Towards a theory of second-language proficiency: The case of segmenting and comprehending oral language
08 / 2007 - 07 / 2011
The aim of the project as a whole is to develop a theory of second-language proficiency, accounting for the relationship between second- and first-language proficiency, based on a number of studies in which the applicant and his associates have been involved. The theory will be built around the applicant's notion of 'core language proficiency' (Hulstijn, 2006). The project consists of two empirical studies and a monograph. The monograph addresses the fundamental issue of explaining inter-individual differences in second-language listening, speaking, reading and writing proficiency in terms of lower-order and higher-order cognition. The empirical part of the proposed project is concerned with listening. In two studies, 300 native speakers and 200 nonnative speakers of Dutch perform a number of tasks involving, among others, the listening subtest of the Staatsexamens Nederlands als tweede taal 1 and 2, the processing of single oral Dutch utterances (segmentation and comprehension), verbal working memory, and vocabulary size. The aim of these empirical studies is to analyze the componential structure of the oral-language processing profiles of adult native speakers (differing in age and educational level) and of nonnative speakers (differing in educational level and Dutch proficiency), and to test to what extent Hulstijn's notion 'core language proficiency' can be empirically upheld.