Vol. 63 (1984) ► pp. 81–96
Inference of Grammatical time from Lexical Versus Morphological Cues in the Visual Processing of French Sentences by Native and Foreign Readers
The relative contributions of lexical time expressions and time information in verb endings was established for three groups of readers : a control group (C) of native French readers, an experimental group of Dutch learners of French having received instruction emphasising French verb morphology (Emorph), and a similar group trained to recognize time adverbials instead (Eadv).
Sentences containing time of action cues in either or both verb morphology or in a time adverbial were presented to the subjects, who had to decide as fast and as accurately as possible, whether the time of action expressed was past, present, or future.
Results indicated superior performance when both information sources were present in the stimulus; when one of the information sources was withheld the results differed across the groups of subjects.
For the C-group morphological and adverbial information supplied equally useful cues, for the E-groups the cue value depended critically on the instruction program followed : for the Emorph-group verb morphology was the superior cue, for the Eadv-group the time expressions.
When in teaching French reading comprehension to foreign learners time pressure forces a choice between either teaching verb morphology or time expressions, we can now argue that there is no intrinsic superiority of one solution over the other. However, reasons of teaching economy seem to suggest that emphasing lexical time information would lead to the same level of performance faster.