc. This recognition may prompt the learners to generate
alternatives by searching existing knowledge or to seek out relevant input
with more focused attention and with more clearly identied communicative
needs (cf. Swain and Lapkin 1995).
Swain's output hypothesis is now widely recognized as an important
extension of approaches that consider input as the only crucial aspect of
SLA. As such, it has generated some empirical research into the roles of
output in SLA. These studies have reported positive and promising, though
not unconditional (see below for discussion), ndings for the specic
functions of output: for the uency function (e.g. Bygate 2001; DeKeyser
1997), the hypothesis-testing function (e.g. Ellis and He 1999; Nobuyoshi and
Ellis 1993; Pica 1988; Pica et al. 1989; Shehadeh 1999, 2001), the
metalinguistic function (e.g. Kowal and Swain 1994; LaPierre 1994; Swain
1995, 1998; Swain and Lapkin 2001), and the noticing function (Izumi 2000,
2002; Izumi and Bigelow 2000, 2001; Izumi et al. 1999; Swain and Lapkin
1995). Despite the recent increase in empirical investigation of output,
however, what has been scarce is a discussion of the psycholinguistic basis of
the output hypothesis (for notable exceptions, see Bygate 2001; de Bot 1996).
What, for example, is the psycholinguistic mechanism underlying the output
hypothesis? What, in cognitive terms, is unique in output production that
may be lacking in input comprehension and that is relevant for SLA? How are
dierent functions of output related to each other? Greater explication of
these questions will be necessary for both further advancement of the
theoretical construct of output and input processing in SLA and for
psycholinguistically guided applications of the output hypothesis in L2
pedagogy. To address these issues, this paper will focus on the general
processes and mechanisms of comprehension and production and their
relevance to language learning (for a review of empirical studies on the
output hypothesis, readers are referred to Izumi 2000 and Shehadeh 2002).
In what follows, an integrated model of SLA will be presented rst in order
to gain an overview of SLA processes in which the contribution of output to
language learning may be properly situated. Then, general characteristics of
comprehension processes will be described, followed by a discussion of L2
input processing. The question tackled here is why it is said that input
comprehension is not sucient to develop one's IL competence. In the
ensuing section, a speech production model will be examined in order to gain
insight into output processes. The focus here will be on how output may be
related to language learning. Finally, some factors that are likely to constrain
the acquisitional eect of output will be discussed.
In examining the psycholinguistic rationale of the output hypothesis, it is
useful, rst of all, to have a general learning model that captures the overall
process of how learners derive their L2 grammatical knowledge in SLA. One
such model is proposed by Gass (1988, 1997; Gass and Selinker 1993), which
is schematically represented in Figure 1. Among other similar models of SLA
(e.g. Chaudron 1985; Ellis 1990, 1993; Frch and Kasper 1986; Sharwood
Smith 1986; VanPatten 1995, 1996), Gass's model is selected here because it
provides a detailed (though not necessarily denitive) description of each
component stage and depicts the interrelated and dynamic processes of
language acquisition. The model proposes ve stages whereby the learner
converts input to output: apperceived input, comprehended input, intake,
integration, and output.
Gass claims that what learners must do rst with ambient input is to
perceive it in light of their past experiences and currently held knowledge.
This so-called apperception serves as a priming device, so that later analysis of
the input can be conducted. Apperception, Gass claims, relates to the
`potentiality of comprehension of the input' (1997: 4). As such, it may be
seen as the rst hurdle where the ambient input is ltered for an initial
selective processing, capturing the fact that not all of input is automatically
used for comprehension, let alone for intake or integration.
The input that is apperceived is processed to derive some form of meaning
representation, or what is referred to as comprehended input in Gass's model.
Gass argues that comprehension represents a continuum of possibilities
ranging from semantic analyses to detailed structural analyses. One important
factor that determines whether input converts to intake is the level of analysis
of the input that the learner achieves. It is claimed that analysis at the level of
meaning is not as useful for intake as an analysis made at the level of syntax.
What is comprehended, then, can feed into the intake component.
Alternatively, it may not be used for any further grammatical analysis if the
learner discards the information after using it for the purpose of immediate
communication (cf. Sharwood Smith 1986, and Frch and Kasper 1986). If
input becomes intake, the intake data may be used for the formation of new
IL hypotheses.
The hypotheses thus formed are subject to testing upon further exposure to
input. If the input data conrm an existing hypothesis, it will facilitate the
integration of new knowledge into the developing system. If the information
contained in the input is already part of one's knowledge base, the intake data
may be used for hypothesis re-conrmation or rule strengthening. If the
hypothesis is disconrmed by the input data, it will be rejected and will no
longer be relevant for grammar formation, and learners will have to seek
more input to derive further intake. The intake that is thus integrated causes
restructuring in the IL grammar, which is a reorganization of the learner's
internal knowledge system. Alternatively, the intake data may be stored as
unanalysed or partially analysed items which may be re-analysed when more
relevant input becomes available.
Finally, there is an output component. Gass sees output as playing an active
role in the dynamic, interrelated acquisition processes. Following Swain
(1985), Gass stresses the importance of comprehensible output in testing
hypotheses. This creates a feedback loop from output into the intake
component, where hypothesis formation and testing is considered to take
place. The output component is also related to the levels of analysis made at
the stage of comprehended input. It is claimed that learners cannot rely on
external cues and general world knowledge in production in the same way
they do in comprehension and that they would need greater syntactic
processing in production. Language production is thus seen as one important
means of moving the learner from comprehended input to intake.
Figure 1: A model of SLA (from Gass 1988: 200)
In sum, SLA involves overlapping, yet distinguishable sets of processes.
First, exposed to the ambient input, learners perceive selected aspects of the
input, from which they derive some form of meaning representations of the
input messages. Comprehension and intake are considered to represent
dierent processes, of which only the latter is used for further processing for
learning. Through the processes of hypothesis formation, testing, modica-
tion, conrmation, and rejection, the intake may subsequently be integrated
into the developing system. Finally, learners selectively use their developing
system in their output. The output process is seen here not only as a product
of acquisition, but represents an active component in the overall acquisition
General characteristics
Gass's SLA model distinguishes, among other things, comprehension and
intake in SLA processes. Why is it that input that is used for comprehension is
not directly related to intake? In order to answer this question, we need to
address rst the kind of information that is utilized in human speech
comprehension. While debate still continues as to the autonomy of syntactic
modules from semantic and pragmatic modules,
psycholinguistic research
over the past decades has accumulated enough evidence to suggest some
general characteristics of human speech comprehension processes (see Frch
and Kasper 1986; Fender 2001; Garrett 1991; Harrington 2001; Rost 1990;
Scovel 1998; Tyler and Tyler 1990, ch. 5; Wingeld 1993, for detailed
discussion). These characteristics include the following:
Comprehension is not the passive recording of whatever is heard or seen.
Comprehension processes rely on three types of information: linguistic
input, contextual information, and the recipient's linguistic and other
general knowledge of the world, including semantic and pragmatic
Comprehension is dierentially aected by the linguistic devices used in
the sentence (e.g. passive vs. active sentences). The use of linguistic cues
(be they syntactic, semantic, morphological, or phonological/orthographi-
cal) in comprehension processes is often referred to as bottom-up processing.
Comprehension is dierentially aected by the existence, type, and the
amount of contextual clues provided. People tend to seek contextual
consistency in comprehending speech.
Comprehension is dierentially aected by the general world knowledge
possessed by the recipients and can dier among individuals depending on
the amount of such knowledge available for each individual. The use of
contextual clues and world knowledge in comprehension processes is
referred to as top-down processing.
While there is a possibility that syntactic parsing operations are conducted
initially before semantic-pragmatic factors come into play (see e.g. Forster
1979), people have a strong tendency to seek semantic plausibility in
comprehending speech. Such a semantic bias holds particularly strongly
when comprehension of units larger than a sentence (i.e. short or long
discourse and texts) is considered.
