Structured input versus textual enhancement in the interpretation of the Italian subjunctive of doubt
: an online and offline analysis of accuracy, time response and retention

  • Gaia Chiuchiù

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

The present study investigates the relative effects of structured input and textual enhancement on the acquisition of the Italian subjunctive of doubt. This investigation builds upon the work carried out within the processing instruction research framework in the attempt to measure discourse-level (interpretation) and a self-paced reading effects of the two instructional treatments.

The theoretical and empirical original contributions of this study are twofold:
- to compare and contrast structured input and textual enhancement on the acquisition of
Italian subjunctive forms. The rationale for this comparison is to shed further light into the role of noticing and processing in second language acquisition;
- to measure the instructional effects of structured input and textual enhancement when measured through an interpretation discourse-level test and a self-paced reading test. These tests are a more reliable measurements of in-depth processing.

Based on these two main aims, two parallel studies were conducted and a set of six research questions were formulated.

In the first study (Chiuchiù and Benati, 2021), to compare the effects of structured input and textual enhancement, the following research questions were formulated:
Q1: Would L2 learners exposed to structured input and textual enhancement interpret sentences containing the Italian subjunctive of doubt as measured by a sentence-level interpretation test?
Q2: Would L2 learners exposed to structured input and textual enhancement produce sentences containing Italian subjunctive of doubt as measured by a sentence-level production test?
Q3: Would L2 learners exposed to structured input and textual enhancement interpret discourse containing the Italian subjunctive of doubt as measured by a discourse-level interpretation test?
Q4: Would the effects of the two instructional treatments be maintained over a period of two weeks?

Thirty-six Chinese subjects learning Italian in Hong Kong University were randomly assigned to three groups a) structured input (n=14); b) textual enhancement (n=12); c) control group (n=10). Neither instructional treatments included explicit information. The main results from the sentence (interpretation and production) and discourse-level (interpretation) offline tasks indicated that it was only the structured input group who helped participants to interpret the Italian subjunctive of doubt when measured by sentence-level and discourse-level tests. Regarding the production test, participants in the structured input group demonstrated that the ability to produce sentences containing the Italian subjunctive of doubt. The participants in the textual enhancement group did not. The positive effects of structured input practice were maintained over a two-week period.

The second study (Chiuchiù and Benati, 2020) investigates the effects of structured input and textual enhancement on the acquisition of the Italian subjunctive of doubt using a self- paced reading test. The main questions of this study are:
Q1: Would L2 learners exposed to structured input and textual enhancement demonstrate sensitivity to violations of the Italian subjunctive of doubt as measured by a self-paced reading test?
Q2: Would L2 learners exposed to structured input and textual enhancement demonstrate the ability to comprehend sentences containing the subjunctive of doubt?

Eighteen Chinese (L1) subjects learning Italian in a private school were randomly assigned to two instructional groups: structured input (n = 9); and textual enhancement (n = 9). Neither instructional treatments included explicit information. The main results from the self-paced reading task indicated that only the structured input group showed higher sensitivity to violations, and this group improved from pre-test to post-test in the ability to comprehend sentences containing the target feature under investigation.

The results from offline (interpretation sentence and discourse) and online tests (self-paced reading) demonstrated that structured input helped learners to build an implicit knowledge of the language via intake facilitation. In contrast, similar effects were not found in the textual enhancement group.

Findings from this study contribute to the discussion regarding the role of input processing in second language acquisition. Results emphasize the positive effect of structured input in facilitating the intake of the grammatical form under investigation via effective form-meaning connection. In addition, study provides further evidence of the impact of structured input on production. Findings from this study reaffirm at pedagogical level the importance of structured input practice as a type of focus on from more congruent with a communicative approach to language teaching.
Date of AwardJan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorGlenn Hadikin (Supervisor), Nick Bertenshaw (Supervisor) & Alessandro Benati (Supervisor)

Cite this

'