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International Journal of Language and Applied Linguistics

2015; 1 (4): 47-52

Published online December 15, 2015 (
ISSN: 2383-0514 (Online)
2015 Khate Sefid Press

The Role of Noticing and Input Enhancement

on the Acquisition of English Prepositions
Maryam Hassani
Department of English, Semnan Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Semnan, Iran.

Maryam Azarnoosh
Department of English, Semnan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Semnan, Iran.

Jila Naeini
Department of English, Aliabad Katoul Branch, Islamic Azad University, Aliabad Katoul, Iran.

Abstract This study was designed to determine whether refers to conscious attention to the occurrence of an event
noticing through reading a storybook had any impact on and hence its storage in the long-term memory (Schmidt,
Iranian EFL learners acquisition of some English 1995). As proved by Robinson (1995) and Skehan
prepositions, and whether the effect could be durable. The (1998), there seem to be a connection between learners
participants were 76 male and female learners at upper
noticing of linguistic forms in the input and successful
intermediate level who were divided into control and
experimental groups. The experimental group underlined or learning. Thus, in order for learning to take place,
highlighted the prepositions while reading the book; learners must attend to and notice certain language
whereas, the control group read the same storybook with no features that are relevant to the target system. According
attention to prepositions. The results of the independent to Skehan (1998), various factors affect noticing, such as
samples t-test indicated that the students in the the frequency salience of the input, classroom instruction,
experimental group outperformed the control group in task demands on processing resource, individual
learning prepositions. In addition, the results of the paired differences between learners processing ability and
samples t-test showed that noticing had a durable effect on readiness to pay attention to certain linguistic forms.
the experimental groups learning of prepositions. In fact,
According to Cross (2002), one of the popular factors that
noticing could play a significant role in enhancing EFL
learners knowledge of prepositions. make learners notice the language form in the input is
through salience in which the certain target language
Index Terms Noticing, Prepositions, Textual enhancement form is enhanced through bolding, italics, underlining,
coloring, or mixture of the above techniques. The
frequency and salience of a linguistic item can be a
I. INTRODUCTION principle reason for why a learner notices it in the
received input (Swain, 1998). If the input presents a
In the recent years there has been an increasing particular form or item on multiple occasions or it is
interest in the opinion that drawing learners attention to given prominence (intentionally on incidentally) a
the linguistic features of the L2 input is beneficial for language learner will naturally recognized it on a
second language development. L2 learning involves conscious level.
selecting and encoding the information which is available Ellis (1997) states that a natural tendency we all have
in the environment. Schmidt (1990, 1993, 1994, 1995) is to focus on meaning before form. Learners will
argues that paying attention to the input received and also naturally notice content words first, but may not pay
having momentary subjective experience of noticing attention to function words such as prepositions,
facilitates learning. conjunctions, and endings, for example for tense and
Noticing is necessary for changing input to intake and number. By controlling focus of attention, L2 teachers
can guide their learners to pay attention to different
Received August 7, 2015; Accepted December 11, 2015. aspect of target language form, such as prepositions, in
class. Prepositions are grammatical words or function
2015 Khate Sefid Press words that mainly contribute to the grammatical structure
of the sentence (Thornbury, 2002). Prepositions as an

International Journal of Language and Applied Linguistics
2015; 1 (4): 47-52
Published online December 15, 2015 (
ISSN: 2383-0514 (Online)
2015 Khate Sefid Press

