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SSLA, 25, 99–126. Printed in the United States of America.

DOI: 10.1017.S0272263103000044


Nonnative Speakers’ Noticing

of Recasts in NS-NNS Interaction

Jenefer Philp
University of Tasmania

Interaction has been argued to promote noticing of L2 form in a con-

text crucial to learning—when there is a mismatch between the input
and the learner’s interlanguage (IL) grammar (Gass & Varonis, 1994;
Long, 1996; Pica, 1994). This paper investigates the extent to which
learners may notice native speakers’ reformulations of their IL gram-
mar in the context of dyadic interaction. Thirty-three adult ESL learn-
ers worked on oral communication tasks in NS-NNS pairs. During
each of the five sessions of dyadic task-based interaction, learners
received recasts of their nontargetlike question forms. Accurate im-
mediate recall of recasts was taken as evidence of noticing of re-
casts by learners. Results indicate that learners noticed over 60–70%
of recasts. However, accurate recall was constrained by the level of
the learner and by the length and number of changes in the recast.
The effect of these variables on noticing is discussed in terms of
processing biases. It is suggested that attentional resources and
processing biases of the learner may modulate the extent to which
learners “notice the gap” between their nontargetlike utterances and

The findings reported in this paper are based on part of my doctoral dissertation completed at the
University of Tasmania. Earlier versions were presented at the annual meeting of the American Asso-
ciation of Applied Linguistics in 1999 (Stanford, CA) and at the Second Language Research Forum in
1997 (Michigan State University). I am very grateful to Alison Mackey for her encouragement and
astute criticisms on many earlier drafts, to Susan Gass and Noriko Iwashita for their insightful input,
and to the anonymous SSLA reviewers for their detailed comments. Remaining errors are my own.
Address correspondence to: Jenefer Philp, P.O. Box 100, Scottsdale, TAS 7260, Australia; e-mail:

 2003 Cambridge University Press 0272-2631/03 $12.00 99

100 Jenefer Philp

For language learners, conversations with more competent speakers can be a

rich source of exposure to the target language (TL). Some researchers have
argued that learners benefit from such input only if they attend to the lan-
guage forms they hear (Corder, 1967; Gass, 1997; Long, 1996; Schmidt, 1993).
In conversation with native speakers, struggles for mutual comprehension typ-
ically result in modifications to both the language and the structure of the dis-
course itself (Hatch, 1978, 1983; Long, 1983, 1985; Long & Sato, 1983; Swain,
1985; Wagner-Gough & Hatch, 1975). These interactional modifications provide
learners with implicit feedback on their own IL production (Gass; Long, 1996;
Pica, 1994; Swain, 1995). This feedback comes at a time crucial to learning—
when there is a mismatch between the input and the learner’s IL grammar
(Gass & Varonis, 1994; Long & Robinson, 1998).
In (1) a native speaker (NS) and a nonnative speaker (NNS) carry out a
story task together.1 The NNS apparently has difficulty in framing her question
(first line), and her interlocutor’s initial response seems to be incongruent
with what she had intended to say (second and third lines). This pushes the
learner to try again; this time she is able to produce the key lexical item
“guide,” and the NS provides her with a targetlike version, or recast, of her
question (fourth line). The recast functions as a confirmation check of her

(1) NNS: The girl is it what the gui for the for for the boy for the boy. [laughs]
NS: Uh huh she likes him, too.
NNS: She likes him no ah I mean is ( . . . ) the girl is this um ya be be a guide? guide?
NS: Oh is she a guide?
NNS: Uh huh.
NS: Um I don’t know what she does maybe she’s a student.

Researchers have argued that it is the perception and resolution of the mis-
match between the learner’s IL utterance and the TL response that may lead
to destabilization and IL restructuring (Ellis, 1991; Faerch & Kasper, 1986;
Gass, 1991, 1997; Gass & Varonis, 1994; Long, 1996). Recasts, in which the
learner’s nontargetlike utterance (e.g., “The girl is this um ya be be a guide?”)
is subsequently reformulated by the interlocutor as a TL version (e.g., “Is she
a guide?”), exemplify this process: Recasts are congruent with the learner’s
own production and juxtapose the incorrect with the correct. If the learner is
focused on both form and message, such feedback may present a catalyst for
change (Long; Long & Robinson, 1998; Mackey & Philp, 1998; Oliver, 1995; Sax-
ton, 1997). Alternatively, the learner may simply consider a recast to be confir-
mation of meaning (Chaudron, 1977; Lyster, 1998; Lyster & Ranta, 1997) rather
than linguistic correction. In (1) it is unclear whether the learner notices the
NS’s reformulation of her own question or simply responds to the reiteration
of her meaning (line 5). This paper explores the extent to which learners no-
tice the form of recasts of their nontargetlike utterances.
Following L1 acquisition research, recasts have generally been described
as utterances that “rephrase a child’s utterance by changing one or more sen-
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 101

tence components (subject, verb, or object) while still referring to its central
meanings” (Long, 1996, p. 434; see also Baker & Nelson, 1984; Farrar, 1990,
1992). Although there is variation, particularly concerning the degree to which
the recast might expand the initial utterance (Bohannon, Padgett, Nelson, &
Mark, 1996) or add emphasis to the changed elements (Chaudron, 1977; see
Nicholas, Lightbown, & Spada, 2001, for an overview of recasts in L1 and L2
acquisition research), this definition has been widely adopted in SLA research
(e.g., Lyster, 1998; Mackey & Philp, 1998; Oliver, 1995). Recasts in the present
study included all NS utterances immediately following a NNS’s nontargetlike
utterance that reformulated part or all of the utterance while maintaining the
central meaning (Long, Inagaki, & Ortega, 1998). No explicit emphasis was
given to the changed elements in the recast; rather, the recasts were provided
as confirmation checks, as seen in (1).
The central research question addressed in this study, in the context of
dyadic interaction, is: Do learners notice recasts? Arguably, noticing is funda-
mental to the potential that feedback can have for the learner. According to
Schmidt’s Noticing Hypothesis (Schmidt, 1990, 1993, 1998, 2001), it is only
what the learner notices about the input that holds potential for learning be-
cause intake—that is, the detection, processing, and storage of input (Gass,
1997; VanPatten, 1990)—is conditional upon noticing. Long (1996), in a reform-
ulation of the Interaction Hypothesis, also points to the importance of noticing
(i.e., selective attention): “Negotiation work that triggers interactional adjust-
ments by the NS or more competent interlocutor facilitates acquisition be-
cause it connects input, internal learner capacities, particularly selective
attention, and output in productive ways” (pp. 451–452, emphasis in original).
Evidence that learners notice interactional modifications, such as recasts,
would provide support for the connection between input, the learner’s atten-
tional resources, and intake (Carroll, 1999; Corder, 1967), and it may further
our understanding of the processes of SLA.2
Currently, there is a paucity of work that directly investigates learners’ no-
ticing of forms as a result of linguistic and conversational modifications in oral
interaction.3 In part, this lack of research is due to the difficulty of operational-
izing noticing for the context of interaction, which engages both the aural and
oral skills of the learner. How can the internal processes of noticing be tapped
at the time in which the learner is engaged in interaction? Therefore, one of
the challenges for this study was to develop a means of measuring noticing in
oral interaction.


