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Comprehensibility in Language Testing

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Comprehensibility, or the extent to which a listener understands L2 speakers’ spoken output/performance, is a fundamentally important aspect of communication, and a construct the language testing discipline has been interested in for a few decades. Comprehensibility is considered central to successful communication (Munro & Derwing, 1995, 2007) as it highlights the listener’s perceptions of the level of difficulty involved in understanding a speaker. Despite the crucial role it plays in communication and the contribution it makes towards the assessment of spoken language ability, comprehensibility has mostly been assessed holistically in language tests, if at all, with little reference to an analytic framework in which comprehensibility can be objectively analysed and reliably assessed. The lack of such an analytical framework for defining and analysing comprehensibility has motivated us to propose the current manuscript as a research-oriented and evidence-based monograph that provides an analytic framework for understanding, defining and assessing comprehensibility. In this monograph, we argue that conceptualising comprehensibility as a multidimensional construct and adopting a broader perspective to understanding and analysing it for communication purposes would benefit the fields of second language assessment and second language acquisition.

Published: May 1, 2023