important part of grammar seem to occur everywhere in carried out so far investigating the use of English
speaking and writing (Morenberg, 1997). prepositions among EFL learners in context.
Prepositions can be classified according to their form, Hendrick (2010) used consciousness- raising
function and meaning. Concerning form, prepositions can technique to promote correct use of English prepositions
be simple (one-word preposition), or complex (also called for ESL secondary school teachers in South Africa.
two- word, three-word, or compound prepositions). Hendrick found that consciousness-raising task was
Simple prepositions are closed class. That is, we cannot valuable because it was interesting to the trainees and
invent new single word prepositions. However, complex made them aware of a neglected area of grammar in an
prepositions are open class because new combinations interactive setting where they were able to determine
could be invented (Grubic, 2004, cited in De Felice & correct prepositional forms by negotiating meaning and
Pulman, 2008). teachers learned how to expand their repertoire of
Concerning the type of form to be studied, activities in their own classrooms, to teach not only
prepositions are regarded as one of the most difficult prepositions but also other aspects of grammar. Another
grammatical features for L2 learners to acquire (Kao, related research done by Padgate (2010), attempted to
2001). Learning prepositions appropriately is investigate the effect of input enhancement and
troublesome as most of them have several different consciousness-raising on acquisition of English
functions and there are not many rules to help in choosing preposition following certain verbs. The result endorsed
which prepositions to use correctly (Swan, 1988). that consciousness-raising was an effective means for
According to Pittman (1966), among those who teach or facilitating the acquisition of these target grammatical
learn English language, prepositions have earned a features.
reputation for difficulty if not direct unpredictability. Given the growing interest in the application of the
Takahaski (1969) argues that the correct usage of findings of noticing research to the teaching of different
prepositions is the greatest problem for learners of L2 features, this study intended to examine the effect of
English. Cheng (1993) states that most of the EFL promoting noticing through planned instruction on the
teachers and learners are painfully aware of the fact that EFL learners. There is an apparent need for investigating
when it comes to mastering a foreign language one of the the effect of noticing on learning prepositions, and this
most troublesome areas to learn is the use of prepositions. article will describe how the researchers used the
Learning how to use prepositions correctly in a foreign technique to promote correct usage of English
language is an enormous task, one that many learners prepositions in upper intermediate EFL learners in a
never manage to master thoroughly. language institute. In order to investigate the effect of
Since prepositions are so indispensible to noticing on the acquisition of prepositions by Iranian EFL
communication and their misuse often distorts meaning, learners, the following research questions were proposed:
the requirement for correct prepositional usage is 1. Does noticing through reading storybooks have any
essential. One way to help students is to introduce effect on learning English prepositions in Iranian EFL
noticing as a technique that focuses attention on correct learners?
grammatical forms by highlighting or emphasizing them 2. Does noticing have a durable effect on learning
in the text. According to Ellis (1997), noticing a English prepositions?
grammatical feature is a necessary and fundamental pre-
condition for learning it. Several studies in the fields of
textual enhancement and consciousness- raising have II. METHOD
mostly investigated linguistic forms or structures that are
rule- based in nature; for example, adverbs, possessive A. Participants
determiners, direct wh- questions, plural makers (Fotos,
1993,1994; Hsu, 2007; Simad, 2009; White, 1998 as cited The participants in the study were selected from eight
in Padgate, 2010). Abdollahian, Mirzaei and Ranjbar intact classes consisting of 96 EFL Upper Intermediate
(2012) studied the role of noticing in L2 learners learners in Zabansara Language Institute in Damavand,
production of intonation . Gharanli and Rashti (2010) Iran. Subjects included both male and female, had a mean
studied the effect of noticing through input enhancement age of 19, and had been studying English as a foreign
on learning conditionals. Sugiharto (2006) considered language at least for two years. Their level of English
grammatical features such as transitive and intransitive proficiency was determined on the basis of their scores
verbs, direct and indirect objects, and subject-verb on PET proficiency test. Four intact classes were
agreement, but not prepositions. Some studies have randomly selected as the experimental group and four
investigated EFL/ ESL prepositional errors and most of other classes were selected as the control group for the
them generally agreed that ESL/EFL learners are purpose of current study.
frequently confused about when and how to use However, some participants were excluded from the
prepositions (e.g., De Felice & Pulman, 2009; Mukundan data analysis when they failed to take the PET test.
& Roslim ,2009), but only a few studies have been Therefore, the final total number of the sample was 76
International Journal of Language and Applied Linguistics
2015; 1 (4): 47-52
Published online December 15, 2015 (
ISSN: 2383-0514 (Online)
2015 Khate Sefid Press

