Literacy and the processing of oral recasts in SLA

Martha Bigelow, Robert Delmas, Kit Hansen, Elaine Tarone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


In this exploratory study, we examine the role of literacy in the acquisition of second-language (L2) oral skills through a partial replication of Jenefer Philp's (2003) study of recasts in native speaker (NS)-non-native speaker (NNS) interaction. The principal research question was the following: Is the ability to recall a recast related to the learner's alphabetic print literacy level? The participants in the study were eight first language (L1) speakers of Somali with limited formal schooling, who were grouped according to scores on LI and L2 literacy measures. Procedures involved interactive tasks in which participants received and recalled recasts on their grammatically incorrect interrogative sentences. Unlike Philp's more educated participants, our overall less educated participants showed no significant effects for recast length or, as a group, for number of changes in the recasts. This suggests that findings on the oral L2 processing of more educated L2 learners may not hold for the oral L2 processing of less educated learners. Within our less educated population, the more literate group recalled all recasts significantly better than the less literate group when correct and modified recalls were combined. Literacy level was also significantly related to ability to recall recasts with two or more (2+) changes, with the more literate group doing better than the less literate group. Theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-689
Number of pages25
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2006


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