The effects of forms and meaning -focused instruction on ESL learners' phonological acquisition

Julie Kim Park, University of Pennsylvania


The ability to understand speech and produce intelligible speech has relevance for second language (L2) learners participating in communication. Since pronunciation plays a major role in intelligibility, the purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between instructional approach and phonological acquisition. To this end, word stress, an important element of English phonology, was targeted and the effects of three prevalent types of instruction were examined. The following research questions were investigated: (1) Does forms-focused, meaning-focused, or forms & meaning-focused instruction affect the accuracy of word stress perception and production? (2) If effects are found, do different types of instruction differently affect the accuracy of word stress perception and production? In order to examine the effects of focus-on-forms and focus-on-meaning, singularly and in combination, forty-four intermediate ESL students served as subjects in this study. Three pronunciation classes (n = 32) taught by the researcher were divided into three treatment groups: forms-focused (FF), meaning-focused (MF), and forms & meaning-focused (FMF). Each treatment group participated in an instructional treatment on word stress during ten 65-minute classes. Teacher-fronted activities occupied approximately one-third of class time, and student pair work occupied the remaining two-thirds for all treatment groups. The FF Group participated in teacher-led drills and controlled pair practice such as reading dialogues. In contrast, the (MF), Group participated in communicative teacher-fronted activities and pair activities such as information-gap and jigsaw tasks. As for the FMF Group, in both teacher-fronted and pair activities, students moved from forms-focused practice into more meaning-based communicative activities and received feedback throughout all activities. A control group consisted of students from one intermediate grammar classes (n = 12). A pre-test, consisting of contextualized perceptual items and communicative productive tasks, were given to all subjects before treatment. An identical post-test was given immediately after treatment. Results indicated that both the FF Group and FMF Group showed significant improvement after treatment. However, analysis also showed that the FMF Group obtained significantly more improvement than the FF Group. Therefore, it can be stated that forms & meaning-focused instruction had the most effect on word stress accuracy.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Park, Julie Kim, "The effects of forms and meaning -focused instruction on ESL learners' phonological acquisition" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9976464.