subjects divided equally into two experimental and method. They were asked to use perceptual salience,
control groups. highlighting or underlining the nine simple prepositions
to specifically draw their attention to them.
B. Instrumentation When the treatment was over, for investigating
whether there was any significant difference in the scores
The instruments used in this study included The of the learners after the treatment the immediate posttest
Scarlet Letter storybook (Hawthorne, 2008) the was administered. Two weeks later after administering
instrument used for treatment, and a proficiency test, immediate posttest the experimental group had a delayed
pretest, immediate posttest and delayed posttest as posttest to investigate the durability of the effect of
assessment instruments. The storybook had ten chapters noticing.
which was used in both experimental and control group.
The experimental group used salience method to notice 9
simple prepositions in the storybook while control group III. RESULTS
did not receive any instruction to notice preposition. The
PET test with 40 items was administered to ensure the The process of data analysis began with analyzing the
homogeneity of the two groups in terms of language data obtained from the PET test administered for
proficiency. The pretest contained 12 three-choice items examining the homogeneity of the participants. An
and a cloze test with sixteen gaps and suggested independent samples t-test was run. The descriptive
prepositions to choose from. The immediate posttest, and statistics for the experimental group (M=25.73, SD=5.87)
delayed posttest in this study had the same format as the and the control group (M=25.79, SD=5.76) were similar.
pretest. The results of the t-test (t= 0.39, df= 74, p= .969> .05)
indicated that the two groups did not differ significantly
C. Procedure before they were exposed to the instructional
To accomplish the goals of the study, the following The next step was to ensure that the participants were
procedures were carried on. In order to check the unfamiliar with the selected target form. Therefore, a
homogeneity of the two groups a PET test was pretest on prepositions was administered to the
administered and the results showed that the two groups participants before the treatment. An independent
were homogeneous in terms of their language samples t-test was run and the results (t = 1.453, df= 74,
proficiency. Then to ensure that the knowledge of the p= 0.15> 0.05) indicated that there was no statistically
chosen target form between the groups was not significant difference between the performance of the
significantly different prior to the treatment, the pretest control (M= 9.01, SD=2.6) and experimental ( M= 8.13,
on prepositions was administered. SD= 2.68) groups in the pretest. Therefore, it could be
This study concentrated on the 9 most frequent error assumed that the groups were similar in terms of their
causing prepositions: at, by, for, from, in, of, on, to, and knowledge and use of prepositions prior to the treatment,
with. The criterion for choosing these prepositions was and hence they belonged to the same population before
the frequency of occurrence of these prepositions. In the treatment.
addition, substituting one of these prepositions for After the treatment, the immediate posttest with the
another within the group is the most common mistake. same format of pretest was administered. The means of
The treatment started one week after the pretest. Learners the two groups on the preposition posttest were compared
in both groups were exposed to an instructional program. through another independent samples t-test. The
The instructional intervention consisted of sixteen descriptive statistics of the experimental group (M =
sessions spread out over eight weeks. The course was an 12.52, SD = 2.35) and the control group (M = 9.35, SD =
intensive one with 90-minute classes held two days a 2.85) and the results of the t-test (t= -5.278, p = .00< .05)
week for each group. The participants in experimental suggested that the experimental group outperformed the
group were taught by the instructor herself. Both groups control group in posttest, so the null hypothesis could be
received the storybook to use for their out-of-class safely rejected. In other words, noticing through reading
reading. It contained 10 chapters and learners were asked storybooks lead to EFL learners learning of prepositions.
to read each chapter at home and write a summary of it in The last step in data analysis was to run a paired
every other session. This storybook was used for both samples t-test to compare the scores of the experimental
groups as a means of learning prepositions. The point groups immediate posttest and delayed posttest to see
which should be indicated is that the control group did whether the effect of noticing of preposition was durable.
not receive any instruction on learning prepositions. They The results of the paired samples t- test showed no
just read the storybook and summarized each chapter significant difference between experimental groups
without focusing on prepositions or other forms in the performance on the immediate posttest and delayed
storybook. In contrast, the experimental group was given posttest. With the means of 12.53 and 12.33, and standard
a brief introduction to the project, its objectives and its deviations of 2.36 and 2.67 for the posttest and delayed
International Journal of Language and Applied Linguistics
2015; 1 (4): 47-52
Published online December 15, 2015 (
ISSN: 2383-0514 (Online)
2015 Khate Sefid Press

