Language Production and Reception: A Processability Theory Study


  • Patti Spinner

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    1. Michigan State University
    • Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Patti Spinner, Michigan State University, Department of Linguistics and Languages, B-258 Wells Hall, 619 Red Cedar Rd., East Lansing, MI 48824, USA. E-mail:

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  • Aspects of this study were presented at SLRF 2011 and 2012. I would like to thank Shawn Loewen, Aline Godfroid, Le Anne Spino, and Jimin Kahng for their help with various aspects of this work. Additionally, the helpful comments of the anonymous Language Learning reviewers improved this article. All errors of course remain my own.


Pienemann's Processability Theory (PT) predicts an order of emergence of morphosyntactic elements in second language (L2) production data. This research investigates whether the same order of emergence can be detected in L2 reception data, specifically, data from a timed audio grammaticality judgment task (GJT). The results from three related studies are reported. Overall, evidence from two groups of learners of English as an L2 who took an audio GJT does not demonstrate the order of emergence predicted by PT. However, results from a production task followed the predicted order. These findings suggest that the processing routines in PT are operative during production only, raising questions about PT and the interconnectedness of the productive and receptive systems.