Noticing has been described as the part of the attentional system that involves
the detection and consequent registration of stimuli in memory (Posner
& Peterson, 1990; Robinson, 1995; Tomlin & Villa, 1994). Noticing of stimuli
makes it potentially available for inclusion in long-term memory and for fur-
ther processing, hence Schmidt’s (1995) claim that noticing is requisite for
102 Jenefer Philp

learning. Robinson distinguished between noticing and detection on the basis

of awareness.4 More recently, Simard and Wong (2001, p. 119) suggested that
we “view alertness, orientation, detection, and awareness as . . . coexisting and
interacting in graded levels.” Noticing may then be conceived as detection ac-
companied by lesser and greater degrees or levels of awareness (see Leow,
2000; Philp, 1998). Further, as Williams (1999) and Robinson suggested, de-
grees of noticing (and, indeed, of awareness) may relate to the amount and
nature of rehearsal in memory that occurs with detection.5
Following Robinson (1995), noticing is viewed in the present study as one
step beyond detection, being “what is both detected and then further acti-
vated following the allocation of attentional resources” (p. 297). Schmidt
(1995) argued that L2 learning must entail awareness and particularly that
“the noticing hypothesis claims that learning requires awareness at the time of
learning” (p. 26, emphasis in original). Typically, in SLA research, noticing has
been addressed through measuring awareness. Awareness has been variously
described using both online procedures, such as think-alouds (Alanen, 1995;
Leow, 1997, 2000; Rosa & O’Neill, 1999) or private speech (Ohta, 2000), and
offline procedures, such as a written questionnaire following treatment (Rob-
inson, 1995, 1996a, 1997). The section “Constraints on Noticing” discusses var-
ious methods used to tap noticing of form in oral contexts.
To date, noticing of form by learners engaged in oral interaction has been
assessed through retrospective methods rather than online methods (Mackey,
Gass, & McDonough, 2000; Schmidt & Frota, 1986). Schmidt and Frota’s often
quoted diary study, in which Schmidt’s noticing of input at various stages in
his development is traced through diary entries, relates to instruction and nat-
uralistic input rather than specifically to negotiated interaction. Their study
traced the acquisition of 21 verbal constructions by Schmidt as a beginning
learner of Portuguese. The forms he produced were also those that had ap-
peared in diary notes. On this basis, Schmidt and Frota stressed the role of
conscious learning, suggesting that input only has an impact on IL production
if it is noticed and becomes intake. Diary studies such as Schmidt and Frota’s
provide a useful, albeit partial view of L2 learning processes. However, diary
entries involve more than noticing and fall short of arriving at actual pro-
cesses (Tomlin & Villa, 1994).
In a recent study, Mackey et al. (2000) used a variation on think-alouds to
tap perception of feedback by L2 learners of English and Italian during oral
interaction (see also Gass & Mackey, 2000). They used stimulated recalls in
which learners were asked to respond to video replays of their own task-
based interaction with NSs. As learners watched the video, it was stopped at
particular points in the interaction (i.e., during sequences of interactional
modification), and they were asked to recall what they were thinking at the
time. Learners’ perceptions (rather than noticing) were operationalized as the
learners’ articulations of what they considered to be the focus of the feed-
back. The researchers noted a much higher proportion of accurate reports
about lexical and phonological feedback than of reports about morphological
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 103

or syntactic feedback. The Mackey et al. study, although not online, provides
an effective means of examining attention to modifications in the context of
oral interaction. Their study, which investigated the extent to which learners
perceive feedback as such, is one step beyond noticing. Stimulated recall in-
volves verbal articulation of noticed feedback entailing detection and further
processing of input. Clearly, as the authors noted, failure to notice cannot be
inferred by a failure to verbalize something (see also Robinson, 1995).
An alternative means of accessing noticing may be immediate recall, a tech-
nique that, along with shadowing, has been commonly used within cognitive
psychology to access detection and rehearsal in short-term auditory memory.
Shadowing describes a task in which the subject simultaneously listens to and
repeats the input given; in an immediate recall task, the subject responds to a
cue to “replay” what was heard at a particular point in the input (e.g., Darwin,
Turvey, & Crowder, 1972; Glucksberg & Cowan, 1970; Moray, Bates, & Barnett,
1965, as cited in Baddeley, 1990). Results from studies on shadowing (Cherry,
1953; Glucksberg & Cowan; Norman, 1969, as cited in Coren, Ward, & Enns,
1994), in which two messages are given (a different message in each ear) but
only one repeated by the participant, have implications for the use of recall.
Tests revealed that participants could not recall at the end of listening any of
the unshadowed message. However, if interrupted during shadowing they
could recall at least five to seven units of the message (words, numbers, etc.).
This suggests that at some level people do detect filtered, seemingly “unat-
tended” input. This input is available for processing for a short time, but, if
not attended to, it is not stored in short-term memory. Schmidt’s (1995) de-
scription of noticing essentially captured this in his claim that input that was
not attended to was not held in short-term memory and was not available for
further processing.
The connection between recall and noticing may best be understood
through a brief description of so-called working memory, as formulated by
Baddeley and Hitch (1974) and further elaborated by Baddeley and others
(Baddeley & Logie, 1999; for review, see Baddeley, 1986). According to their
model, verbal input is handled by the “articulatory loop,” a subcomponent of
working memory, and is held in “phonological store.” Information recently at-
tended to, while held in working memory, is available for conscious recall.
Thus, immediate recall can be a measure of what has been noticed—that is,
“detected and then further activated following the allocation of attentional re-
sources” (Robinson, 1995, p. 297). Additionally, as an oral medium, immediate
recall could be appropriate for measuring noticing in the context of interac-

Constraints on Noticing
Having discussed means of measuring noticing in oral interaction, I return to
the central question posed by this study of whether learners notice recasts in
NS-NNS interaction. Although noticing depends initially on available atten-
104 Jenefer Philp

tional resources, a myriad of other factors have been suggested to mediate

noticing (see Simard & Wong, 2001). These include: the readiness of the
learner (Pienemann, 1989, 1999); frequency and saliency in the input (Bardovi-
Harlig, 1987; Ellis, 1994; Gass, 1997); L1 influence (Carroll, 1999; Zobl, 1979);
prior knowledge (Carroll; Ellis; Gass); familiarity, novelty of the input, or both
(Ellis); linguistic content of the input (Mackey et al., 2000); the degree to
which the discourse is understood (VanPatten, 1990, 1996); the degree of auto-
maticity involved and the distinctiveness and complexity of the tasks (Robin-
son, 1995, 1996b; Rosa & O’Neill, 1999); individual differences in working
memory capacity and abilities (Mackey, Philp, Fujii, Egi, & Tatsumi, 2002; Rob-
inson, 2001); and the relevance and contiguity the discourse has for the
learner (van Lier, 1994). The present study focuses on three independent vari-
ables that may affect noticing of recasts: the level of the learner, recast length,
and the degree of difference between the recast and the learner’s initial utter-