Comprehension is selective because humans possess limited processing
capacities. This selection process is guided by a number of factors, which
include, for bottom-up processing, salience of input elements (which may
be dened in acoustic/visual or semantic terms), and, for top-down
processing, the recipient's expectations (which are inuenced by the
contextual clues present in the input and/or the recipient's general
knowledge of the world).
These characteristics of the human speech comprehension system suggest that
highly complex processes underlie how people make sense of the language
data presented to them. People do not rely on only one general knowledge
source or strategy to understand speech, such as syntactic parsing or
applications of semantic and pragmatic knowledge. Instead, they utilize
various resources available to them, using both top-down and bottom-up
approaches, to arrive at a comprehension of the input messages.
Speech comprehension processes for language learners
While the above observations are insightful for understanding how human
language comprehension takes place, it is important to note that these
observations are based on extensive studies of adult language users with
already highly established sets of knowledge of the language being used.
Therefore, they may not be directly applicable to children acquiring their rst
language (L1) or to child or adult L2 learners. It is possible for these
populations that the two approaches of bottom-up and top-down processing
are not equally and/or as eectively utilized for comprehension (Fender 2001;
Pienemann 1998). In fact, some researchers argue that even adult L1 listeners
or readers do not utilize the two general approaches of syntactic and semantic
processing equally in comprehending speech. Clark and Clark (1977), for
example, argue that syntactic information may be circumvented in
comprehension processes in listening and reading.
Listeners know a lot about what a speaker is going to say. They can
make shrewd guesses from what has been said and from the situation
being described. They can also be condent that the speaker will make
sense, be relevant, provide given and new information appropriately,
and in general be cooperative. Listeners almost certainly use this sort of
information to select among alternative parses of a sentence, to
anticipate words and phrases, and sometimes even to circumvent
syntactic analyses altogether (Clark and Clark 1977: 72).
In accounting for the use of semantic knowledge in comprehension processes,
Clark and Clark posit the `reality principle,' according to which listeners
interpret sentences in the belief that what the speaker is saying makes sense to
them. A primary strategy under this principle is: `Using content words alone,
build propositions that make sense and parse the sentence into constituents
accordingly' (1977: 73). An example of this strategy in use is illustrated by the
ways people paraphrase complex sentences such as the following:
(1) The vase that the maid that the agency hired dropped broke on the oor.
(2) The dog that the cat that the girl fought scolded approached the colt.
Sentence (1) is highly constrained semantically. By using the content words
alone, one can reach an accurate interpretation of the sentence. Vase, maid,
agency, hired, dropped, and broke on the oor can easily be sorted into three
reasonable propositions: the vase broke on the oor; the maid dropped the vase; and
the agency hired the maid. This is not true for sentence (2). Dog, cat, girl can all
do any of the actions, ght, scold, and approach colts. It is reported that people
correctly paraphrased sentence (1) more often than sentence (2), suggesting
that people rely on semantic knowledge in interpreting dicult sentences
(Stolz 1967, as cited in Clark and Clark 1977: 73).
In the realm of reading research, Stanovich (1980) claims that interactive
models of reading can provide a more accurate account of reading
performance than do strictly bottom-up or top-down models. The reader is
seen not merely as a passive recipient of the printed information, but as an
active subject in the whole process who utilizes all the knowledge resources
available to him/her at a given point in time. What is particularly interesting
about Stanovich's model of reading is not just the interactive nature of the
reading processes, but its proposal of compensatory mechanisms. If there is a
deciency in any particular process (e.g. weak syntactic knowledge), other
processes (e.g. higher-order knowledge structures, such as contextual or
general world information that the reader has access to) can compensate for
the weak knowledge source. Thus, with information provided simultaneously
from several knowledge sources, `a decit in any knowledge results in a
heavier reliance on other knowledge sources, regardless of their level in the
processing hierarchy' (Stanovich 1980: 63). This interactive-compensatory
model is seen as an `integrative' model of reading, as it can provide a
successful theoretical account of seemingly conicting ndings of many
research studies in this area (e.g. studies showing dierential contextual
eects of good and poor readers).
In L1 acquisition literature, it has been claimed that children typically rely
on general world knowledge to comprehend what is uttered to them (Clark
and Hecht 1983). They rely on, for example, their general knowledge about
the instigators of actions which are typically animate, probable relations
between nouns in a sentence (e.g. The baby was fed by the girl is interpreted
correctly with the simple knowledge about the relationship between adults
and babies without necessarily having the knowledge of the passive
construction), and the knowledge of the usual routine in particular
circumstances to decide how to act. As a result of such strategies, children
often appear to understand more language than they actually do.
In the case of SLA as well, the restricted L2 knowledge of the learners
makes them rely on certain strategies (e.g. use of semantic and contextual
cues) more than others (e.g. syntactic cues) in order to overcome their
linguistic limitations. Skehan (1996, 1998), for example, argues that L2
learners use a variety of strategies of comprehension that may obviate careful
attention to form.
There is natural and unavoidable use of strategies of comprehension . . . ,
in that non-deterministic and non-exhaustive methods are used to
recover intended meaning, with the success of this operation often
being dependent on only partial use of form as a clue to meaning. . . . In
other words, processing language to extract meaning does not
guarantee automatic sensitivity to form and the consequent pressures
for interlanguage development (Skehan, 1996: 401).
Furthermore, Skehan draws attention to the fact that L2 learners are those
who have `schematic knowledge' (i.e. factual and sociocultural background
knowledge and discoursal procedural knowledge), but have limited `systemic
knowledge' (i.e. syntactic, semantic, and morphological knowledgecf.
Anderson and Lynch 1988). Such learners may be likely to exploit their
schematic knowledge to overcome limitations in their systemic knowledge.
This can lead to a reduced chance for the engagement of the IL system. In
general, Skehan's claim seems to be supported by the results of previous
research which indicate that comprehensible input does not always guarantee
learners' grammatical development (see Ellis 1994; Larsen-Freeman and Long
1991; Long 1996, for reviews).
In a recent study, Tyler (2001) investigated whether non-native listeners
rely more on topic knowledge to aid their speech comprehension than do
native listeners. Using a dual-task technique in which listeners had to
comprehend an auditory passage while concurrently verifying the totals of
single-digit calculations, Tyler found that while access to the topic of the
passage had a small eect on the adult native listeners' calculations, it had a
large eect on the performance of the adult non-native listeners. That is, non-
native listeners had much greater diculty with calculations in the non-topic
condition than did native listeners, even though they performed equally as
well on the task as the native listeners in the topic condition. It seems that
eective use of topic knowledge helps the learners to function eectively in
everyday situations in the L2, while it may at the same time inhibit further
development of their linguistic knowledge.
In some SLA studies, researchers divided linguistic knowledge into dierent
sub-components and investigated how each of these sub-components aects
comprehension. Mecartty (2000), for example, examined the relationship
between lexical and grammatical knowledge to reading and listening
comprehension by adult L2 learners and found that while both types of
knowledge are signicantly related to comprehension, only lexical knowledge
explained the variance in both reading and listening comprehension. This
suggests that there is an imbalance in the use of dierent sub-components of
knowledge sources even within the linguistic knowledge itself, which in turn
implies that development of dierent sub-components may be stimulated
dierently during comprehension processes.
To summarize, although the resourceful nature of the comprehension
system is highly useful in making comprehension of sentences containing yet-
to-be acquired items possible, this also implies that L2 learners can attain an
adequate level of comprehension without necessarily focusing on many
formal features in the input. This can lead to a reduction in the amount of
intake that can be used for nal integration in the developing system.
Characteristics of L2 input processing
The preceding discussion reveals a complex interplay among various factors in
comprehension processes and suggests that language learners may not use all
these factors eectively and equally. What elements in the input, then, do L2
learners focus on as they process input? Is there any bias as to what they
process and what they do not process in the input? Answers to these
questions are proposed by VanPatten (1995, 1996), who has formulated a
model of L2 input processing. Crucial to VanPatten's model of input
processing is the assumption that humans possess limited processing
capacities. That is, it is held that learners are not capable of attending to all
the information in the input; only some of it becomes the object of focused or
selective attention, while other information is processed only peripherally (cf.
apperception in Gass's SLA model; see McLaughlin 1987; McLaughlin et al.
