Cognition, Language Contact, and the Development of Pragmatic Comprehension in a Study-Abroad Context


  • I am very grateful for the students who participated in this research. I wish to thank Carol Foye, Sheldon Tomas, and Yoneko Kanaoka for their assistance with data collection. Thanks also go to the editor and three anonymous reviewers of Language Learning for their valuable comments on the manuscript. I am solely responsible for all the errors that may remain.

concerning this article should be addressed to Naoko Taguchi, Department of Modern Languages, Carnegie Mellon University, Baker Hall 160, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890. Internet:


This study examined two issues: (a) whether there are gains in accurate and speedy comprehension of second language (L2) pragmatic meaning over time and (b) whether the gains are associated with cognitive processing ability and the amount of language contact in an L2 environment. Forty-four college students in a US institution completed three measures three times over a 4-month period: (a) the pragmatic listening test that measured the ability to comprehend implied speaker intentions, (b) the lexical access test that measured ability to make speedy semantic judgment, and (c) the language contact survey that examined the amount of time learners spent in L2 outside the class. The learners' pragmatic comprehension was analyzed for accuracy (the scores on the pragmatic listening test) and comprehension speed (the average time taken to answer items correctly). Results showed that the learners made significant improvement on comprehension speed but not on accuracy of comprehension. Lexical access speed was significantly correlated with comprehension speed but not with accuracy. The amount of speaking and reading outside class that the students reported on the language contact survey significantly correlated with the gains in comprehension speed but not with accuracy of comprehension.