Processing Trade-Offs in Non-Native Learners’ Performance of Narrative Tasks


  • Mohamed Ridha Ben Maad



Exploring learners’ processes of memory and analysis has captivated considerable attention among language-learning researchers due to the recent prevalence of key concepts from feeder disciplines such as cognitive psychology and phraseology. However, there has been little empirical effort to describe the nature of interaction between these two processing modes. This article reports on a study that was designed (a) to explore the distribution of these two modes of language representation in the oral production of non-native learners of English and (b) to determine whether they shift their processing styles (i.e., lexical retrieval to rule analysis or vice versa) in the face of increasing cognitive load. Thirty Tunisian undergraduate students of English performed three narrative tasks over three tape-recorded episodes. Analysis of the transcribed findings revealed that these participants activated their memory-based system for lexical retrieval at the beginning of their performance when the tasks were not demanding and fell back on the rule-based mode when faced with the increasing processing load due to time pressure. These results empirically validate the role of formulaicity in second/foreign-language learners’ processing styles.




How to Cite

Ben Maad, M. R. (2012). Processing Trade-Offs in Non-Native Learners’ Performance of Narrative Tasks. TESL Canada Journal, 29(1), 23–38.