1983, for similar information-processing views; see also Robinson 1995, for a
discussion of alternative views of attention). VanPatten assumes, as do many
other researchers (e.g. Gass 1988; Robinson 1995; Schmidt 1990, 1995, 2001;
Slobin 1985; Tomlin and Villa 1994), that attention is a prerequisite for
learning to take place. He argues, however, that learners' attention tends to be
drawn to certain parts of the input, particularly those that are immediately
relevant to the message content.
Operating with limited processing capacities, L2 learners rst search the
input for content words. If resources are not depleted at this point, they may
try to make formmeaning mappings by attending to grammatical forms with
`high communicative value'. If resources are still not depleted, then further
processing of `less communicative value' can occur. Communicative value is
dened here as `the relative contribution a form makes to the referential
meaning of an utterance . . . based on the presence or absence of two features:
inherent semantic value and redundancy within the sentence-utterance'
(VanPatten 1996: 24). A form that has inherent semantic value and is not
redundant will tend to have high communicative value (e.g. progressive
morphology, -ing, in English), whereas a form that lacks (or is light in)
inherent semantic value and is redundant tends to have low communicative
value (e.g. third person present singular morphology, -s, in English).
VanPatten claims that forms with low communicative value are made
processable by the learners only when their L2 capacities develop to such
an extent that their attentional resources are not consumed by the processing
of forms with high communicative value. It is not clear, however, whether
the learners really attend to less meaningful items when they can spare their
attentional resources. It is possible that they may never attend to purely
formal, functionally redundant forms unless some form of instructional
intervention forces them to do so (see arguments for focus on form by Long
1991; Long and Robinson 1998; Doughty and Williams 1998).
Apart from the processing of content and grammatical items in the input,
learners also need to assign semantic or grammatical roles to the words they
hear or read. Based on research ndings in both L1 and L2 acquisition,
VanPatten suggests that the rst noun strategy is a prevalent, possibly a
universal, strategy utilized by language learners. This strategy dictates that the
rst NP encountered is generally labelled as the agent, while the second NP is
assigned the role of patient. This strategy, however, may be overridden if
other factors such as lexical semantics and event probabilities are in strong
opposition to it. As their L2 competence develops, learners may learn to rely
more on grammatically related cues such as morphological markings and
syntactic structures. However, this process is generally gradual and slow,
particularly if the learners are exposed to sentences containing cues that are in
harmony with each other, as opposed to those in conict (cf. Bates and
MacWhinney 1989; Gass 1987; Harrington 1987; MacWhinney 1987; Sasaki
In sum, in VanPatten's model of input processing, certain principles are
believed to guide the ways in which learners process grammatical form in
their attempt to comprehend input strings. These processing principles, in
turn, shape the intake data available for accommodation by the learners'
developing system. Driven to get the meaning out of the input, learners rst
attend to meaningful elements in the input, follow the rst noun strategy as a
general strategy for parsing input sentences, and rely on their semantic and
pragmatic knowledge to compensate for the lack of sophisticated syntactic
parsing mechanisms in the L2. Although VanPatten's model is still in need of
more empirical substantiation and accommodation of other factors that are
also likely to aect the acquisition of dierent language forms (e.g. semantic
complexity, rule complexity, and frequency: cf. Goldschneider and DeKeyser
2001), it does seem to capture some important insights that need to be
incorporated into any theories of L2 input processing.
In terms of pedagogical applications, VanPatten and his colleagues have
developed, based on the understanding of input processing, a pedagogical
technique known as `processing instruction'. Processing instruction aims to
facilitate better intake from the input by manipulating task demands in such a
way that the use of the default strategies would not be the best way to go
about completing the given task. It generally involves three stages:
(1) explaining to the learners the relationship between the given form and
the meaning it conveys; (2) providing them with information about good and
poor processing strategies; and most importantly, (3) providing learners with
`structured input' activities which encourage them, in controlled situations, to
pay attention to the relevant grammatical cues so that they can form better
formmeaning connections. The positive eects of processing instruction over
a more traditional instruction that focused on grammar explanation and
output practice are reported in a series of studies conducted by VanPatten and
his colleagues (see VanPatten 1996, for a review of relevant research).
VanPatten and Oikkenon's (1996) study, in particular, showed that the
provision of structured input activities alone was as eective as the regular
processing instruction that included explanation components. This suggests
that the structured input activities and the formmeaning connections made
during the activities are responsible for the positive eects of processing
While we need to be cautious about extrapolating the advantage of
processing instruction over other types of instruction and about generalizing
the results to all language structures,
it is important to ask what makes
processing instruction eective at least for the acquisition of the morpho-
syntactic structures that have been investigated so far. It seems that the
eectiveness of processing instruction lies essentially in the fact that it pushes
the learners to attend to crucial formmeaning relationships in comprehend-
ing input. In other words, processing instruction is eective because it creates
a `pushed input' condition. On further thinking, one may wonder what
`pushed output' can do to enhance learning (Swain 1985). If, for example,
learners are pushed to produce output and immediately provided with
relevant usable input, it is possible that the sensitivity towards the form may
be heightened through the production process, which may, in turn, prompt
them to attend to formmeaning relationships. This may bring about a shift in
processing strategies from meaning-oriented towards a more syntactically
sensitive one. In light of the predictions made by the output hypothesis as
discussed earlier, it can be posited that output has the potential for altering the
manner in which learners process input. How does this occur in psycho-
linguistic terms? What are the cognitive mechanisms involved? It is to these
topics that we now turn.
Levelt's speech production modela general sketch
Of several psycholinguistic models of speech production proposed in the
literature, the most inuential is the one developed by Levelt (1989, 1992,
1993; Levelt et al. 1999). Levelt's production model, originally developed to
account for the speech production by L1 adults, is based on decades of
psycholinguistic research and is supported by considerable empirical research,
both experimental and observational. The model has also been adapted to
account for L2 data (Bygate 2001; de Bot 1992; de Bot et al. 1997; Do rnyei and
Kormos 1998; Kormos 1999). A brief sketch of the model is provided below.
The relevance of this model to SLA will be discussed subsequently.
In Levelt's production model, there are ve distinct components: the
conceptualizer, the formulator, the articulator, the audition, and the speech
comprehension system; and three sources of knowledge: lemmas and forms
contained in the lexicon and discourse model, situation and encyclopedic knowledge
that is connected to the conceptualizer (see Figure 2).
A message to be conveyed is rst generated in the conceptualizer, which
produces a preverbal message as its output. The formulator takes the preverbal
message as its input and converts it into a phonetic plan. The lexicon, which
Figure 2: Levelt's speech production model (from Levelt 1989, MIT Press)
feeds into the formulator, provides necessary information in this conversion
process and consists of two parts: the lemma, which contains semantic and
syntactic information of lexical items, and the form (or lexeme), which
represents morphological and phonological specications. Using these two
types of information in the lexicon, the formulator generates a phonetic/
articulatory plan in two steps. First, grammatical encoding of the message
takes place by rst accessing lemmas through a process of matching the
meaning of the preverbal message with the semantic specications provided
in the lemma. The activation of a specic lemma makes available the syntactic
information relevant to it, which activates syntactic building procedures. With
the use of the syntactic specications provided by the selected lemma, the
grammatical encoder produces the surface structurean ordered string of
lemmas grouped in phrases and sub-phrases. As a second step, the
phonological encoding takes place by accessing morpho-phonological infor-
mation stored in the lexeme, which produces a specic phonetic plan (or
internal speech). The phonetic plan is internally scanned by the speaker via
the speech-comprehension system.
Then the articulator takes the phonetic plan as its input and converts it into
actual speech. At this point, the speech-comprehension system connected to
the auditory system plays a feedback role: the overt speech is guided through
the audition into the speech-comprehension system to check for any
anomalous output. The speech-comprehension system, having access to
both the form and lemma information in the lexicon, recognizes words,
retrieves their meanings and parses the incoming speech. The output of the
speech-comprehension system is parsed speech, which is a representation of the
input speech in terms of its phonological, morphological, syntactic, and
semantic composition. The main work of monitoring is done by the
conceptualizer, which attends to the output of the speech-comprehension
system. The monitoring is done both covertly prior to articulation or overtly
subsequent to articulation.
