Lan-Fen Huang & Tomáš Gráf
In its descriptors for oral fluency the Common European Framework of Reference includes frequent references to the tempo of speech and the use of pausing. The present study aims to provide empirical evidence that these fluency phenomena exist; it also seeks to establish how they distinguish two different levels of proficiency (B2 and C1) among L2 English speakers as well as between these speakers and native speakers. The analysis is based on a large dataset of 50 native English speakers and 89 learners of English (derived from the LOCNEC corpus, and from the Czech and Taiwanese sub-corpora of LINDSEI); it compares their speech rates and the frequency and location of unfilled pauses in picture description tasks. Significant differences are found between all the groups showing that even between B2 and C1 levels the growth of proficiency is accompanied by an increase in speech rate and a decrease in the frequency of pausing, particularly within clauses and within constituents. By establishing the ranges of these values, the study sets possible targets which can be exploited for the purposes of language teaching and assessment.
Key Words:learner corpus research, fluency variables, speech rates, unfilled pauses