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Volume 14 Number 4, Winter 2017, Pages 587-836 PDF Download

Exploring the Interplay of Planning Time, Reasoning Demands, and Language Learning Aptitude in Iranian EFL Learners' Written Production

    Simin Sattarpour & Farahman Farrokhi

First, this investigation – inspired by Robinson's (2001a, 2001b, 2003, 2011) Cognition Hypothesis and Skehan's (1998, 2003) Trade-Off Hypothesis – intends to explore how second language writing can improve language learning through manipulating cognitive task complexity dimensions. Second, it attempts to examine if task complexity factors and cognitive learner-related variables have interaction effects on linguistic production. It focuses on planning time and intentional reasoning demands, language learning aptitude, and measures of lexical complexity, syntactic complexity, and accuracy. The participants were 226 intermediate Iranian EFL learners. In a between-subjects design, the participants were first assigned to three experimental groups randomly, each group receiving a task with different level of reasoning demands. Then, within each group, we did a stratified random sampling and assigned an equal number of learners with higher and lower aptitude levels to planned and unplanned groups. The results revealed that (a) planning time availability led to significantly more syntactic complexity, (b) increasing task complexity with regard to reasoning demands resulted in higher gains of lexical and syntactic complexity, whereas no significant effect was detected on accuracy, (c) a significant interaction effect between planning and reasoning demands was found only on accuracy, and (d) a three-way interaction among planning, reasoning demands, and language learning aptitude was observed on accuracy. Generally, the findings are discussed with regard to the predictions of the Cognition Hypothesis and the Trade-Off Hypothesis.

Keywords: task complexity factors, planning time, reasoning demands, language aptitude