As this brief description of Levelt's model indicates, his model of production
is heavily lexically driven. Lexical selection is considered to drive grammatical
encoding. As lemmas are retrieved when their semantic conditions are met in
the message, they activate syntactic procedures that correspond to their
syntactic specications. Thus, a verb will instigate the construction of a verb
phrase, a noun the construction of a noun phrase, etc. Lemmas may be
conceptually driven or grammatically driven. The latter type of lexical items
belongs to the closed class vocabulary. For instance, in the phrase the woman
that arrived, the retrieval of the relative pronoun that is not semantically
driven such as is the retrieval of woman. Rather, that is called by the syntactic
procedure that constructs relative clauses. Here, in other words, `grammatical
encoding drives lexical selection' (Levelt 1992: 6). The preverbal message, in
this case, dictates that woman here cannot be any woman, but a particular
woman that arrived. The NP categorical procedure with woman as head looks
for modifying information attached to the concept `woman' in the preverbal
message. As the preverbal message contains this information, it calls for
further specication of which woman this woman refers to in the grammatical
encoder. Such phrasal specication is made possible by the close coordination
between the conceptualizer and the formulator.
Relevance of Levelt's model to the output hypothesis
Production processing is not language learning. It is a process in which a
concept is encoded in a speech form that is to be communicated. This, as we
saw, involves conceptualizing, formulating, articulating, and monitoring, the
process of which may recycle depending on the success of the outcome of the
processing. Although Levelt's production model is a `steady-state' model and
is not intended to account for language learning per se, it can nevertheless
provide some important insights into how learning may be brought about
through production processes (de Bot 1992, 1996; Kormos 1999). Levelt's
model illustrates the putative process in which the grammatical encoder
syntacticizes the preverbal message using the syntactic specications provided
in the retrieved lemma in order to derive a surface structure of the message.
The surface structure is then processed in the phonological encoder for exact
form specications, which is then sent to the articulator to derive overt
The grammatical encoding in this process, in particular, requires a focus on
syntactic form on the part of the language producer. Although essentially the
reverse process is believed to take place in the speech comprehension system
for any incoming language input (i.e. grammatical decoding), the additional
knowledge source stored in the discourse models and situational and
encyclopedic knowledge can often compensate the lack of L2 knowledge in
decoding the input data. The grammatical decoding, therefore, may eectively
be bypassed in the course of input comprehension, as we have seen earlier. In
production, on the other hand, the speaker is responsible for message
generation and formulation that requires grammatical encoding. There is
much less chance (though by no means no chance, as we will see below) for
the speaker to escape syntactic operations in the course of production. It is in
this sense that output is said to force the learner to move from `the semantic
processing prevalent in comprehension to the syntactic processing needed for
production' (Swain and Lapkin 1995: 375).
In Levelt's model, it is assumed that grammatical encoding in production by
adult native speakers occurs subconsciously and automatically.
However, this
may not be the case for language learners who are still in the process of
learning a language and whose language use requires a great deal of
controlled processing and attention (Do rnyei and Kormos 1998; Kormos
1999, 2000). It is possible that the very process of grammatical encoding in
production sensitizes the learners to the possibilities and limitations of what
they can or cannot express in the TL. Such sensitization is bolstered by the
feedback system available for monitoring speech. In Levelt's model, both
internal and overt speech are fed into the speech-comprehension system and
back to the conceptualizer to be monitored for matching between the
semantic specications in the preverbal message and the outcome of the
formulation and articulation. This monitoring mechanism allows for attention
to be given to the well-formedness and appropriateness of the production
outcome (Do rnyei and Kormos 1998; Kormos 1999, 2000). These processes
particularly, grammatical encoding and monitoringcan, under certain
circumstances, serve as an `internal priming device' for grammatical
consciousness raising for the language learners.
In L1 acquisition, some researchers contend that part of the task of language
acquisition is to coordinate comprehension and production (Clark and Clark
1977; Clark and Hecht 1983). For example, it is observed that children at the
telegraphic stage are more likely to respond to adult commands, such as throw
me the ball, than child-like throw ball. This suggests that in comprehension
children initially rely on more adult-like representations of words and phrases
not yet reected in their own production. These representations, it is claimed,
`provide a standard to which they will eventually match their own
productions of those same linguistic units' (Clark and Hecht 1983: 338).
This matching or coordination mechanism requires that children be able to
monitor what they produce and check it against the standard which is their
representation for comprehension. Indeed, children have been observed to
monitor their own speech actively and to try to repair their utterances (Clark
1982). Furthermore, their repairs are generally made toward the adult norm,
not away from it. Observations such as these suggest that children's active
monitoring and detecting mismatches between what they understand and
what they themselves produce may provide part of the impetus for language
development (Clark 1982; Clark and Hecht 1983). This account underscores
the importance of the inputoutput interactions in language acquisition
processes. The mechanism of speech monitoring advocated here is consistent
with Levelt's model of speech production where speech generated in the
formulator is fed into the speech-comprehension system and then back to the
conceptualizer for monitoring of output.
In SLA, drawing on Levelt's production model and Anderson's (1982)
information-processing approach to skill acquisition (also see Johnson 1996),
de Bot (1992, 1996) proposes that, while output by itself does not create
completely new declarative knowledge, it can facilitate the process of the
transition of declarative knowledge to procedural knowledge:
Specic information in the lemma activates certain procedures, and the
system does not get error messages about the result of this connection;
hence the strength of this connection increases. When this connection
is made repeatedly, the activity becomes automated, and therefore
more rapid and more precise. Probably, focused attention to specic
production processes stimulates the development of connections in
memory (de Bot 1992: 54950).
Focusing on the feedback system described in Levelt's model, de Bot (1996)
further notes that internal speech is matched against internal standards that
are formed by the speaker's receptive knowledge about the use of specic
rules. Operating under this matching mechanism, `if what is produced and
what is correct do not match according to the internal norm, [internal]
negative feedback will hamper the development of the connection' (1996:
549). Again, such a comparison is made possible via a feedback loop from
internal speech to the speech comprehension system, as indicated in Levelt's
model. The speech generated by the formulator is examined internally for
both content and form. The overt speech is also fed back into the speech
comprehension system for further checking of anomalous output. Such
monitoring mechanisms are supported by various ndings in psycholinguistic
research. Scovel (1998) neatly summarizes ndings of psycholinguistic
research in this area:
[c]ommunication is not a one-way broadcast of a signal, but it is an
interactive process, involving not just the interaction between the
interlocutors but also the interaction within each individual speaker.
. . . Speech production (or written composition) is not a linear `one-
way' process; it is a parallel, `two-way' system involving both output
and the concurrent editing and modulation of that output (Scovel
1998: 49).
Although de Bot (1992, 1996) allows for the possibility that new knowledge
may be generated in the production process when the learner forms new
words through the application of existing rules or the combination of
previously acquired morphemes (cf. Swain and Lapkin 1995), he sees the
main role of output in strengthening already-stored knowledge representa-
tions, which would fall under the scope of the uency function of output.
While this is an important role of output in SLA, the argument advanced here
is that output has a wider role to play in the overall acquisition processes, the
uency function being but one of its roles. In particular, given that the
learners' existing L2 linguistic system is not likely to provide sucient
information to enable the monitor to decide with certainty whether their
output was anomalous or not, decision problems may be experienced in the
monitoring process (Kormos 1999, 2000). Thus, even if the external speech
passes through the comprehension system without any apparent warning
given from the internal norm, the learners may still be left with uncertainty
with the correctness of their speech. As argued above, the mechanisms of
monitoring both internal speech and overt speech enable the speakers to
assess the degree of success in the outcome of the formulation, or more
specically, the matching of the message specications and the nal output.