Developmental Level of the Learner. In an exploration of the connections

between the input and the learner’s attentional resources (Long, 1996), the
level of the learner may be a key factor modulating noticing for two reasons.
First, research suggests that more experienced learners may benefit from the
increasing automaticity that comes with repeated practice, which allows at-
tentional resources to be focused on higher order aspects of speech process-
ing (Ellis, 1994; McLaughlin, 1987; VanPatten, 1996). Second, there is the
related issue of readiness. Speaking of the effectiveness of recasts on L1 acqui-
sition of morphemes, Farrar (1990) claimed that so-called linguistic readiness
is a determining factor. Farrar found recasts to be particularly effective at a
certain stage in the child’s development of morphemes but not “prior to the
time the children are cognitively ready to extract a morpheme or once they
have successfully extracted it” (p. 621). Similarly, there may be a prime time
in which recasts are effective in facilitating particular L2 forms, such as ques-
tion forms in English (Mackey, 1999; Mackey & Philp, 1998). It may be that
learners tend not to notice input that is beyond their level of acquisition.
Others have examined this issue of readiness in terms of the learners’ prior
knowledge. Saxton (1997) suggested that a child’s use of recasts depends on
his or her prior knowledge that two variant forms fulfill identical grammatical
functions (e.g., bought, buyed). It is on the basis of this knowledge that the
child can then identify a recast as a contrast between two forms, one of which
the adult prefers. Carroll (1999), speaking of input in general, argued that “in-
take is . . . determined by our grammars . . . [and] . . . we . . . perceive what our
linguistic systems enable us to perceive—based on the categories and struc-
tures of the grammar” (p. 343). Other SLA researchers have also identified
prior knowledge in terms of familiarity with lexical or grammatical items, sug-
gesting that it may affect noticing of particular forms (Gass, 1997; Schmidt &
Frota, 1986). Schmidt and Frota, for example, reported that Schmidt, as a
learner of Portuguese, did not notice (at the level of articulation of form in a
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 105

diary entry) forms that were abundant in the input until they were highlighted
through instruction. Perhaps the forms were not noticed at this high level of
awareness until the learner was ready (in terms of psycholinguistic process-
ing) or simply because the forms were not sufficiently encoded in long-term
memory and were therefore not recognizable to the learner.6 In summary,
readiness, in terms of processing mechanisms, prior knowledge, or both, may
modulate noticing.
Length of Recast. The length of the recast is another factor that may criti-
cally affect noticing, as attentional capacity is limited. Units of information
may be held in working memory for about 15–20 seconds, although by re-
hearsal (i.e., how long it takes to repeat the words) they may be held longer
(Cowan, 1988). What remains in working memory is a factor of the rate of re-
hearsal as well as the rate of decay in the phonological store (Baddeley, 1986;
Cowan, 1992, 1993, 1995; Cowan et al., 1992). Thus, longer recasts, which may
exceed the limits of temporary phonological store, might be less accurately
recalled than shorter recasts.
Degree of Difference. A third factor that may limit noticing is the degree
of difference between the recast and the learner’s trigger utterance. A number
of studies researching the effectiveness of recasts in L1 acquisition have con-
sidered whether recasts were more likely to be provided after single or multi-
ple errors (Bohannon & Stanowicz, 1988; Farrar, 1992). SLA research has
suggested differences in incorporation of these recasts by learners (Oliver,
1995). If recasts are too different from the learner’s original utterance, they
may be unlikely to be imitated, as they are too far removed from this first
attempt (Long, 1996). The present study considers whether L2 learners notice
recasts involving multiple changes.


Do learners notice recasts? Noticing of recasts, the dependent variable, was
operationalized as the learner’s cued, correct recall of a recast immediately
following production of the recast. On the basis of the research previously
outlined, the following questions and hypotheses were formulated:

1. Is the ability to recall a recast constrained by the level of the learner?

Hypothesis 1: Accuracy of recall is correlated with the level of the learner such that
the higher the level of the learner, the greater the accuracy of recall.7
2. Is the ability to recall a recast constrained by the length of the recast?
Hypothesis 2: Accuracy of recall will be higher for shorter recasts than longer re-
3. Is the ability to recall a recast constrained by the number of changes made by the
Hypothesis 3: Accuracy of recall will be higher the fewer the changes made in the
recast utterance.
106 Jenefer Philp

Design and Participants

Following a preliminary placement session, each learner was involved in five

NS-NNS dyadic interaction sessions over 2 weeks (100 minutes).8 Participants
were 33 adult ESL students, enrolled in 6–8-week intensive English courses at
an Australian university. There were 18 female and 15 male students who were
of different ESL proficiencies, had various L1 backgrounds (Japanese, Korean,
Thai, Cantonese, Russian, and Indonesian), and were between 17 and 30 years
of age. Participation in the project was voluntary. Three NSs, including the
researcher, acted as partners in NS-NNS dyads; there were two females and
one male between 25 and 35 years of age. Participants were randomly as-
signed to NSs and rotated so that all participants were paired with all NSs
over the five sessions.

Targeted Form

The order of acquisition for ESL question formation had been identified
through previous research (Cancino, Rosansky, & Schumann, 1978; Johnston,
1985; Lightbown, 1980; Meisel, Clahsen, & Pienemann, 1981; Pienemann, 1984,
1989; Pienemann & Johnston, 1987; Pienemann, Johnston, & Brindley, 1988;
Pienemann & Mackey, 1993; Spada & Lightbown, 1993, 1999). Thus, learners’
production of questions was considered to be a reliable indicator of their lev-
els of development in terms of question forms and was chosen as the targeted
structure of recasts. In SLA, the work of Pienemann and others has demon-
strated that question forms in English are acquired in a fixed order regardless
of instruction. I verified that, during the period of data collection, question
forms were not a focus of instruction in the learners’ ESL classes.9

Group Assignment

For coding purposes, following data transcription participants were assigned

to one of three groups—Low, Intermediate, or High—according to their per-
formance in a preliminary placement session and in the first treatment ses-
sion. This group assignment was based on learners’ production of particular
question forms that were the structures targeted in the study.10 The size of
each group was constrained by the number of students studying at the lan-
guage center. Learners fell within four of the six stages of development pre-
sented by Pienemann and colleagues (Pienemann & Johnston, 1987; Pienemann
et al., 1988), as shown in Table 1.11 The distinction between groups was made
according to learners’ readiness to acquire stage 4 and stage 5 question
forms. Previous use of the treatment materials had established that these
forms were most elicited by the tasks and therefore most likely to elicit re-
casts. The Low group was composed of seven learners (four at stage 3 and
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 107

Table 1. Summary of stages reached by participants in pretest performance

Group Stage Description Example

Low 2 Canonical word order with rising into- You have girl?
Low 3 Yes-no questions in which an auxiliary Do you have red alien?
(e.g., do or wh-word) fronts canonical Is he is son?
word order
Intermediate 4 Yes-no questions in which subject and Is he angry?
main verb or auxiliary are inverted or Where is the girl?
the wh-word fronts the verb
High 5 Auxiliary (e.g., do or have) in second What does he do?
position after wh-word and preceding What is your alien holding?
the main verb
Note. Adapted from Mackey (1999). See also Mackey (1995), Pienemann and Johnston (1987), and Spada and Light-
bown (1993, 1999).

