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How form is enhanced in the input of introductory Spanish textbooks : The cases of ser and estar Sutton, Camille Jordan


The present study considers the application of two input enhancement methods, textual enhancement (i.e., boldface type, color, underlining) and input flooding (i.e., frequency of examples) to the presentation and exemplification of the verbs ser ‘to be’ and estar ‘to be’ in first-year Spanish textbooks. Textbooks often determine the input (i.e., oral or written samples of the second language) provided in a language course. Textbooks are teaching tools providing written second language (L2) input to learners; however, they are also individual study tools used by learners outside the classroom. There is ongoing debate about the role of attention in SLA, partly fueled by the controversial noticing hypothesis: the argument that selective attention to linguistic forms (i.e., morpho-syntactic features) is a prerequisite for processing input as intake (i.e., incorporated into a learner’s language system, or interlanguage). This debate has triggered research to determine how to draw learners’ attention to specific L2 features. Studies have examined input enhancement methods (i.e., how some forms are made salient), to foster focus on form, or attention to grammatical forms in a communicative context. In the study, a corpus of ten textbooks intended for North American English-speaking university audiences was analyzed. The study examines how these textbooks incorporate both input enhancement methods to draw learners’ attention to these target verbal forms. Results showed an overall tendency to enhance both target verbal forms using textual enhancement and input flooding. However, these methods were not always applied in a balanced or consistent fashion. For example, all textbooks applied bolding to the target forms, to the detriment of other techniques; there was little restriction of bolding to the target forms, resulting in competing salience in the input; and few instances of combined textual enhancement techniques were observed. Furthermore, while input flooding of the target forms was observed, it was applied with inconsistent size and variety; for example, the third person singular conjugations were favored, to the exclusion of other forms. Results are discussed in terms of the effect that the application of these enhancement methods may have in terms of drawing learners’ attention to the target forms while studying individually.

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