This monitoring process permits `the interaction within each individual
speaker,' as Scovel puts it, and through this process learners may be prompted
to recognize the hole or gap in their IL knowledge, which is an important step
for language development (Swain 1998).
When facing problems in their production process, learners have several
alternative routes to take depending on the given situation at the time (and
perhaps depending on the individual learners' idiosyncratic preferences as
well). For example, despite the uncertainty, learners may try out the outcome
because they do not have any other means available to express their
communicative intention and/or they want to try it out and see whether it
works (de Bot 1992). In interactive situations where communication is taking
place with an immediate interlocutor, the learners may receive negative
feedback from him/her and conrm, reject, or modify their hypothesis (i.e.
the hypothesis-testing function of output: Ellis and He 1999; Nobuyoshi and
Ellis 1993; Pica 1988; Pica et al. 1989; Shehadeh 1999, 2001). If an
`authoritative' gure, such as a teacher or a native speaker (or even a
dictionary or grammar book), is available, learners may ask him/her questions
or consult with the available information sources in an eort to understand
better how the TL works. Alternatively, in situations where external feedback
is not immediately available, as in monologues or communication in writing,
learners can resort to other means. If they are communicating amongst
themselves, as in the collaborative task situations reported in Kowal and
Swain (1994) (see also LaPierre 1994; Swain 1995, 1998; Swain and Lapkin
2001), specic problems encountered in the process of production may be
brought to the forefront of the learners' attention and various solutions to the
problems may be discussed. The elicitation of relevant input in the collabor-
ative work may then trigger language learning (i.e. the metalinguistic
function of output).
If, on the other hand, the learner is left on his/her own to solve the
immediate production diculties, as was tested in Swain and Lapkin (1995),
he/she may engage in various thought processes that can consolidate existing
knowledge or possibly generate some new knowledge on the basis of their
current knowledge (see also Kormos 2000, for a discussion of learners' self-
repair behaviours). If relevant input is immediately available, however, the
heightened sense of problematicity during production may cause the learners
to process the subsequent input with more focused attention; they may try to
examine closely how the TL expresses the intention which they just had
diculty expressing on their own (i.e. the noticing function of output: e.g.
Izumi 2000, 2002; Izumi and Bigelow 2000, 2001; Izumi et al. 1999).
For teachers who wish to take an active interventionist approach to help
their students develop their L2 knowledge, a good intervention point is
obviously when the learners' IL system is most open to change, and this is
most likely to be found when the learners are grappling with the specic
means of expression to convey their meaning. Output produced in meaningful
contexts may create this potential `learning space', which can be lled in a
timely manner by the teacher (Samuda 2001). In all cases, learning may be
enhanced through the act of producing language, which, by its mechanisms,
increases the likelihood that learners become sensitive to what they can and
cannot say in the TL, leading to their reappraisal of their IL capabilities.
These several functions of output are summarized in Figure 3. The processes
that intervene between the rst output and the second output, which are
depicted in the squares, are believed to constitute an important part of SLA
(Swain and Lapkin 1995). To summarize, output, by itself, can contribute to
learning by strengthening the IL knowledge base that may still be only weakly
established, that is, solidifying the knowledge connections or increasing the
automaticity of language use. Equally or perhaps more importantly (depend-
ing on one's view of what `acquisition' entails; cf. Ellis 1999: ch. 10), output
triggers chains of psycholinguistic processes that are conducive to language
learning. In other words, output processing engages important internal
procedures such as grammatical encoding and monitoring, which prompts
the learners to interact actively with the external environment to nd a
solution (e.g. attend selectively to certain aspects of the input) or to explore
their internal resources for possible solutions. Output, thus, serves as a useful
means to promote the interaction between learner internal factors (including
selective attention and their developing L2 competence) and environmental
factors (input, interaction, and pedagogical intervention), or the interaction
within the learners themselves for internal metalinguistic reection. The
outcome of all cases is language acquisition in a broad sense of the term, that
Figure 3: Output and second language development (adapted from Swain
and Lapkin 1995: 388)
is, the development of the knowledge base, its restructuring, and the
strengthening and increase in the access to the stored knowledge.
Relating the roles of output discussed here to the overall SLA processes that
were discussed earlier, Figure 4 illustrates such relationships in terms of three
arrows connecting output to other SLA components. Specically, the arrow
intersecting at the point between the comprehended input and the intake is
meant to imply that output generated through the production processes can
help to mediate between comprehension and acquisition processes by
facilitating noticing of the mismatches between the learners' IL output and
the TL input. This function may be variously called, depending on the focus of
the emphasis: intake facilitation (Terrell 1991), noticing or noticing of the gap
(Schmidt 1990, 1995, 2001), or consciousness-raising (Rutherford and
Sharwood Smith 1985; Sharwood Smith 1991). Opportunities for output
can also serve as grounds for hypothesis testing and/or metalinguistic
reection for the learners, which could lead to intake or integration upon
receiving conrmation (here the arrow is connected with the point between
the intake and integration components, assuming that the hypothesis being
tested has already been taken in but still waits further conrmation for nal
integration into the system). And nally, if the same structure is used in the
output repeatedly, the output can also serve to promote more eective and
faster access to the integrated knowledge by the learners, leading to
Figure 4: Output as an active component in the overall SLA process
automatization of the IL knowledge (as indicated by the arrow intersecting
the integration and the output components). In this way, output can serve to
promote the learners' intake of the form, its integration, and its speedy access
for eective language use.
Some factors affecting output effects on learning
With these psycholinguistic mechanisms available to language learners, an
important caveat needs to be mentioned. That is, not all circumstances of
production may provide language learners with ideal grounds in which to
encourage syntacticization and sensitization to language forms. In many ways,
this is similar to the case of comprehension, which does not always guarantee
automatic sensitivity to form, but instead requires some conditions for a focus
on form to occur. Just as the availability of rich semantic, contextual, or
situational information allows the learner to bypass careful syntactic analysis
in comprehension, some production circumstances are not particularly
conducive to inducing learners' sensitivity to form; hence, the need for
`pushed' output to drive language development (Swain 1985, 1993, 1995,
For instance, it is said that in `loose' conversational contexts, learners can
avoid problematic lexical and grammatical structures, yet nevertheless
achieve their immediate communicative goals (Bygate 1999; Gary and Gary
1981; Skehan 1998). This would be the case of learners using `reduction
strategies,' in Frch and Kasper's (1983) terms. In general, the need for
syntacticization would be diminished in situations where one can readily rely
on external support such as interlocutors' scaolding or contextual cues
available in the environment or through gestures (e.g. having a face-to-face
conversation with a familiar interlocutor as opposed to writing to an
unfamiliar recipient). In her longitudinal study of the development of the
past-time marking in English by two Vietnamese speakers, Sato (1986)
concludes that the `compensatory nature of discourse-pragmatics' facilitates
learners' communicative performance, but it simultaneously makes the past-
time morphological marking `expendable' (1986: 42). A form like the past
tense marking, which has inherent semantic content yet is often redundant in
many communication contexts may be particularly susceptible to dierences
in contextual factors. Thus, both situational and linguistic variables can aect
the degree to which production forces learners to allocate their attention to
form features (Izumi and Bigelow 2000).
Task demands also inuence what aspects of L2 performance (e.g. accuracy,
uency, and complexity) may be most attended to by the learners (Bygate
1999; Foster and Skehan 1996; Skehan and Foster 1997, 1999; Skehan 1998).
Some of the features of the task that are known to aect L2 performance are:
availability of the planning time prior to task performance, specic goals and
requirements set for the task, the task directions given to the learner, and the
type, amount, and details of the linguistic, as well as non-linguistic (e.g.
visual), information to be dealt with (cf. see Long in press; Crookes and Gass
1993a, b; Bygate et al. 2001, for many issues in task-based language teaching).
All of these factors determine the overall cognitive demand of the task, which
inuences the degree to which the learners allocate their attentional resources
to form. From an information-processing perspective, the limited capacity of
the human attentional system is likely to aect the eciency of the encoding
and monitoring processes in production. Such eects, moreover, are likely to
be more pronounced for language learners than for mature L1 users due to
the greater need by the former to exercise controlled processing that requires
attentional control (Kormos 1999). Careful consideration of the task demands,
therefore, is essential if output (or input, for that matter) is used in the task to
promote IL development.
