How much English do children know before they are exposed to instruction? Applying Processability Theory to receptive grammar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


This study investigates how much English Swedish-speaking children are able to extract from media prior to the instruction of English that takes place in school. The participants are 41 Swedish-speaking, 7 to 8-year-old children in grades 1 and 2. Their receptive knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary is tested using two picture-pointing tasks. For grammar, the ELIAS Grammar test is used (Kersten et al. 2010). Three morphological structures (plural -s, possessive -s and 3rd person singular -s) are targeted and analysed through the lens of Processability Theory (PT; Pienemann 1998, 2015). For vocabulary, the BVPS is used (Dunn et al. 1997). The results on grammar confirm the processability hierarchy predicted in PT, with a few exceptions. The remarks from the children reveal that they are able to discuss the linguistic forms and also give declarative rules. No signs of transfer from the L1 are found in the comprehension of morphology. However, the results on vocabulary indicate that the children use transfer. They rely on cognates and also on L1 phonology when trying to guess the meaning of the L2 words.


External organisations
  • Østfold university college
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Learning
Original languageSwedish
Title of host publicationTeachability and Learnability across Languages
EditorsRagnar Arntzen, Gisela Håkansson, Arnstein Hjelde, Jörg-U. Kessler
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
ISBN (Electronic)9789027262592
ISBN (Print)9789027203120
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameProcessability Approaches to Language Acquisition Research & Teaching
PublisherJohn Benjamins
ISSN (Print)2210-6480

Related research output

Arntzen, R. (ed.), Gisela Håkansson (ed.), Hjelde, A. (ed.) & Kessler, J-U. (ed.), 2019, John Benjamins Publishing Company. 263 p. (Processability Approaches to Language Acquisition Research & Teaching; vol. 6)

Research output: Book/ReportAnthology (editor)

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