three at stage 2) who did not show any evidence of being able to produce
stage 4 or stage 5 forms. The Intermediate group comprised 11 learners, all of
whom could produce stage 4 question forms. Many in this group also showed
emergence of IL stage 5 question forms, although not in sufficient numbers to
consider that they had acquired stage 5 forms. Typically, any production of
stage 5 forms was very limited and generally could be described as productive
use of a formula pattern (Ellis, 1984; Weinart, 1995; Wong-Fillmore, 1976), such
as What is he doing? What is he looking? In terms of readiness, it appears that
this group was at an optimum stage for acquiring stage 5 forms. Learners in
the High group were clearly able to produce both stage 4 and stage 5 forms.
Typically, these learners produced both IL and TL question forms at stages 4
and 5.
Learners were assessed as being at a certain level if they made at least two
productive uses of question types of a particular stage in at least two different
contexts (Mackey, 1999; Mackey & Philp, 1998; see also Lightbown & Spada,
1997; Pienemann & Johnston, 1987; Pienemann et al., 1988; Silver, 2000; Spada
& Lightbown, 1993, 1999). For example, a learner would be assessed as being
at stage 4 if he or she were able to generate in different contexts various forms
of the same stage 4 question type, such as Is it book? Are they yellow?, and did
not simply repeat a formula, such as Is it book? Is it yellow? Is it big house on
left? Assessment was based on consistent performance over two sessions: the
pretest and the first treatment session.

Sets of pictures were used to elicit questions from the participants in both
treatment and test sessions.12 Two tasks were used in treatment sessions. The
picture-drawing task required the NNS to ask questions to discover the con-
108 Jenefer Philp

tents of a hidden picture held by her NS partner. The NNS had to ask ques-
tions about the picture and draw a picture to resemble as closely as possible
the objects and their position in the hidden picture. In the story-completion
task, the NNS was presented with a pictorial story. Six pictures were shown in
sequence, one by one. As each picture was shown, the NNS was instructed to
ask any questions to discover the story behind the pictures. Two tasks were
used in the test sessions: a story-completion task in the treatment sessions,
and a spot-the-difference task in which the NNS asked questions to find the
differences between one picture and an almost identical one held by the NS


The protocol for treatment sessions was developed through piloting of the
test instruments and use of recall 2 months prior to data collection. NS inter-
locutors were trained to a high level of consistency in task protocols by read-
ing instructions and sample transcripts and by participating in and observing
role plays. In each of the five 20-minute sessions, NNSs were paired with a NS
and together performed three tasks: a warm-up task, a story-completion task,
and a picture-drawing task. The warm-up training task involved the serial re-
call of numbers. Participants listened as their NS partner read a string of 12
random numbers. The reading was interrupted at places by the sound of two
knocks, after which participants were required to attempt to recall the last
two numbers they had just heard. No feedback was given as to whether recall
was correct or incorrect. This warm-up task was used to train participants to
recall the NS’s previous utterance in response to a knocking sound that was
made by the NS who knocked twice on the table. All participants were able to
complete this simple task without difficulty.
While working on picture tasks, the NNS asked the NS questions. The NS
provided recasts in response to any nontargetlike utterance, particularly ques-
tion forms.13 Following the recast, the NNS’s response was interrupted by the
sound of two knocks on the table.14 The sound was a cue to the NNS to repeat
the last thing he or she heard prior to that sound—namely, the recast, as illus-
trated in (2).

(2) NNS: Why he is very unhappy?

NS: Why is he very unhappy? [2 knocks]
NNS: Yeah why is very unhappy?

The five sessions were audio-recorded and took place over a 2-week period
during and following classes, depending on the schedule of the participants.
One week prior to the treatment sessions, a similar placement session was
administered for the purpose of group assignment. This session consisted of
20 minutes of NS-NNS, task-based interaction (without recasts) using a story-
completion task and a spot-the-difference task. Data from this session and the
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 109

first treatment session were used to assess the developmental level of the
The Use of Recall as an Instrument for Measuring Noticing. In the pres-
ent study, it was important to preserve the flow of normal conversation, yet
in some way access learners’ short-term auditory storage of recasts at the
time the learner heard them.15 Cued immediate recall was used as a measure
of a particular level of noticing (Leow, 1997, 2000; Rosa & O’Neill, 1999). Un-
doubtedly, learners may notice input yet be unable to recall it. For example,
they may notice that something in the recast was different from their own ut-
terance but be unable to perceive what it was that was different, or they may
at least be able to report what they perceive. Mackey et al. (2000) demon-
strated that certain input (e.g., morphological information) is less susceptible
to verbal report of noticing than other types (e.g., phonological information).
Alternatively, learners may notice the difference yet be unable to reproduce it
because of the limitations of working memory. Thus, accurate recall is a very
conservative measure, unlikely to capture all that is noticed. However, if re-
casts are recalled, it is evident that noticing at some level has taken place:
Input has been detected and further processed in working memory to the ex-
tent that it is available for recall. Obviously, the task conditions, consistently
providing recasts of question forms, and alerting learners to their interlocu-
tor’s speech through the use of the recall signal made learners more alert to
the details of that speech than they may have been ordinarily. Nevertheless,
only what was already detected and entered in working memory was available
for immediate recall.16

Coding Scheme

Data were transcribed and coded according to the degree of accuracy with
which learners recalled the recasts as well as the length of the recast and the
number of corrections made by the recast.17 Accuracy of recall was catego-
rized as “correct,” “modified,” or “no recall.” Correct recall was applied to rep-
etition of the recast utterance. Modified recall described those instances in
which the learner’s recall of the recast was inaccurate but represented a mod-
ification of the original trigger utterance; see (2) for an example. Both the rep-
etition of the trigger utterance without change and failure to respond to the
sound cue were categorized as no recall.
The degree of difference between the learner’s initial utterance and the re-
cast was coded for the number of changes to the initial utterance: one, two,
or more changes. The changes examined were only those errors directly re-
lated to question forms, the focus of the study.18 Thus, in (2), inversion counts
as one change. Recasting “What are you doing?” as “What is he doing?” involves
two changes—one to the subject and one to the auxiliary. A complete re-
phrasal such as “What is he carrying?” for “Does he the hand what?” involves
more than two changes.
110 Jenefer Philp

Table 2. Recasts provided to each group

Percentage of question
Recasts forms in recasts

Group n N M Stage 3 Stage 4 Stage 5

High 15 659 43.93 7 (44) 65 (415) 28 (179)

Intermediate 11 531 48.93 8 (42) 62 (316) 30 (155)
Low 7 379 54.14 6 (15) 63 (237) 33 (122)
Note. N = total number of recasts provided to the group. M = mean number of recasts
for each individual in the group. The percentage of type of question form presented
in recasts was calculated as the number of recasts of that stage question form di-
vided by the total number of recasts for that group. Numbers in parentheses are total
raw scores.

