Document Type : Research article


Assistant Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, Payame Noor University, Iran


The present research investigated the impact of task demands manipulation on what learners of English as a foreign language (EFL) exactly focus on while producing speech. In the same vein, task performance conditions with varying degrees of complexity were operationally defined along the variables of structure and immediacy (±Here/Now). The study involved sixty Iranian EFL learners who were asked to carry out a narrative task under four conditions: narrating an unstructured picture-based story using the present tense with contextual support; performing a structured picture story in the present tense with contextual support; narrating an unstructured picture story in the past tense without contextual support; narrating a structured picture story in the past tense without contextual support. Following their task performance, participants attended a round of retrospective interviews where they verbalized the causes for their dysfluency as indicated by pauses. Results pointed to differential effects of task complexity on learners’ attention allocation. Specifically, it was shown that performing the more difficult unstructured narrative makes for more pauses stemming from attention to conceptualization. Besides, using past tense to recount the stories without looking at the pictures resulted in more pauses due to attention to form. More importantly, it was found out that recounting a structured narrative in the past tense without contextual support, substantially enhanced attention to form which was evident in the significantly greater number of pauses owing to focus on lexical, syntactic, and phonological encodings. The implications of the outcomes are discussed in relation to relevant theoretical and practical issues.


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