The current study investigates whether Saudi-Arabic speaking learners of English are sensitive to the information-structure constraints and frequency distribution when dealing with the syntactic means of information highlighting in English. Ninety-nine participants of different proficiency levels in English completed an acceptability rating task that asked participants to rate the target constructions in two different contexts eliciting either a narrow focus, in which the use of the target constructions was acceptable (felicitous), or a broad focus in which their use was inacceptable (infelicitous). The findings indicate that participants were sensitive to the contextual effect, as evident from participants' higher acceptability ratings in the felicitous context than the infelicitous context. Moreover, frequency impact was evident in their higher acceptability ratings in the felicitous context for the comparatively frequent constructions. Differences in the perceived acceptability of the target constructions by participants suggest a role for proficiency. All in all, the results obtained in this study supported the general predictions of usage-based approaches to SLA and shed light on the role of cognitive processes in the acquisition of the target constructions.
focus constructions, frequency, information structure, non-canonical word order, usage-based.