Table 3. Length of recasts and changes to learners’ utterances

in recasts: Percentages by group
Length of recast Number of changes

Group n Short Long 1 change 2 changes ≥3 changes

High 15 38 62 39 30 31
Intermediate 11 52 48 37 31 32
Low 7 67 33 30 30 40

Recasts were coded as long or short on the basis of morpheme count.19

Longer and shorter utterances were compared; longer utterances were those
of more than five morphemes. This distinction was based on the pilot testing
of the cued immediate recalls.20

One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with a priori paired comparisons (con-
trasts) and t-tests were carried out to test the hypotheses. ANOVA was used
to determine differences between groups, whereas t-tests for paired samples
were used to compare accuracy of recall with each variable for each individ-
ual group. An alpha level of .05 was used for all statistical tests.
The provision of recasts depended entirely on the production of nontar-
getlike forms by each learner. Generally, as illustrated in Table 2, each learner
received 44–55 recasts of question forms over five sessions, with those in the
Low group generally receiving higher numbers of recasts.21 Of these recasts,
all groups received over 60% of recasts of stage 4 questions.
As shown in Table 3, the High group was presented more frequently with
long recasts (62%), whereas the Low group received more short recasts
(67%). Similar numbers of recasts with one, two, or three or more changes to
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 111

Figure 1. Comparison by group of proportion of

number of changes in recasts.

Table 4. One-way ANOVA for three groups on correct recall

Source df SS MS F ratio F prob.

Between groups 2 951.2820 475.6410 4.1695* .0252

Within groups 30 3422.2649 114.0755
Total 32 4373.5469
*p < .05.

the learner’s trigger utterance were received by all groups, although the Low
group received slightly more of the latter. A comparison between groups is
shown in Figure 1.

Noticing and the Level of the Learner

To test hypothesis 1, which predicted that recall of recasts would be more
accurate the higher the level of the learner, the High, Intermediate, and Low
groups were compared. The results of a one-way ANOVA, provided in Table 4,
show a significant effect for learner level on recall of recasts. With an alpha
level of .05, the effect of learner level on recall of recasts was statistically sig-
nificant, F(2, 30) = 4.1695, p < .05. A priori contrasts, tested by the t statistic,
were computed to establish the source of difference between groups. A signifi-
cant difference was found between the High and Intermediate groups on the
one hand and the Low group on the other (p < .05). The High and Intermediate
groups were not significantly different in performance on recall (p = .814). The
ANOVA results were confirmed by t-test comparisons between High and Low
learners, t(14.18) = 2.76, p < .05, and η2 = .35, and between Intermediate and
Low learners, t(11.81) = 2.71, p < .05, and η2 = .38. The strength of association
112 Jenefer Philp

Table 5. Correct recall by groups

Correct recall

Group n M% SD SE of M

High 15 74.179 12.059 3.114

Intermediate 11 73.203 8.896 2.682
Low 7 60.675 9.957 3.764

Figure 2. Accuracy of recall for each group.

between the level of the learner and accuracy of recall was moderately high,
at 35–38%, which suggests that level is one important factor but other vari-
ables also play a part in noticing. As shown in Table 5, High and Intermediate
learners recalled over 70% of recasts accurately, whereas the Low learners ac-
curately recalled 60% of recasts. A comparison by group according to recall is
shown in Figure 2. The Low group modified more recasts in recall than the
higher level groups (27% compared to an average of 19%). Fewer than 11% of
recasts were not recalled at all. Notably, immediate recall involved some
change to the trigger utterance in 88% of cases for the Low group and over
92–93% for the higher level groups.
In summary, the High and Intermediate groups were significantly more ac-
curate on recall of recasts than the Low group. This is an indication that the
higher level learners noticed recasts more consistently than the Low group.

Noticing and the Length of the Recast

The length of the recast utterance was investigated as a constraint on accu-
rate recall, irrespective of the level of the learner, and hypothesis 2 was sup-
ported. The results of a t-test for paired samples performed on data from all
groups found that recasts of five or fewer morphemes were recalled with
greater accuracy than recasts of six or more morphemes, t(32) = 5.47, p < .05,
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 113

Figure 3. Percentage of correct recall ac-

cording to the length of the recast utter-

and η2 = .48. The eta squared result reveals that almost 50% of the variability
in this sample can be accounted for by the length of the recast. Differences
are reflected in Figure 3. For the High and Intermediate groups, the percentage
of correct recall was as much as 15% higher for short recasts than for long
recasts, with over 80% accuracy on recall of short recasts. Similarly, the Low
group performed far better on shorter recasts than on longer recasts, recall-
ing the latter with only 50% accuracy on average. Thus, length of recast had a
significant effect on accuracy of recall, which suggests that short recasts were
more consistently noticed by learners. This result held irrespective of the
learner’s level.

Noticing and the Number of Changes in the Recast

Finally, the difference between the learner’s nontargetlike utterance and the
recast offered in response was another potential constraint on noticing. The
results of a paired sample t-test indicated that all groups performed better the
fewer the changes to the trigger utterance, t(32) = 5.74, p < .05, and η2 = .51.
The eta squared result reveals a strong association between noticing and the
number of changes to the trigger utterance. For the High and Intermediate
groups, there was a significant difference in accuracy of recall for recasts with
only one change compared to recasts with two changes. However, the
strength of association between these variables is low, t(25) = 2.07, p < .05, and
η2 = .15. This was also true of recasts with two changes compared to recasts
with three changes, t(25) = 3.71, p < .05, and η2 = .36. Figure 4 shows the rela-
tive performance of the three groups according to the number of changes in
the recast. The High and Intermediate groups showed at least 20% greater ac-
curacy on recasts containing only one change compared to recasts with three
or more changes. The Low group’s accuracy was 14% greater for recasts with
one or two changes compared to recasts with three or more changes.
In summary, all groups recalled recasts with three or more changes with
114 Jenefer Philp

Figure 4. Accuracy of recall according to number of

changes in recast.

significantly less accuracy than they recalled recasts with fewer changes. This
result held irrespective of level, and it is an indication that the more different
the recast is from the original utterance, the less likely the learner is to notice
all features of the recast with accuracy.

In general, the results support the claim that learners notice a considerable
amount of implicit feedback provided through interaction in a primed context.
However, recast length, the number of changes made in the recast, and the
readiness of the learner are all factors that appear to constrain the noticing of
feedback provided through recasts in the context of interaction.

The Level of the Learner

Bias. Learner biases may account for the relationship between the IL level
of the learner and noticing. Both L1 and L2 acquisition researchers have ar-
gued that learners are biased to some degree to the input they hear by their
current IL knowledge (Carroll, 1999; Gass, 1997; Harley, 1994; Newport, Gleit-
man, & Gleitman, 1977; VanPatten, 1996; White, 1987). This bias modulates the
learner’s apperception of the recast and, ultimately, what becomes intake for
the learner. As White (p. 97) noted, “the learner’s current grammar . . . acts
as a filter on the input. . . . That is, the learner rejects input which cannot be
interpreted in terms of his or her current knowledge, or modifies it so that it
can be dealt with [emphasis added].”
This is illustrated in (3), in which the Low learner reinterprets two consec-
utive recasts according to her own IL grammar. In each case, consistent with
her own IL production, she uses a stage 3 rather than a stage 5 question form
in recall.
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 115

(3) a. NNS: Does does he uh the hand uh on the hand ah what what.
NS: What is he carrying?
NNS: Yeah what he is carry?
b. NNS: What are you doing what are you doing the pic uh the boys in the picture?
NS: What is he doing?
NNS: Yeah what he’s doing?