The level of learners' L2 prociency is another related factor that may play a
role in how much output stimulates learning mechanisms leading to IL
development. It is possible, for instance, that lower prociency learners who
are struggling with the production of one-word utterances may not be able to
engage much of grammatical encoding during production because their
cognitive eort may be spent primarily on the retrieval of lexical items
(Bygate 1999). As a result, such learners may not be able to attend to
grammatical forms in either the output they produce or the input they
receive, though they may pay attention to individual lexical items. For output
to exert facilitative eect on grammatical acquisition, then, it is necessary to
take into account the timing issue vis-a -vis learners' L2 prociency level in
general and with regard to the specic form that may be targeted for
instruction in particular (see Izumi 2000, 2002, for a study that found positive
eects of output on the acquisition of relative clauses by ESL learners whose
developmental readiness (cf. Pienemann 1998) was matched to the target
In general, if the facilitative impact of output for learning requires the
engagement of psycholinguistic processes such as grammatical encoding and
monitoring as argued above, it should follow that the eectiveness of output-
based activities can be assessed in large part by how successfully these
processes are engaged in these activities. A mechanical production task, for
instance, does not likely involve genuine production mechanisms as described
above; accordingly, its impact on SLA cannot be expected to be large. A
fundamental consideration for pedagogy is that, for output to have any
signicant impact on learning, a meaningful context for language use needs to
be created so that learners can acquire proper formmeaning connections in
the L2a focus-on-form consideration (cf. see Doughty and Williams 1998;
Long 1991; Long and Robinson 1998). In Levelt's model, this means that the
coordination between the conceptualizer and the formulator needs to be
involved. Dissociating the two, or reversing the order of the involvement of
the two, from the conceptualizer (concept generation)-to-the formulator (its
grammatical formulation) to the formulator (grammatical formulation)-to-the
conceptualizer (concept generation), as is done in some predominantly form-
focused instruction, would go against natural production processing.
In light
of the foregoing discussion, it is hardly a surprise if such approaches to L2
instruction do not lead to the acquisition of any usable knowledge.
Elucidating the psycholinguistic mechanisms of the output hypothesis, as
has been attempted in this paper, gives us many insights into the
specications of optimal conditions for language learning.
This paper reviewed previous literature relevant to the comprehension and
production processes in order to illuminate, ultimately, the psycholinguistic
rationale for the output hypothesis in SLA. It was argued that comprehension
of language input is a complex process involving multiple resources of
information, linguistic information being but one source. The resourceful
nature of the comprehension system is highly useful in L2 comprehension,
but at the cost of reducing the amount of intake that can be used for
integration in the developing system. In elucidating the mechanisms by which
output promotes SLA, it was argueddrawing on Levelt's production
modelthat the processes of grammatical encoding during production and
monitoring to check the matching of the communicative intention and the
output enable the language learners to assess the possibilities and limitations
of what they can or cannot express in the TL. These processes are
hypothesized to serve as an internal priming device for consciousness raising
for language learning. The resultant state of alertness may then prompt the
learners to take several alternative routes depending on the given production
circumstance, which leads to dierent functions of output as specied by
Swain. It was also argued that situational, linguistic, task, and learner
variables can all aect the extent to which these psycholinguistic mechanisms
are engaged. Guided by the knowledge of relevant psycholinguistic mechan-
isms underlying the output and input processing, future research should aim
to identify the optimal conditions under which successful L2 learning is
induced through output and input.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at JPacSLRF held in Kitakyushu, Japan in
November of 2001. This paper is based on part of my doctoral dissertation, completed at
Georgetown University. I am grateful to Catherine Doughty for her guidance throughout the
entire process of my doctoral work. My thanks also go to Cristina Sanz and Je Connor-Linton,
the readers on my dissertation committee, and anonymous Applied Linguistics reviewers for
insightful comments.
(Final version received October 2002)
1 In one approach to human sentence process-
ing, known as the autonomous modular
model (e.g. Forster 1979), the comprehen-
sion system is believed to consist of three
separate and sequential processes: lexical,
structural, and interpretive processes. These
processes are believed to occur in the given
order. On the other hand, the interactive
model claims that these processes are not
strictly modularly insulated, but interact in
every stage of sentence comprehension (e.g.
Taraban and McCelland 1988). While
research evidence indicates that both seman-
tic and pragmatic factors do aect speech
comprehension, the major disagreement lies
in when such eects come into playduring
on-line parsing operations or after parsing
operations are completed. Since evidence in
support of either position is various and to
review it here is beyond the scope of this
paper, readers are referred to surveys of
these studies reported in Fender (2001),
Garrett (1991), Harrington (2001), Tyler
and Tyler (1990), and Wingeld (1993).
Without getting bogged down with the
psycholinguistic debate over the modularity
issue, the present discussion focuses on the
general characteristics of speech comprehen-
sion processes and their relevance to lan-
guage learning.
2 See DeKeyser and Sokalski (1996) for criti-
cisms against VanPatten and his colleagues'
studies on processing instruction and Allen
(2000) for some results contrary to those of
VanPatten and others'.
3 Not only is it assumed that speech produc-
tion occurs subconsciously and automati-
cally, it is also assumed by Levelt that
various stages of lexical retrieval and pho-
nological encoding are modularly encapsu-
lated. In SLA, Doughty (2001) reviews
relevant literature in cognitive psychology
and concludes that the speech plan is largely
modular yet amenable to modication; that
is, there are `small cognitive windows of
opportunity for ``intrusions''' (2001: 249),
that is, focus on form.
4 Obviously, output is also related to the role
of negotiated interaction in SLA, which is a
much discussed topic in SLA research (see
e.g. Ellis 1999; Gass 1997; Long 1996).
Research suggests that negotiation helps to
draw the learners' attention to the ILTL
discrepancies or to the area of language
which they know little about yet, thereby
contributing to L2 development. In this
context, output is considered to play a
crucial part in the negotiation because it
serves both as the initial trigger of the
learning sequence and the ultimate forum
of uptake and incorporation.
5 In many EFL classrooms in Japan, for
instance, the focus of the English class is
often on the teaching of grammatical struc-
tures and the associated vocabulary. In this
context, a frequently used pedagogical
approach is to explain a grammar point, do
exercises to consolidate the learned know-
ledge, and engage in (semi-)communicative
activities to use the learned structure. In
other words, learners are asked to think of
their message content by rst specifying
which grammatical structure to use for
their message generationa formulator-to-
conceptualizer approach. However, in
normal speech processing, one rarely, if
ever, decides on which grammatical struc-
ture to use rst and then think of what can
be said with it. Rather, one thinks of what to
say rst, and that naturally leads one to
work on how to say it, as described in
Levelt's model.
Allen, L. Q. 2000. `Formmeaning connections
and the French causative: An experiment in
processing instruction.' Studies in Second
Language Acquisition 22: 6984.
Allen, P., M. Swain, B. Harley, and
J. Cummins. 1990. `Aspects of classroom
treatment: toward a more comprehensive
view of second language education' in
B. Harley, P. Allen, J. Cummins, and
M. Swain (eds): The Development of Second
Language Proficiency. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, pp. 5781.
Anderson, A. and T. Lynch. 1988. Listening.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Anderson, J. 1982. `Acquisition of cognitive
skill.' Psychological Review 89: 369406.
Bates, E. and B. MacWhinney. 1989. `Func-
tionalism and the competition model' in
B. MacWhinney and E. Bates (eds): The
Cross-linguistic Study of Sentence Processing.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
pp. 77117.
Bygate, M. 1999. `Task as context for the
framing, reframing and unframing of lan-
guage.' System 27: 3348.
Bygate, M. 2001. `Effects of task repetition on
the structure and control of oral language' in
M. Bygate, P. Skehan, and M. Swain (eds):
Researching Pedagogic Tasks: Second language
learning, teaching, and testing. Harlow: Pearson
Education, pp. 2348.
