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Academic Paper


Title: More on the Effects of Explicit Information in Instructed SLA
Author: Nicholas Henry
Institution: Texas Tech University
Author: Hillah Culman
Author: Bill VanPatten
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Michigan State University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Morphology
Subject Language: German
Abstract: The role of explicit information (EI) as an independent variable in instructed SLA is largely underresearched. Using the framework of processing instruction, however, a series of offline studies has found no effect for EI (e.g., Benati, 2004; Sanz & Morgan-Short, 2004; VanPatten & Oikkenon, 1996). Fernández (2008) presented two online experiments with mixed results. She found an effect for EI with processing instruction on one target structure (subjunctive in Spanish) but not the other structures (object pronouns and word order in Spanish). Thus, the effects of EI could be related to the target structure or to a processing problem, or both. The present study is a conceptual replication of one of Fernández’s experiments. The target was German accusative case markings on articles with both subject (S)- verb (V)- object (O) and OVS word orders. As shown by Jackson (2007) and LoCoco (1987), learners of German as a second language misinterpret OVS sentences as SVO, ignoring case markings as a cue of who does what to whom. Thus, the goal of the instructional intervention was to push learners to process case markings and word order correctly. The treatment consisted of structured input items (Farley, 2005; Lee & VanPatten, 2003) under two conditions: +/−EI. Following Fernández, the treatment was conducted via computer using e-Prime, and learners’ responses were recorded as they made their way through the items. Whereas Fernández did not find an effect for EI for word order and object pronouns in Spanish, we found an effect for word order and case markings in German: (a) Twice as many learners in the +EI group reached criterion (began to process input strings correctly) compared with the −EI group, and (b) learners in the +EI group began processing word order and case markings sooner than in the −EI group. Even though the processing problem was the same in both Fernández’s and our experiments, we attribute the difference in results to the interaction of particular structures with the processing problem and call for additional research on the role of EI not just in processing instruction but in all formal interventions.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Studies in Second Language Acquisition Vol. 31, Issue 4, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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