Input Processing and the Teaching of German Two-way Prepositions
DeHaven, Michael Ross
University of Kansas
Germanic Languages & Literatures
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A number of studies in the last twenty years have focused on the input processing principles related to VanPatten’s approach to teaching grammar known as Processing Instruction (VanPatten and Cadierno, 1993; VanPatten, 2004; VanPatten, 2007; Lee and Benati, 2009). One of the principles, known as the Lexical Preference Principle (LPP), states that learners will tend to process lexical items over grammar structures when both convey the same information. This study seeks to contribute to the studies investigating this principle by examining whether the presence or absence of redundant lexical cues contributes to or inhibits the learning of German two-way prepositions. Sixty-four participants from ten intact second-semester German classes in three separate semesters at a large, public, mid-western University were assigned to two treatment groups: one where redundant lexical cues were not removed from input-processing exercises following explicit instruction and strategy training (+LC; n=32) and one where those lexical cues were removed from the exercises (-LC; n=32). Participant gains were measured using a pre-test/post-test design surrounding a two-day treatment focusing on German two-way prepositions that was provided to all participants. Quantitative analysis of the test scores reveals no significant difference between treatment groups, suggesting that the experimental condition (+/-LC) had no effect on learning. Think-aloud protocols were collected during the post-test in order to gather data about the extent to which participants were applying the explicit information provided and were making proper form-meaning connections for the target structure. The data collected from these protocols is examined from the perspective of input processing in general and the theoretical framework known as Modular Online Growth and Use of Language (MOGUL) (Truscott and Sharwood Smith, 2004a, 2004b, 2011; Sharwood Smith and Truscott, 2014). Qualitative analysis of these protocols reveals difficulties learners encountered with the German case system that caused difficulties interpreting two-way prepositions. This study contributes to instructed SLA in German by demonstrating the effectiveness of the input processing approach to teaching German grammar. It also reveals possible weaknesses in typical teaching practices. Suggestions are made to address these weaknesses and future research directions are offered to address them.
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