Bygate, M., P. Skehan, and M. Swain. (eds).
2001. Researching Pedagogic Tasks: Second
language learning, teaching, and testing.
Harlow: Pearson Education.
Chaudron, C. 1985. `Intake: On models and
methods for discovering learners' processing
of input.' Studies in Second Language Acquisi-
tion 7: 114.
Clark, E. 1982. `Language change during
language acquisition' in M. Lamb and
A. Brown (eds): Advances in Child Develop-
ment, 2. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, pp. 17397.
Clark, E. and B. Hecht. 1983. `Comprehen-
sion, production, and language acquisition.'
Annual Review of Psychology 34: 32549.
Clark, H. and E. Clark. 1977. Psychology and
Language. New York: Harcourt Brace Jova-
Crookes, G. and S. Gass. (eds) 1993a. Tasks
and Language Learning: Integrating theory and
practice. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Mat-
Crookes, G., and S. Gass. (eds) 1993b. Tasks in
a Pedagogical Context: Integrating theory and
practice. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Mat-
de Bot, K. 1992. `A bilingual production
model: Levelt's `speaking' model adapted.'
Applied Linguistics 13: 124.
de Bot, K. 1996. `The psycholinguistics of the
output hypothesis.' Language Learning 46:
de Bot, K., T. Paribakht, and M. Wesche.
1997. `Toward a lexical processing model for
the study of second language vocabulary
acquisition: Evidence from ESL reading.'
Studies in Second Language Acquisition 19:
DeKeyser, R. 1997. `Beyond explicit rule
learning: Automatizing second language
morphosyntax.' Studies in Second Language
Acquisition 19: 195221.
DeKeyser, R. and K. Sokalski. 1996. `The
differential role of comprehension and pro-
duction practice.' Language Learning 46: 613
Doughty, C. 2001. `Cognitive underpinnings
of focus on form' in P. Robinson (ed.):
Cognition and Second Language Instruction.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
pp. 20657.
Doughty, C. and J. Williams. 1998. `Pedago-
gical choices in focus on form' in C. Doughty
and J. Williams (eds): Focus on Form in
Classroom Second Language Acquisition. New
York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 197
Do rnyei, Z. and J. Kormos. 1998. `Problem-
solving mechanisms in L2 communication: A
psycholinguistic perspective.' Studies in
Second Language Acquisition 20: 34985.
Ellis, R. 1990. Instructed Second Language
Acquisition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Ellis, R. 1993. `The structural syllabus and
second language acquisition.' TESOL Quar-
terly 27: 91113.
Ellis, R. 1994. The Study of Second Language
Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ellis, R. 1999. Learning a Second Language
through Interaction. Philadelphia: John Benja-
Ellis, R. and X. He. 1999. `The roles of
modified input and output in the incidental
acquisition of word meanings.' Studies in
Second Language Acquisition 21: 285301.
Frch, C. and G. Kasper. 1983. `Plans and
strategies in foreign language commun-
ication' in C. Faerch and G. Kasper (eds):
Strategies in Interlanguage Communication,
London: Longman.
Frch, C. and G. Kasper. 1986. `The role of
comprehension in second-language learn-
ing.' Applied Linguistics 7: 25774.
Fender, M. J. 2001. `A review of L1 and L2/
ESL word integration skills and the nature of
L2/ESL word integration development
involved in lower-level text processing.'
Language Learning 51: 31996.
Forster, K. 1979. `Levels of processing and the
structure of the language processor' in
W. Cooper and E. Walker (eds): Sentence
Processing: Psycholinguistic studies. Hillsdale,
NJ: Erlbaum.
Foster, P. and P. Skehan. 1996. `The influence
of planning on performance in task-based
learning.' Studies in Second Language Acquisi-
tion 18: 299324.
Garret, M. 1991. Sentence processing. In
D. Osherson and H. Lasnik (eds), Language:
An invitation to cognitive science, Cambridge,
MA: The MIT Press.
Gary, J. O. and N. Gary. 1981. `Caution:
Talking may be dangerous to your linguistic
health: The case for a much greater emphasis
on listening comprehension in foreign lan-
guage instruction.' International Review of
Applied Linguistics 19: 114.
Gass, S. 1987. `The resolution of conflicts
among competing systems: A bidirectional
perspective.' Applied Psycholinguistics 8: 329
Gass, S. 1988. `Integrating research areas: A
framework for second language studies.'
Applied Linguistics 9: 198217.
Gass, S. 1997. Input, Interaction, and the Second
Language Learner. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates.
Gass, S. and L. Selinker. 1993. Second Language
Acquisition: An introductory course. Mahwah,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Goldschneider, J. M. and R. M. DeKeyser.
2001. `Explaining the ``natural order of L2
morpheme acquisition'' in English: A meta-
analysis of multiple determinants.' Language
Learning 51: 150.
Harley, B. 1986. Age in Second Language
Acquisition. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual
Harley, B. 1992. `Patterns of second language
development in French immersion.' Journal
of French Language Studies 2: 15983.
Harley, B. and M. Swain. 1984. `The inter-
language of immersion students and its
implications for second language teaching'
in A. Davies, C. Criper, and A. Howatt (eds):
Interlanguage. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univer-
sity Press, pp. 291311.
Harrington, M. 1987. `Processing transfer:
Language-specific processing strategies as a
source of interlanguage variation.' Applied
Psycholinguistics 8: 35177.
Harrington, M. 2001. `Sentence processing' in
P. Robinson (ed.): Cognition and Second
Language Instruction. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, pp. 91124.
Izumi, S. 2000. `Promoting noticing and SLA:
An empirical study of the effects of output
and input enhancement on ESL relativiza-
tion.' Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Geor-
getown University.
Izumi, S. 2002. `Output, input enhancement,
and the Noticing Hypothesis: An experimen-
tal study on ESL relativization.' Studies in
Second Language Acquisition 24: 54177.
Izumi, S. and M. Bigelow. 2000. `Does output
promote noticing and second language
acquisition?' TESOL Quarterly 34: 23978.
Izumi, S. and M. Bigelow. 2001. `Methodolo-
gical and theoretical issues in testing the
effects of focus on form.' TESOL Quarterly 35:
Izumi, S, M. Bigelow, M. Fujiwara, and
S. Fearnow. 1999. `Testing the output
hypothesis: Effects of output on noticing
and second language acquisition.' Studies in
Second Language Acquisition 21: 42152.
Johnson, K. 1996. Language Teaching and Skill
Learning. Oxford: Blackwell.
Kormos, J. 1999. `Monitoring and self-repair
in L2.' Language Learning 49: 30342.
Kormos, J. 2000. `The timing of self-repairs in
second language speech production.' Studies
in Second Language Acquisition 22: 14567.
Kowal, M. and M. Swain. 1994. `Using col-
laborative language production tasks to
promote students' language awareness.' Lan-
guage Awareness 3: 7393.
Krashen, S. 1985. The Input Hypothesis: Issues
and Implications. New York: Longman.
Krashen, S. 1989. `We acquire vocabulary and
spelling by reading: additional evidence for
the input hypothesis.' Modern Language
Journal 73: 44064.
LaPierre, D. 1994. `Language output in a
cooperative learning setting: Determining
its effects on second language learning.'
Unpublished MA thesis, University of Tor-
Larsen-Freeman, D. and M. Long. 1991. An
Introduction to Second Language Acquisition
Research. London: Longman.
Levelt, W. 1989. Speaking: From intention to
articulation. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Levelt, W. 1992. `Accessing words in speech
production: Stages, processes and represen-
tations.' Cognition 42: 122.
Levelt, W. 1993. `Language use in normal
speakers and its disorders' in G. Blanken,
J. Dittman, H. Grimm, J. Marshall, and
C. Wallesch (eds): Linguistic Disorders and
Pathologies: An International Handbook.
Berlin: de Gruyter.
Levelt, W., A. Roelofs, and A. Meyer. 1999. `A
theory of lexical access in speech produc-
tion.' Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22: 175.
