Speech fluency has been extensively researched across a number of disciplines. Its multifaceted nature has led researchers to construe fluency as a core construct that closely interacts with other components of language ability such as pronunciation, lexico-grammatical complexity, and accuracy. In language testing research, speech fluency is often operationalized in terms of macro-level temporal features (e.g., speech rate, number of pauses). In contrast, micro-level disfluency features (e.g., pause position and pause repair) are under-studied, yet these features can provide evidence for the cognitive processes of speech production.
In this talk, I first review research findings on different dimensions of speech fluency. Then, using speech data from local and international language tests, I demonstrate how macro- and micro-level fluency features differ in their relations to (other components of) language proficiency. I argue that while macro-level fluency features are reasonable proxies of overall proficiency, fluency is not a simple collection of holistic temporal features. Instead, fluency is a representation of the cognitive processes during speech production, providing insights into the speakers’ automatic access to and control of various linguistic resources. I will also discuss implications of fluency research in the contexts of language learning, teaching, and assessment.
Xun Yan is an associate professor of Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition and Teacher Education, and Educational Psychology at UIUC. He directs the English Placement Test (EPT) program and the new BA degree program in Linguistics + TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). Outside the university, he is the president of the Midwest Association of Language Testers in the US. Xun’s research interests include speaking and writing assessment, psycholinguistic approaches to language testing, and language assessment literacy. He publishes widely in international journals including Language Testing, TESOL Quarterly, Assessing Writing, System, Journal of Second Language Writing, and Frontiers in Psychology.