Cognition hypothesis and second language performance: Comparison of written and oral task performance

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2011
Authors
Sasayama, Shoko
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This study sought to test Robinson's (1995, 2003b) cognition hypothesis by investigating the effect of cognitive task difficulty on ESL learners' written and oral task performance. Ten exchange students at the University of Hawai'I at Manoa were given four sets of picture-based narrative tasks: a simple writing task, a difficult writing task, a simple speaking task, and a difficult speaking task. The simple tasks contained a fewer characters or main foreground events, but not supporting background events, in cartoon-based stories; on the other hand, the complex tasks included more characters or both foregorund and background events. The results indicated that (a) the difficuly task was more successful than was the difficult speaking task in eliciting complex language production without deteriorating its accuracy; (b) the cognition hypothesis seems to be more relevant to language complexity than accuracy, and (c) accuracy of language production seems to be more susceptible to individual learners' ability to produce accurate sentences than cognitive taks difficulty. These findings, therefore, partially support and partially disconfirm Robinson's cognition hypothesis.
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24 pages
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University of Hawai'I Second Langauge Studies Paper 29(2)
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