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Volume 5 Number 2, Summer 2008, Pages 1-170   

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Formal Instruction and the Acquisition of Linguistic Features

    Masoud Rahimi Domakani

Formal instruction is at the heart of the debate in language acquisition and has been subject to controversy and discussion among researchers. Recent studies have witnessed a reaction to the hypothesis that comprehensible input is sufficient for second language (L2) acquisition and, conversely, they emphasize the role of instruction. This paper investigates the definition of the role of different types of form-focused instruction in L2 English acquisition. Two research questions were defined for the study: 1) Do differences in the type of instructional treatment lead to differences in language learning? 2) Do differences in the types of instruction also display different long-term effects? The subjects were three groups of adult college students from the Shahrekord University who were enrolled in a general English course. They received three types of instructions: Focus-on- Meaning (FonM), implicit Focus-on-Form (ImFonF) and explicit Focused on-Form (ExFonF). The target linguistic features were passive syntactic structures. These features were selected based on the results of placement tests indicating that the participants had difficulty in those domains. The findings of the study indicate that the instructional treatment lead to differences in language learning in the short-term. The results for the long term effects display a complex picture of gains depending on the instruction, the nature of the target linguistic features and the modes of assessment tasks. The implications of the findings for both research and pedagogy are presented.

Keywords: formal instruction, FonM, ImFonF and ExFonF