Long, M. 1991. `Focus on form: A design
feature in language teaching methodology'
in K. deBot, C. Kramsch, and R. Ginsberg
(eds): Foreign Language Research in Cross-
cultural Perspective. Amsterdam: John Benja-
mins, pp. 3952.
Long, M. 1996. `The role of the linguistic
environment in second language acquisition'
in W. Ritchie and T. Bhatia (eds): Handbook
of Research on Second Language Acquisition.
New York: Academic Press, pp. 413468.
Long, M. in press. Task-based Language Teach-
ing. Oxford: Blackwell.
Long, M. and P. Robinson. 1998. `Focus on
form: Theory, research, and practice' in
C. Doughty and J. Williams (eds): Focus on
Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition.
New York: Cambridge University Press.
pp. 1541.
MacWhinney, B. 1987. `The competition
model' in B. MacWhinney (ed.): Mechanisms
of Language Acquisition. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawr-
ence Erlbaum, pp. 249308.
McLaughlin, B. 1987. Theories of Second Lan-
guage Learning. London: Edward Arnold.
McLaughlin, B., T. Rossman, and B. McLeod.
1983. `Second-language learning: An infor-
mation-processing perspective.' Language
Learning 33: 13558.
Mecartty, F. 2000. `Lexical and grammatical
knowledge in reading and listening compre-
hension by foreign language learners of
Spanish.' Applied Language Learning 11:
Nobuyoshi, J. and R. Ellis. 1993. `Focused
communication tasks and second language
acquisition.' ELT Journal 47: 20310.
Pica, T. 1988. `Interlanguage adjustments as an
outcome of NSNNS negotiated interaction.'
Language Learning 38: 4573.
Pica, T., L. Holliday, N. Lewis, and
L. Morgenthaler. 1989. `Comprehensible
output as an outcome of linguistic demands
on the learner.' Studies in Second Language
Acquisition 11: 6390.
Pienemann, M. 1998. Language Processing and
Second Language Development: Processability
theory. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Robinson, P. 1995. `Attention, memory and
the ``noticing'' hypothesis.' Language Learn-
ing 45: 283331.
Rost, M. 1990. Listening in Language Learning.
New York: Longman.
Rutherford, W. and M. Sharwood Smith.
1985. `Consciousness-raising and Universal
Grammar.' Applied Linguistics 6: 27482.
Samuda, V. 2001. `Guiding relationships
between form and meaning during task
performance: The role of the teacher' in
M. Bygate, P. Skehan, and M. Swain (eds):
Researching Pedagogic Tasks: Second language
learning, teaching, and testing. Harlow: Pearson
Education, pp. 11940.
Sasaki, Y. 1994. `Paths of processing strategy
transfers in learning Japanese and English as
foreign languages: A competition model
approach.' Studies in Second Language Acquisi-
tion 16: 4372.
Sato, C. 1986. `Conversation and interlan-
guage development: Rethinking the connec-
tion' in R. Day (ed.): Talking to Learn:
Conversation in second language acquisition.
Rowley, MA: Newbury House, pp. 2345.
Schmidt, R. 1990. `The role of consciousness in
second language learning.' Applied Linguistics
11: 20626.
Schmidt, R. 1995. `Consciousness and foreign
language learning: A tutorial on the role of
attention and awareness in learning' in
R. Schmidt (ed.): Attention and Awareness in
Foreign Language Learning. Hawaii: Second
Language Teaching and Curriculum Center,
pp. 163.
Schmidt, R. 2001. `Attention' in P. Robinson
(ed.): Cognition and Second Language Instruc-
tion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
pp. 332.
Scovel, T. 1998. Psycholinguistics. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Sharwood Smith, M. 1986. `Comprehension
vs. acquisition: Two ways of processing
input.' Applied Linguistics 7: 23956.
Sharwood Smith, M. 1991. `Speaking to many
minds: On the relevance of different types of
language information for the L2 learner.'
Second Language Research 7: 11832.
Shehadeh, A. 1999. `Non-native speakers'
production of modified comprehensible
output and second language learning.' Lan-
guage Learning 49: 62775.
Shehadeh, A. 2001. `Self- and other-initiated
modified output during task-based inter-
action.' TESOL Quarterly 35: 43357.
Shehadeh, A. 2002. `Comprehensible output,
from occurrence to acquisition: An agenda
for acquisitional research.' Language Learning
52: 597647.
Skehan, P. 1996. `A framework for the
implementation of task-based instruction.'
Applied Linguistics 17: 3862.
Skehan, P. 1998. A Cognitive Approach to
Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford Univer-
sity Press.
Skehan, P. and P. Foster. 1997. `The influence
of planning and post-task activities on
accuracy and complexity in task-based learn-
ing.' Language Teaching Research 1: 185211.
Skehan, P. and P. Foster. 1999. `The influence
of task structure and processing conditions
on narrative retellings.' Language Learning
49: 93120.
Slobin, D. 1985. `Crosslinguistic evidence for
the language-making capacity' in D. Slobin
(ed.): The Crosslinguistic Study of Language
Acquisition. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Stanovich, K. E. 1980. `Toward an interactive-
compensatory model of individual differ-
ences in the development of reading flu-
ency.' Reading Research Quarterly 16: 3271.
Stolz, W. 1967. `A study of the ability to
decode grammatically novel sentences.' Jour-
nal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 6:
Swain, M. 1985. `Communicative competence:
Some roles of comprehensible input and
comprehensible output in its development'
in S. Gass and C. Madden (eds): Input in
Second Language Acquisition. Rowley, MA:
Newbury House, pp. 23553.
Swain, M. 1993. `The output hypothesis: Just
speaking and writing aren't enough.' The
Canadian Modern Language Review 50: 158
Swain, M. 1995. `Three functions of output in
second language learning' in G. Cook and
B. Seildlhofer (eds): Principles and Practice in
Applied Linguistics: Studies in Honour of H. G.
Widdowson. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
pp. 12544.
Swain, M. 1998. `Focus on form through
conscious reflection' in C. Doughty and
J. Williams (eds): Focus on Form in Classroom
Second Language Acquisition. New York: Cam-
bridge University Press. 6481.
Swain, M. and S. Lapkin. 1995. `Problems in
output and the cognitive processes they
generate: A step towards second language
learning.' Applied Linguistics 16: 37191.
Swain, M. and S. Lapkin. 2001. `Focus on
form through collaborative dialogue:
Exploring task effects' in M. Bygate,
P. Skehan, and M. Swain (eds): Researching
Pedagogic Tasks: Second Language Learning,
Teaching, and Testing. Harlow: Pearson Edu-
cation, pp. 99118.
Taraban, R. and J. McCelland. 1988. `Con-
stituent attachment and thematic role
assignment in sentence processing: Influ-
ences of content-based expectations.' Journal
of Memory and Language 27: 597632.
Terrell, T. 1991. `The role of grammar instruc-
tion in a communicative approach.' The
Modern Language Journal 75: 5263.
Tomlin, R. and V. Villa. 1994. `Attention in
cognitive science and second language
acquisition.' Studies in Second Language Acqui-
sition 16: 183203.
Tyler, I. and M. Tyler. 1990. Psycholinguistics:
Learning and using language. Englewood
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Tyler, M. 2001. `Resource consumption as a
function of topic knowledge in nonnative
and native comprehension.' Language Learn-
ing 51: 25780.
VanPatten, B. 1995. `Cognitive aspects of input
processing in second language acquisition' in
P. Hashemipour, R. Maldonaldo, and M. van
Naerssen (eds): Studies in Language Learning
and Spanish Linguistics: In Honor of Tracy
D. Terrell. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 170
VanPatten, B. 1996. Input Processing and Gram-
mar Instruction in Second Language Acquisition.
Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
VanPatten, B. and S. Oikkenon. 1996. `Ex-
planation versus structured input in process-
ing instruction.' Studies in Second Language
Acquisition 18: 495510.
Wingfield, A. 1993. `Sentence processing' in
J. Berko Gleason and N. B. Ratner (eds):
Psycholinguistics. Fort Worth: Harcorurt Brace
Jovanovich College, pp. 199235.