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The Effect of Implicit vs. Explicit Instruction on Learning Form-based vs. Meaning-based Language Features

Wang, Jing (2014) The Effect of Implicit vs. Explicit Instruction on Learning Form-based vs. Meaning-based Language Features. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Second language researchers and teachers are greatly interested in whether or not—and how—the effect of different instructional approaches varies depending on different language features (Doughty, 1991; Dekeyser, 1995; Robinson, 1996; de Graaff, 1997; Housen, Pierrard & Van Daele, 2005). The present study investigates whether implicit meaning-based instruction benefits meaning-based language features more and explicit rule-based instruction benefits form-based language features more. The Chinese relative clause (RC), a form-based complex grammatical feature, and the distinction between the Chinese negative forms bu and mei (you), a meaning-based complex grammatical feature, are the target structures in the present study.
Thirty-four first-year native speakers of English in the Chinese program at the University of Pittsburgh were randomly assigned into implicit and explicit training groups. The implicit group was provided with the context and meaning of a sentence including the target structures, while the explicit group was provided with the rule explanation and examples of target structures during the training. Participants had three 50-minute computer-based training sessions and five tests: a pretest, a posttest immediately after each training session (three times), and a delayed posttest 2 weeks after the last training session. Their accuracy and reaction time (RT) were recorded by the program Paradigm. The effect of implicit and explicit teaching on different language features was compared in terms of four aspects: accuracy, reaction time, knowledge durability, and speed of learning (the time for the teaching effect to show up). The results show that meaning-based implicit teaching is more beneficial for meaning-based language features, and rule-based explicit teaching is more beneficial for form-based language features. In addition, the present study also shows that syntactic cues, such as grammatical relations, affect the production, but not comprehension, of Chinese RCs, whereas semantic cues, such as animacy, affect the comprehension, but not production, of Chinese RCs. This result partially supports the prediction of the Noun Phrase Accessiblity Hierarchy (NPAH).


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairShirai, Yasuhiroyshirai@pitt.eduYSHIRAI
Committee MemberJuffs, Alanjuffs@pitt.eduJUFFS
Committee MemberMortensen, Daviddrm31@pitt.eduDRM31
Committee MemberNara, Hiroshihnara@pitt.eduHNARA
Date: 30 May 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 April 2014
Approval Date: 30 May 2014
Submission Date: 6 May 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 206
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: second language teaching; Chinese
Date Deposited: 30 May 2014 14:48
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:20


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