Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 48, Issue 5, pp 1025–1049 | Cite as

Investigating the Declarative-Procedural Gap for the Indirect Speech Construction in L2 Learners

  • Zhengrong ChenEmail author
  • Catherine Caldwell-Harris


It is common to have good declarative but poor procedural knowledge of a foreign language, especially for classroom learners. To study this gap in a constrained manner, we asked Chinese learners of English to repeat, correct and produce indirect speech. The indirect speech construction was selected in the present study because it is known to be a particularly complex construction. Chinese university students who all had good declarative knowledge of the rules governing indirect speech were selected to have overall low or high oral proficiency when assessed in a free speech situation. High proficiency participants pursued strategies that increased their speech rate while reducing errors. They used more idiomatic English, more chunked expressions, and showed less negative transfer from Mandarin, compared to low proficiency participants. Indeed use of chunks was the primary means by which both groups of participants were able to increase their accuracy, complexity, and speaking rate. Low proficiency but not high participants showed evidence of a speed-accuracy trade-off. They either kept errors low at the cost of high pausing, or produced many errors with the benefit of rapid speech. Identifying preferences for speed versus accuracy could facilitate methods for encouraging learners to move out of their comfort zones.


The declarative-procedural gap The indirect speech construction Oral proficiency L2 learners 



This study was supported by Jiangsu Province Social Science Research Foundation (Grant No. 18YYB008) and Educational Science Foundation during the 13th Five-Year Plan Period in Jiangsu Province (Grant No. B-b/2018/01/45). Additionally, we would like to thank all the participants involved in the study. Finally, our special thanks would be given to the reviewers for their constructive feedback on our previous manuscript and to the editors for their efforts and professional suggestions.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

The authors declare that all procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Foreign LanguagesSoutheast UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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