Edited by Zhisheng (Edward) Wen and Mohammad Javad Ahmadian
[Task-Based Language Teaching 13] 2019
► pp. 133–151
Chapter 6. The effects of task demands on linguistic complexity and accuracy across task types and L1/L2 speakers
The relationship between task variables and linguistic production has been the object of much second language (L2) research. This study contributes to this line of research by investigating the extent to which increasing cognitive task demands affects the syntactic complexity and accuracy of L2 performance across different speaker groups (first and second language) and task types. An additional goal of the study was to explore how various measures of linguistic accuracy and complexity pattern together. The participants were English L1 speakers (N = 16) and German L2 speakers of English (N = 16), who performed cognitively less and more demanding versions of three task types (decision-making, map, and narrative). Syntactic complexity was evaluated in terms of measures of overall, subordination and phrasal complexity, and accuracy was assessed with error-free clause and weighted clause ratios. Reflecting predictions by Skehan (2009, 2015), the results showed that the effects of cognitive task demands on syntactic complexity and accuracy varied according to task type and speaker status. Subordination complexity had a strong positive relationship with overall complexity, but correlated negatively with phrasal complexity. A limited number of trade-offs between the syntactic complexity and accuracy measures was also attested.