Information Type and Its Relation to Nonnative Speaker Comprehension


  • I thank Ronald Smyth, Kathleen Bailey, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions. I also acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


A native speaker-nonnative speaker (NS-NNS) conversational adjustment in the relative proportions of information type was examined for its relation to communicative success. Sixteen native speakers of English were paired with other native speakers and with low-proficiency nonnative speakers. The subjects viewed a short film, the content of which they were to relay to their two partners independently. Communicative success was measured through comprehension questions addressed to the listeners at the completion of the task. The relative importance of propositional information in the narratives was determined and adjustments were measured. Analyses indicated that an increase in the proportion of background detail correlated with comprehension problems for second-language learners. The implications of the findings are discussed and suggestions for further research are made.