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Explicit Instruction vs. Natural Exposure in L2 Acquisition of Adjective Ordering in English
Marie Endo, Mayumi Shibuya, and Makiko Hirakawa
60-71 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper explores whether multiple adjective ordering can be acquired by Japanese learners of English (JLEs) as a result of explicit instruction in a classroom setting in Japan vs. natural exposure to the target language in the U.S. It has been claimed that English observes direct modification for prenominal adjectives, which exhibit rigid ordering, whereas Japanese observes indirect modification so that adjective ordering is free (e.g., small square table, *square small table/chiisana shikakui ie, shikakui chiisana ie). Laenzlinger (2005) has proposed the adjective ordering where absolute adjectives (A) referring to absolute properties are closer to the head noun than nonabsolute adjectives (NA) referring to relative properties. Given the hierarchy, a judgment task with pictures and audio stimuli was administered to three groups of low-intermediate level JLEs: Instructed (n=13), Non-Instructed (n=12), and Natural Exposure (n=13). Native English speakers (n=13) also responded to the same test stimuli. The results of the pre- and post-tests showed (i) that JLEs did not know the adjective ordering in English and made considerable errors, (ii) that the effectiveness of explicit instruction was confirmed for the Instructed group, and (iii) that the Natural Exposure group also showed some improvement. Individual analyses on those who made correct responses consistently (more than 75%) further confirmed the overall results, as the number of learners in the instructed group increased on all adjective combinations tested, suggesting explicit teaching can facilitate faster development in the area of adjective ordering than natural exposure.

Published in

Proceedings of the 13th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2015)
edited by David Stringer, Jordan Garrett, Becky Halloran, and Sabrina Mossman
Table of contents
Printed edition: $290.00