The learner’s struggle to express her question is resolved by the NS’s re-
cast (second line). The learner modifies this recast in her recall, maintaining
the lexical item “carry” but modifying the syntax and morphology (third line).
She uses a stage 3 form in which the question word is placed before canonical
word order. This pattern is repeated in (3b). This time the NNS initially uses
a formulaic question, “What are you doing?” (first line).22 In response to the
recast she reformulates the stage 5 question as a stage 3 form, again using a
question word to front canonical word order, ignoring the use of inversion in
the NS’s recast (last line). This inversion, required in stage 5 question forms,
is not consistent with the learner’s current IL grammar. Arguably, the learner
may have noticed that her IL form was different from the recast, but her ap-
perception of the recast was partial; she received an incomplete picture of the
input given. Thus, it may be that the learner is biased by her own IL grammar
and potential immediate developments beyond it.23 An alternative argument is
that apperception was accurate, but retrieval was problematic. It appears that
where the recast is sufficiently long for the learner to have to reconstruct it
to some degree—that is, where the whole recast utterance cannot accurately
be represented in working memory—recall may be affected by reliance on
long-term memory and the learner’s own IL system.
Clearly, the level of the learner is not the sole determining factor in terms
of what is noticed. Even learners in the Low group were able to retain very
short recasts in working memory and recall them accurately, such as the
stage 4 form Where is she? Perhaps such short chunks, although beyond the
level of the learner, form the basis for future development. The possibility that
long-term rather than short-term effects are one outcome of interactional feed-
back has been suggested by other researchers (Brock, Crookes, Day, & Long,
1986; Lightbown, 1998; Mackey, 1999; Mackey & Philp, 1998). This is in keeping
with the claim that pattern extraction is a key mechanism in language acquisi-
tion and that learners slowly accumulate frequent sequences in the input (El-
lis, 1996, 2002).
Familiarity. Familiarity with form in the input may also account for the dis-
parity between groups in accuracy of recall, particularly with longer recasts
when attentional resources are taxed. Compare, for example, the responses of
these two learners to recasts of their nontargetlike utterances:

(4) Intermediate learner

NS: He’s selling the house.
NNS: Why he is sell the house?
116 Jenefer Philp

NS: Why is he selling the house? [knock knock]

NNS: Why he : is : selling the house?
(5) High learner
NNS: Why they want to sell to the house?
NS: Why do they want to sell the house? [knock knock]
NNS: Why : do they want to sell the house?

In (4), the Intermediate learner constructed a question using the language pro-
vided by the NS in the preceding utterance and omitted the morpheme pre-
viously provided with the verb (second line). In the recast, a stage 5 form was
provided; the auxiliary and subject were inverted, and the morpheme was re-
peated in the verb (third line). Following the recast, it was the morphological
change that the NNS apparently noticed; perhaps now hearing it for the sec-
ond time, she did not pick up the syntactic changes made (fourth line). Her
recall was marked by pauses and hesitation, she appeared to have difficulty
repeating the recast from working memory, and she did not manage to recall
it accurately. Stage 5 forms were not part of this learner’s IL grammar, and her
unfamiliarity with the form may have affected recall. In (5), the High learner
recalled with accuracy a rather lengthy recast in which there were two
changes: the insertion of the auxiliary “do” and the deletion of the particle “to”
after “sell” (third line). This was perhaps a performance error on her part.
Both directly before and after this recast episode this learner produced the
auxiliary in stage 5 question forms in a targetlike way, as shown in (6). Argu-
ably, familiarity with the form allowed her to focus on other corrections in the
utterance of which she may have been unsure initially. She recalled the previ-
ous recast accurately.

(6) High learner

NNS: Why ah does he want to wash the window before he goes to work?
(later turn)
NNS: Why he oh why does he want to call the painter?

Phonotactic familiarity was found to affect performance in a study by Ser-

vice (1992). In a comparison of Finnish children’s repetition of Finnish- and
English-sounding pseudowords, Service found that the children could repeat
Finnish pseudowords with almost 100% accuracy but had difficulty with En-
glish-sounding words. Service suggested that “the familiar sounding pseudo-
words created better-quality or longer-lasting traces in the phonological input
store and were therefore easier to repeat” (p. 44). The same may be true of
these adult L2 learners.
In addition to phonotactic difficulties, lack of familiarity with the lexical
items encountered in recasts may account for poor recall among the Low
group. This is supported by the findings of L1 research. Cowan (1993), for ex-
ample, reported on a study in which participants were more successful in re-
call of English words than nonsense words (Hulme, Maughan, & Brown, 1991)
and concluded that “one’s long-term lexical familiarity with the material to be
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 117

activated makes a big difference in working memory tasks” (p. 166). The same
mechanisms concerning phonotactic and lexical familiarity may hold for mor-
phosyntactic forms (see Ellis, 1996).24
In summary, both the learner’s processing biases and familiarity with the
target structure may modulate noticing of recasts. In terms of acquisition of
question forms, recasts may be of more or less potential benefit to the learner
according to how well the recast matches the learner’s readiness to acquire
the form (see Mackey & Philp, 1998; Spada, 1997). Recognition of units within
a recast may have contributed to increased accuracy according to the level of
the learner: The higher level learner may have had the advantage of prior fa-
miliarity with the input. As working memory is limited in capacity, learners
who have a larger store of L2 data and greater automaticity in comprehension
and production may have an advantage.

The Length of the Recast

The fact that all learners, irrespective of level, found shorter recasts easier to
recall suggests that recast length is a factor related to the limitations of work-
ing memory rather than one linked to developmental level. Working memory
appears to offer a brief window of time in which data may be retained through
rehearsal (Baddeley, 1986; Cowan, 1988, 1993, 1995; Ellis, 1996), and the re-
sults concerning length of recast reflect that phenomenon.
The finding that the length of the recast affects accuracy of recall is rele-
vant to the claim that learners make comparisons between L2 input and the
IL (Gass, 1991, 1997; Gass & Varonis, 1994). To do this, learners should first
notice the differences and process them sufficiently for long-term memory
storage. Previous research on the learning of new words (Baddeley, Pa-
pagno, & Vallar, 1988; Cowan, 1995) and on morphosyntactic development (El-
lis, 1996; see Ellis & Sinclair, 1996, for review) has suggested that short-term
phonological store, through processes of rehearsal, allows input to remain in
working memory potentially long enough for subsequent comparison and con-
solidation. Cowan (1988, p. 66) suggested that because auditory memory can
retain input for a limited time this input is available for comparison of utter-
ances just as it is for problem-solving tasks. Further, Ellis claimed that mor-
phosyntactic and other aspects of language are acquired through implicit
analysis of memorized sequences from L2 input. He asserted that “the repeti-
tion of sequences in working memory results in consolidation of long-term
representations of this sequence information” (p. 113). This reflects the im-
portance of auditory memory in language development.
These findings suggest that shorter recasts may be of more benefit to learn-
ers because they can be accurately retained in working memory and thus
made available for comparison and further processing: Lengthy recasts (over
five morphemes) may overload time limitations of phonological store and are
difficult to retain in working memory in precisely the form given. Having said
118 Jenefer Philp

this, length of the recast is just one of many factors affecting retention in
working memory.

