Applying cognitive linguistics and task-supported language teaching to instruction of English conditional phrases
Jacobsen, Natalia Dolgova
Due to their internal complexity, English conditional phrases (e.g., "If it rains tomorrow, we will cancel the picnic"; "If John had come to the party yesterday, he would have told you his favorite joke"; etc.) represent a great challenge for L2 learners. Researchers cannot agree on the unified conditional meaning or comprehensive classification of their forms, while most ESL grammar books lack precise explanations of conditionals as a category, relying largely on explanation of form rather than meaning, and ignoring conditional usage patterns in different contexts. On the other hand, cognitive linguistic research on conditionals (Dancygier, 1998; Dancygier and Sweetser, 2005) does address the intrinsic complexity of conditional constructions in a way that could potentially be very beneficial for L2 learners, as it highlights the conditional meaning and its functions in multiple usage contexts.The aim of this dissertation is to address the existing problems in the current state of pedagogical representation and instruction of conditionals by developing and testing methodological solutions, informed both by cognitive linguistic theory and research in task-based pedagogy.In this study, elements of cognitive linguistic analysis of English hypothetical conditionals (e.g., "If prices went up, I would sell my car," (Werth, 1997) from Dancygier and Sweetser (2005) were incorporated into L2 learning materials. The design of the study was quasi-experimental, with three groups (total N=57) participating: two treatment groups (cognitive and task-supported) and one control group that did not receive any instruction on conditionals. The research questions explored the efficacy of different types of instruction (cognitive and task-supported as opposed to task-supported alone) for the L2 development of English conditional phrases, as measured by a posttest and a delayed posttest. Introspective data were collected using stimulated recall. T-test and ANOVA analyses were carried out to measure the progress made by subjects in acquisition of conditionals. Statistical findings (p=0.001) indicate that participants from the cognitive group outperformed the participants from the task-supported and control groups and demonstrated a higher degree of understanding of conditional usage contexts. The analysis provides support for the benefits of using cognitive linguistic analysis of English hypotheticals in L2 learning contexts.
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