Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition

By Ronald P. Leow; Héctor Campos et al. | Go to book overview

17
Instructed L2 Acquisition of Differential Object
Marking in Spanish

MELISSA BOWLES AND SILVINA MONTRUL

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

IT IS WIDELY HELD that second language (L2) learners restructure their interlanguage grammars on the basis of input. But what form must input take to promote restructuring? Many studies find that input in the form of positive evidence is not sufficient for successful second language acquisition (SLA) and that some focus on language form is necessary to lead the learner to notice certain features of the input. That is, instructed L2 learners may benefit from some type of form-focused instruction, defined by Spada (1997, 73) as consisting of “events which occur within meaning-based approaches to L2 instruction in which a focus on language is provided in either spontaneous or predetermined ways.” Form-focused instruction has been proven effective in many face-to-face classroom settings (Rod Ellis 2001, 2002; Lyster 2004a, 2004b), but many language programs have now begun to offer hybrid or technology-enhanced language courses, in which grammar instruction is offered via self-instructional units online. In such courses, face-to-face class meetings are reserved for learners to engage in communicative activities in the L2. But in these hybrid delivery contexts, how effective is grammar instruction that involves explicit rule presentation and practice with corrective feedback? This study seeks to answer this question, focusing on the instruction of one particularly problematic structure for native English-speaking L2 learners of Spanish, differential object marking, or a-personal.


Explicit Rule Presentation and Negative Evidence in
L2 Acquisition

Researchers propose that first language (L1) acquisition is driven solely by positive evidence, or exemplars of possible utterances in the language, which are present in all grammatical speech. However, research on L2 acquisition (especially in immersion contexts) has suggested that positive evidence alone may not be sufficient for the acquisition of certain L1-L2 contrasts or structures that are not present in the L1 (Trahey and White 1993; White 1989, 1991; for discussion, see Lightbown 1998 and Long 1996). That is, learners may benefit from some type of form-focused instruction.

One way of delivering form-focused instruction is by providing learners with explicit information before or during exposure to L2 input, by means of either

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