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

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

18
The Role of Pedagogical Tasks and Focus on
Form in Acquisition of Discourse Markers
by Advanced Language Learners

MARÍA JOSÉ DE LA FUENTE

George Washington University

RECENT LITERATURE has pointed to the inherent difficulty in reaching an advanced level of proficiency in a language in a classroom environment (see Byrnes and Maxim 2003; Byrnes, Weger-Guntharp, and Sprang 2006). One of the characteristics that defines advanced proficiency in a second/foreign language (L2) is the ability to produce speech/text at the discourse level, which involves a mastery of the cohesive devices inherent to discourse. Constructing L2 discourse involves the use of cohesive resources or discourse markers, both lexical (e.g., deictic markers such as all of this, that, etc.) and grammatical (e.g., conjunctions). Discourse markers are words or phrases that signal a relationship between the segment they introduce and the prior segment, with their contribution to the meaning of the message being procedural rather than conceptual (Fraser 1999). Some examples of discourse markers in English are moreover, in other words, however, on the contrary, therefore, and as a result. Observational data from third- and fourth-year foreign language classes—years when students are expected to reach an advanced level of language ability—show that learners' speech and writing is phrasal or clausal rather than sentential and lacks cohesive mechanisms in the target language, even with several semesters of exposure to rich, content-oriented models of classroom L2 instruction. Despite the fact that these cohesive markers are certainly frequent in naturalistic L2 input, they still seem to lack salience for learners in an instructed environment, and instructional materials seem to offer little explicit instruction that would call their attention to these forms.


Review of Literature

Based on the theoretical premises that attention is needed for second language acquisition (SLA) (Schmidt 1990, 1993) and that for acquisition to take place learners must consciously notice forms in the input (and the meanings these forms realize) so they can process them in their short-term memory (Skehan 1996), some researchers advocate a type of classroom pedagogical approach that addresses the

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