Temporal Variables

Hans Dechert Photo

Hans Dechert

SLA Topics  Vivian Cook 

Temporal variables for a student before and after visiting
(adapted from Raupach, 1987)

total speaking time

 pause/time ratio

 run length









Research summary: Raupach, M. (1987), 'Procedural learning in advanced learners of a foreign language', in Coleman, J., & Towell, R. (eds.), The Advanced Language Learner, CILTR, London, 123-156
Aim: application of temporal variables to L2 speech
Learners: adult German learners of French
Aspect of language: temporal variables of pauses, run-length, speaking time etc
Data type: interviews transcribed with pauses etc
Results: improvement on measures of fluency after visiting France
Conclusions: Anderson's view of learning as shift from declarative to procedural memory is complicated in L2 learning by the possibility of L1 transfer and translation

Improvement in L2 temporal variables over time (adapted from Towell, 1987a p.168; 1987b, p.124) * % of runs from 1-4 sylls

syllables per minute

pause/time ratio

run length





Year 1

Year 4

Year 1

Year 4

Year 1

Year 4

Towell 87a







Year 1

Year 3

Year 1

Year 3

Year 1

Year 3

Towell 87b







Anderson’s ACT* model

Types of memory
– working memory (used for performance)
– declarative memory (stores isolated ‘facts’)
– procedural memory (stores processes production rules) handling ‘facts’)

Stages of learning in ACT*

1) the declarative stage (sometimes called the ‘cognitive ‘stage)
2) the knowledge compilation stage (sometimes called ‘associative’)
3) the tuning productions stage (sometimes called ‘autonomous’)

Research summary: Hulstijn & Hulstijn Language Learning, (1984)
Aim: to investigate control and metacognitive dimensions via factors of Time Pressure and Attention to Form
Learners: 32 learners of Dutch (from a larger sample of 157)
Linguistic Content: Dutch syntax involving 'Inversion' (Verb Second) and 'Verb Final' (SOV in subordinate clauses)
Design: variation of Time Pressure (Fast/Slow) and Focus on Form (Information/
Data type: retelling 68 stories following prompts to elicit Inversion or Verb Final, plus follow-up interviews
Method of analysis: response length and information content scores
Results: Attention (i.e. Focus on Form) had an effect, Time pressure (Fast/slow) did not; extra time helped both those who knew the rules explicitly and those who did not

Inversion (%) Verb Final (%)
1) Information/Fast 81.0 36.12
2) Information/Slow 77.6 37.6
3) Grammar/Fast 85.7 55.7
4) Grammar/Slow 87.9 59.1

Scores for Inversion and Verb Final


Anderson, J. (1983), The Architecture of Cognition, Harvard UP

Dechert, H., Möhle, D., & Raupach, M. (1984), Second Language Productions, G. Narr

Dechert, H. & Raupach M. (1987), ‘Prosodic patters of proceduralised speech in second and first language narratives’ in James, A. & Leather, J. (eds), Sound Patterns in Second Language Acquisition, Foris, Dordrecht

Griffiths, R. (1991), 'Pausological research in an L2 context: a rationale and review of selected studies', Applied Linguistics, 12, 4

McLaughlin, B., Rossman, R., & McLeod, B. (1983), 'Second language learning: an information-processing perspective', LL, 33, 135-158

Möhle, D. & Raupach, M. (1989), 'Language transfer of procedural knowledge', in Dechert, H.W., & Raupach, M. (eds.), Transfer in Language Productions, Ablex, NJ, 195-216

Raupach, M. (1987), 'Procedural learning in advanced learners of a foreign language', in Coleman, J., & Towell, R. (eds.), The Advanced Language Learner, CILTR, London, 123-156

Towell, R. (1987a), 'Approaches to the analysis of the oral language development of the advanced language learner', in Coleman, J., & Towell, R. (eds.), The Advanced Language Learner, CILTR, 157-182

Towell, R. (1987b), 'Variability and progress in the language development of advanced learners of a foreign language', in Ellis, R. (ed.), Second Language Acquisition In Context, Oxford, Pergamon, 113-128

Towell, R., and Hawkins, R. (1994), Approaches to Second Language Acquisition, Multilingual Matters, Chapter 12

Wagner, J. (1998), ‘Silences in international communication’ in Albrechtsen, D., Henriksen, B., Mees, I.M. & Poulsen, E. (eds), Perspectives on Foreign and Second Language Pedagogy, Odense University Press, 79-92


Sample data

Subject 1 (Chinese)

Monologue 1 (1 minute, 30 seconds): Narrative

(18.5) A boy on the (.5) er (.) a boy on the boat, erm on the river (.) and a policeman (.) er tell him (1.5) can (.) tell him that (.) er he can not (2.3) row the boat. So er he (1.2) ask him (.) er (.) go ther- (.8) go up (.) and -er erm (2.4) pu- and-er (5.8) hh (.7) and- er change him (.) hh er row the boat. (3.2) But er (.7) hi- his boat (.) er (.8) strongs the (.) storm, and-er the boat (.8) is broken. Erm (5.0) erm (2.5) There are many

Monologue 2 (1 minute): Opinion

(2.5) I believe that (.) erm (1.3) every s- (.) high school student (.) er learn (1.0) at least (er) one foreign language (.) is good. (2.2) Erm (1.1) first erm (.5) we usually (.) er (1.5) go, go foreign (.) country er future. If we (.) study (.) foreign language (.) erm we can use (1.8) And er (2.3) er (3.7) in my country (.) hh er (.4) Eng- er in my country, hh we (.) use (.) English and-er erm (.3) other language (.) in the school. Er (.3) for example

Subject 2 (Chinese)

Monologue 1 (1 minute, 30 seconds): Narrative

One day, Fido the dog, spotted two boys, Tim and John, at a waste- (.3) at a waste (.) disposal. Tim was looking (.) at a pair of (.5) at an old black shoe. (1.3) He wanted to play catch. And so Tim (.) threw the shoe (.) across to some bushes. Fido ran excitedly after the shoe. And he brought the shoe back. (1.3) But (.) it wasn't the old shoe it was a brand new one. (1.0) And the o- and the owner came jumping. (2.0) Said (.) "That's my shoe." (3.1) The two boys were flabbergasted.

Monologue 2 (1 minute): Opinion

No, I-I don't think that ~ people should all live in an old folks home or a nursing home. I think they should be staying with their families, (.3) and (1.2) their grandchildren, (.) and (.3) be part of their lives. I think for old people, (.5) living (.7) with love (1.3) makes (.3) lot of difference. (1.0) It makes them feel cared for and wanted,(3.3) it makes them (2.5) know (1.3) the changes that are taking place in their (1.0) sons' and daughters' lives, (.3) what is happening with the children, (.3) it makes the old people (.4) more active more aware of what's happening in the world. Rather than in a nursing home (.4) where (.8) you're paying people to look after you (9.5) and er

1 Calculate (a) syllables per minute, (b) pause/time ratio, (c) run length for each of the 4 texts
2. Rate each user on a scale from 1 (not fluent) to 6 (very fluent)
3. Which aspects contribute most to your ratings?
4. What  differences are there between narrative and opinion?