Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Modern Foreign Languages

Major Professor

Chauncey J. Mellor


This study examines the effect of the study abroad experience on the oral production of study abroad students as compared to a control group by establishing a relationship between language proficiency and the development of discourse features in the study abroad environment. The subjects include seven students studying abroad at the University of Stuttgart and a control group of seven students in third and fourth-year German courses at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The proficiency ratings for the subjects were assessed by administering the German Speaking Test, a simulated oral proficiency interview. The transcripts of the German Speaking Test were then examined quantitatively and qualitatively to compare the students' use of formulaic language, response time, and words per response. Three types of formulaic language are identified in this study: (I) lexical fillers, (2) grammatical frames, and (3) lexical complements. Unlike lexical fillers which fill space, grammatical frames and lexical complements are non-filler formulaic language and contribute to the message. The proficiency ratings for each population ranged from Intermediate-Mid to Advanced and had no bearing on the amount of formulaic language produced. The study abroad students showed marked strength when presented with tasks above their actual proficiency. Although their rate of speech is generally not faster than the at home students and the number of lexical fillers is not significantly different between the populations, the study abroad students consistently used more words and more non-filler formulaic language. Qualitatively, the study abroad students used a wider range of fillers, and used more non-filler formulaic language and differently. Formulaic language contributed substantially to the responses of the study abroad students in linguistically challenging situations. The results suggest that the increase use of formulaic language is a production strategy acquired through the demands of living in the target culture. The study abroad students appear to be more linguistically competent to untrained ears despite their proficiency level because they are not only more adept at utilizing formulaic language but they also have a wider repertoire of formulaic language to draw upon.

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