- Cognitive task complexity and written output in Italian and French as a foreign language
- Journal of Second Language Writing
- Volume | Issue number
- 17 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
This paper reports on a study on the relationship between cognitive task complexity and linguistic performance in L2 writing. In the study, two models proposed to explain the influence of cognitive task complexity on linguistic performance in L2 are tested and compared: Skehan and Foster’s Limited Attentional Capacity Model (Skehan, 1998; Skehan & Foster, 1999, 2001) and Robinson’s Cognition Hypothesis (Robinson, 2001a, 2001b, 2005). In the experiment, 91 Dutch university students of Italian and 76 students of French performed two writing tasks with prompts of differing cognitive complexity.
Linguistic performance was operationalized in terms of syntactic complexity, lexical variation, and accuracy. The study provides support for the Cognition Hypothesis insofar as the written products of the cognitively more demanding task turned out to be more accurate, with significantly lower error ratios per T-unit than those of the cognitively less demanding task. No effects on the written output could be observed on measures of syntactic complexity or lexical variation. The implications of the findings for both Skehan
and Foster’s model and Robinson’s Cognition Hypothesis with regard to L2 writing pedagogy are discussed and suggestions are made for the direction in which further research on the influence of task complexity on text quality should be developed.
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