The Number of Changes Made by the Recast

In a similar way, recasts that are closer to the trigger utterance and that
change the utterance in few ways linguistically may be of more benefit to
learners, as they were recalled with greater accuracy in this study. These re-
sults support the claims of researchers such as Gass (1991) and Boulouffe
(1986), who noted that if the mismatch between the TL utterance and the
learner’s utterance is too great, it will not be perceptible to the learner; cogni-
tive comparison (Ellis, 1994) by the learner will be unlikely.
Previous research on the incidence of recasts in L1 and L2 acquisition has
suggested that recasts are less likely to be provided when there are more er-
rors (Bohannon & Stanowicz, 1988; Doughty, 1994a; Farrar, 1992; Oliver, 1995).
The findings of the present study suggest that such recasts are also less likely
to be noticed by learners. Again, factors related to working memory, such as
length of recast, are likely to interact with the number of changes in the re-

Limitations and Future Research

Generalizability of Findings. It is emphasized that this has been a report
of an essentially exploratory study. The majority of learners were educated to
at least postsecondary level, most were socioeconomically advantaged, and,
in general, they were motivated to study the L2. They were young adults, en-
rolled in intensive, short ESL courses in the context of an English-speaking
country. For many, their course was preparatory to university studies either
in home countries or in Australia. The learners were eager to practice their
English with NSs. Different populations involving larger samples from both for-
eign and second language settings and with less educated learners would
allow for factors such as L1 and instructional context to be controlled and for
findings to be generalized.
This study involved one-on-one NS-NNS interaction in a controlled setting,
which is clearly different from many other contexts, including the L2 class-
room. Differences in context, description of feedback, and analysis reveal dif-
ferent results with regard to recasts (Nicholas et al., 2001). Lyster (1998)
argued (in the context of the French immersion primary-grade classroom) that
recasts provided by the teacher, although frequent, are unlikely to be noticed
by the learner as corrective feedback. However, examining a different type of
feedback (using more explicit, narrowly focused corrective recasts in a con-
tent-based ESL science class), Doughty and Varela (1998) found contrary re-
sults. Ohta (2000), evaluating responses to recasts through noting the private
speech of L2 Japanese university students, similarly suggested that learners
did notice recasts. These differences point to the need for more classroom-
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 119

based research that focuses on various types of feedback and that includes
noticing.25 Additionally, given that NNS-NNS groups are more common in the
language classroom, a replication of the study with NNS-NNS dyads or groups
would be of interest, particularly in light of earlier work (Gass & Varonis, 1989;
Porter, 1986) on the (non)incorporation of NNS corrections.
As debate over implicit versus explicit feedback continues (Norris & Or-
tega, 2000; Spada, 1997), an extension of the current research would also be
to compare learners’ noticing of recasts with noticing of NS input or other
types of NS feedback. Finally, the analysis was confined to learners’ noticing
of morphosyntactic changes to question forms. Obviously, this represents a
small part of all the linguistic features presented to learners in recasts. Future
research might explore learners’ noticing of phonological, lexical, and prag-
matic elements as well as other morphological and syntactic forms.
Learner Production and Noticing. Another avenue for research lies in the
connection between output and noticing. Within the context of the classroom
a number of researchers have suggested that recasts are less effective as a
form of corrective feedback to the learner because they do not lead to self-
repair and thus do not push learners in their output (Allwright & Bailey, 1991;
Calvé, 1992; Chaudron, 1988; Lyster, 1998; Pica, 1988; Pica et al., 1989; van Lier,
1988). However, it remains unclear whether the internal processes of noticing,
comparison, and integration occur following recasts, regardless of whether
pushed output is an outcome (Mackey & Philp, 1998). Other researchers have
debated the relationship between feedback and immediate output and its ef-
fect on IL change (Gass, 1989; Gass & Varonis, 1994; Schachter, 1983). An im-
portant theoretical question is: Does production per se make learners more
attentive to the feedback they receive? (See also, on the issue of learners’ ac-
tive participation in negotiated interaction, Ellis, Tanaka, & Yamazaki, 1994;
Mackey, 1999; Pica, 1992; Swain, 1995; Swain & Lapkin, 1995.)

The results demonstrate that these adult ESL learners for the most part no-
ticed the changes made to their nontargetlike utterances through recasts.
Learners whose level of acquisition of question forms matched those provided
in recasts accurately recalled at least 70% of recasts and modified the trigger
utterance in over 90% of cases. This finding suggests that recasts of question
forms may be effectively used by learners when developmental level and feed-
back correspond.
However, learners did not always notice recasts, and they did not always
notice every detail. In part, difficulties in recall may reflect the limitations of
working memory. Unfamiliar input, multiple corrections, complex changes,
and long utterances all pose high demands on learners’ attentional resources.
Recasts may be less accessible to low-level learners in particular, who, while
struggling with the unfamiliarity of the input, may find the disparity between
120 Jenefer Philp

the recast and their own attempts too great to deal with. Recasts may often
present forms far beyond learners’ IL grammar. The learner’s own processing
biases may limit noticing—that is, biases to comprehend the message over
analyzing form and biases to perceive form in terms of the IL grammar. In
terms of understanding processes of SLA, these findings support the claim for
an interface between interaction, noticing, and SLA (Long, 1996). However, the
relationship between interactional modifications, noticing, and intake is highly
complex, balancing the learners’ IL knowledge and attentional resources
against linguistic forms in the input. Future research on the role of noticing in
L2 development through interaction needs to take this balance into account.

