Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 433–456 | Cite as

Measuring Metasyntactic Abilities: On a Classification of Metasyntactic Tasks

  • Daphnée SimardEmail author
  • Marie Labelle
  • Annie Bergeron


Researchers working on metasyntactic abilities (i.e., the metalinguistic ability associated with syntax) face the problem of defining and measuring them. Metasyntactic abilities is a multifaceted concept, which encompasses various types of behaviours, from being able to intentionally manipulate syntactic structures to being able to state syntactic rules, and the way in which it is defined and measured varies greatly from one study to another. The present paper proposes a theoretically informed classification of syntax related tasks. The first part presents previous research defining and distinguishing various types of syntactic and metasyntactic abilities and their interrelations. In the second part, commonly used tasks are described and analyzed in terms of the framework presented, with the aim of better pinpointing the type of ability measured by each task. Ultimately, with this analysis of commonly used tasks, we hope to offer criteria for discriminating between the various measures of metasyntactic abilities.


Psycholinguistics Metalinguistic ability Second language acquisition First language acquisition 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daphnée Simard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marie Labelle
    • 1
  • Annie Bergeron
    • 1
  1. 1.Département de linguistiqueUniversité du Québec à MontréalSuccursale Centre Ville, MontrealCanada

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