(Received 7 May 2002)


1. All data is from Philp (1998).

2. This study focuses on recasts as one type of implicit corrective feedback to learners occur-
ring in interaction. Recasts may function, though not exclusively, as negotiation for meaning (Long &
Robinson, 1998). Although reducing the possibility of “pushed” output (Calvé, 1992; Pica, Holliday,
Lewis, & Morgenthaler, 1989; Swain, 1995), recasts have been argued to be an important source of
feedback to L2 learners (Long & Robinson, 1998; Mackey & Philp, 1998; Ohta, 2000) and appear to
be more prevalent in the classroom than other types of feedback (Doughty, 1994b; Lyster & Ranta,
3. Many of the recent studies in SLA that have investigated learners’ noticing of form tended to
use reading and written tasks or focus on instruction (input enhancement); for example: Alanen
(1995), Doughty and Varela (1998), Fotos (1993), Jourdenais, Ota, Stauffer, Boyson, and Doughty
(1995), Leow (1997, 1998), Robinson (1996a), Rosa and O’Neill (1999), Slimani (1989), Swain and Lap-
kin (1995), VanPatten (1990), and VanPatten and Cadierno (1993). Spada (1997), in a review of re-
search on form-focused instruction, described it as drawing “the learners’ attention to form either
explicitly or implicitly” (p. 73). Typically, research in this area assumes rather than tests noticing
and looks at outcomes rather than internal processes (Truscott, 1998). Observation of learner up-
take, for example, assumes noticing of interactional modifications and focuses on use, rather than
seeking to directly measure noticing per se as a first step (e.g., Ellis, Basturkmen, & Loewen, 2001;
Lyster & Ranta, 1997).
4. Both Robinson (1995) and Schmidt (1994) clearly wished to distinguish between detection
leading to registration in short-term memory and detection as evidenced by transient, subliminal
exposure effects, such as those measured in priming experiments (Tomlin & Villa, 1994). This distinc-
tion is also made here as the issue of unconscious learning (e.g., Robinson, 1997) is beyond the goals
of this study.
5. I am thankful to an anonymous SSLA reviewer for this observation.
6. The idea that prior knowledge primes the learner to apperceive specific elements in the input
(Gass, 1997) is upheld in general learning theory (Ausubel, Novak, & Hanesian, 1978; Bruner, 1961,
as cited in Driscoll, 1994). Ausubel (1968), for example, claimed that we perceive and interpret verbal
messages in light of existing knowledge and that “the most important single factor influencing learn-
ing is what the learner already knows” (p. vi). Bruner (1961, 1973, as cited in Driscoll, 1994) sug-
gested that feedback be provided in a mode that is both meaningful (i.e., related to what the learner
already knows) and within the information processing capacity of the learner.
7. Level here refers to development, not proficiency, as determined by learners’ production of
question forms (see Mackey, 1999).
8. This study represents part of a larger study that examined learners’ noticing and use of re-
casts (Philp, 1998). The complete study, including three posttest sessions, took place over 6 weeks
and was based on a design developed by Mackey (1999); see also Mackey and Philp (1998).
9. Records of weekly lesson plans were made available to the researcher.
10. This study focused on IL production of question forms. Therefore, group assignment was not
made according to proficiency level. However, it is noted that groupings roughly corresponded to
class groupings in the school, which were based on in-house proficiency measures: Six of the seven
Constraints on “Noticing the Gap” 121

subjects in the Low group came from beginner-level classes, 7 of the 11 in the Intermediate group
came from intermediate-level classes, and 10 of the 15 in the High group came from two advanced-
level classes.
11. The hierarchy of stages is derived from hypothesized processing constraints that underlie
each stage. This hierarchy is implicational in that each stage is a prerequisite to the formation of
structures in the following stage.
12. The picture tasks used in the sessions were based on those developed at the Language Acqui-
sition Research Centre (LARC), University of Sydney, with funding from Language Australia. The
tasks were chosen for demonstrated elicitation of question forms (see Mackey, 1999; Mackey & Philp,
1998; Pienemann & Mackey, 1993).
13. Although NS partners were instructed to recast any nontargetlike utterance (so as to mini-
mize the likelihood of learners recognizing question forms as the focus of the research), in practice,
recasts of other forms were disparate and few. NS partners provided 9–12 recasts on average for
nontargetlike question forms compared to 0–2 recasts of other forms per session.
14. For the importance of using a sound cue rather than a verbal cue, see Baddeley (1990).
15. Clearly, any intrusion interrupts the natural flow of conversation to some extent. The tran-
scripts, however, indicate that the use of recall posed minimal interference insofar as learners re-
mained on task.
16. Note that with regard to NS feedback this study focuses only on noticing of recasts.
17. All sessions were transcribed by the researcher. To ensure accuracy, approximately 10 hours
of data were also transcribed by two research assistants. The researcher coded all transcripts and
recoded approximately 15% of all data at least 6 months after the initial coding. The intrarater reli-
ability on coding of accuracy of recall, based on percentage agreement of 135 recasts from 10 ran-
dom transcripts from learners of all levels, was 99.92%. One-third of the treatment transcripts were
double-coded by six assistants. The interrater reliability between three coders on coding of accuracy
of recall in treatment sessions was based on 50 recasts from four random transcripts from learners
of all levels, and it was 91%. Intrarater reliability on coding of changes to the trigger utterance, based
on percentage agreement of 100 recasts from eight random transcripts, was 89%.
18. Thus, unrelated errors not pertinent to the question form, such as phonological change or
the addition of an article in a recast, were not considered in the analysis.
19. Given the work of Baddeley (1986), Cowan (1995), and others, in which the word-length effect
on recall appears to be a function of rate of rehearsal, the length of time taken to articulate the
recast may have been a more accurate measure rather than a morpheme or syllable count. However,
the relationship between speech rate and memory span is still a contentious and complex issue (for
discussion, see Cowan, 1993) involving not only duration of words but also pauses between words.
Although important, this issue is beyond the means or goals of this paper.
20. During piloting of cued immediate recall by six learners of different levels, learners demon-
strated less accuracy in reproducing recasts of questions longer than five morphemes. Stage 5 ques-
tion forms, such as What is he doing?, were accurately recalled more consistently by learners than
longer versions, such as What is she going to do? or What is that angry man saying?
21. Differences between groups on the provision of recasts were not considered problematic be-
cause, for each research question, group performance was treated separately in the analyses. Where
comparisons were made, averages were given.
22. Although it is possible that the question used by the learner is not formulaic, this is very
unlikely here, as this learner’s production is consistent with stage 3 utterances and no other exam-
ples of stage 5 question forms are found in the data. Additionally, “What are you doing?” is a com-
monly found formulaic question form in these learners’ production (see Lightbown, 1998, for
discussion of analysis of unanalyzed chunks). Assessment of the learner’s IL production is a result
of data comprising a minimum of 100 minutes over 5 days.
23. Whereas High and Intermediate learners had acquired stage 4 prior to treatment sessions,
present in over 60% of recasts, Low learners had yet to acquire these forms. This explanation for the
difference in performance between the higher level groups and the Low group provides support for
the notion of “readiness” and the sequential acquisition of question forms in ESL (Pienemann, 1984,
1989, 1999). In this framework, acquisition is constrained by the prior acquisition of certain forms.
Here it is suggested that readiness to acquire a structure affects the learner’s noticing of that struc-
ture in the input, a step argued by most to be requisite to acquisition (Gass, 1991, 1997; Schmidt,
24. Ellis (1996) argued that much of language—lexical, phonological, and morphosyntactic—in
both L1 and L2 is acquired through implicit analysis of memorized sequences of language. Arguably,
the Low learners had not yet built up this resource of sets of sequences in long-term memory.
122 Jenefer Philp

25. In this study, although recall provided a limited measure of noticing, it nevertheless was a
useful means of accessing noticing in oral interaction at the time that feedback was provided to
learners. The use of recall provided information not only about noticing but also about what mor-
phosyntactic elements in particular were noticed by learners and how this related to their own rep-
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