posttest respectively, the result of the t-test (t= .934, activities in their own classrooms, to teach not only
p=.36>.05) indicated no significant differences which prepositions but also other aspects of grammar.
meant that the treatment had a durable effect on The final step is to examine the research questions set
experimental groups learning. This study was congruent for the present study that is the effect of noticing on EFL
with some previous studies which revealed that after the learners preposition learning and the durability of
learners attention had been raised, they would continue noticing on their learning. The substantial difference
to notice the target grammatical features (Fotos, 1993, between the pretest and the immediate and delayed
1994), though in a small degree. What seems to be clear posttest scores for the experimental group permits us to
is that noticing hypothesis can be harbinger of success for confirm that noticing the form did have a strong positive
language learners and the use of methods which make the effect on the students preposition learning. Hence, the
target features more salient for learners to notice can first null hypothesis, the noticing hypothesis has no
facilitate learning of language forms. significant effect on EFL learners preposition
improvement, is rejected because the results showed that
the noticing hypothesis had a strong positive effect on the
IV. DISCUSSION preposition learning on the experimental group.
Similarly, the second null hypothesis, noticing does not
The results indicated that there was a significant have a durable effect on learning English prepositions, is
difference between the students performance before and rejected and a durable effect for noticing is supported.
after the noticing to English preposition. The result of the
present study is in line with Schmidt's (1995) claim that
noticing is necessary and effective in language learning. V. CONCLUSION
Schmidt's noticing hypothesis is a compromise between
modern communicative language teaching and obsolete It is worth mentioning that the results of the present
deductive grammar instruction. Research to date (e.g., study which supported the effect of noticing on EFL
Allanen, 1995; Simard, 2009; Takahashi, 2005) strongly learners preposition learning and the durability of
favors noticing and attention to form by consciousness noticing on their learning is in line with Schmidt's (1995)
raising, awareness raising, input flooding, input claim that noticing is necessary and effective in language
enhancement, etc as a viable and appropriate path to the learning. The result of this study may help teachers and
acquisition of linguistic and grammatical forms within practitioners in teaching functional language forms to
the context of communicative, meaning centered English language learners. Noticing is a technique which
activities. Long (1991) argues that only in this way can can be used for drawing students' attention to certain
attention to form be made compatible with the immutable functional forms of input. Paying attention to language
processes that characterize L2 acquisition and thereby forms through storybook would be facilitative and can
overcome persistent developmental errors. The findings assist learners in improving their language accuracy.
of the present study were also support the findings of
many researchers (e.g., Fotos & Ellis, 1991; Lightbown
& Spada, 1990; Nassaji, 1999 ; Spada & Lightbown,
1993; Williams, 1995) who found a strong relationship
between learners noticing and acquisition of the target
The results also echo the findings of the study
conducted by Padgate (2010) who concluded that the
group receiving input enhancement plus consciousness-
raising was the only one with significant progress. This
might be assumed that salience rendered by
consciousness-raising facilitate the learners noticing of
the target prepositions. Similarly, Hendrick (2010)
explored the effectiveness of consciousness-raising on
preposition for ESL teachers in South Africa. Hendricks
study proved that consciousness-raising task was valuable
because it was interesting to the trainees and made them
aware of a neglected area of grammar in an interactive
setting where they were able to determine correct
prepositional forms by negotiating meaning. An added
benefit of this consciousness-raising task was that the
teachers learned how to expand their repertoire of

International Journal of Language and Applied Linguistics
2015; 1 (4): 47-52
Published online December 15, 2015 (
ISSN: 2383-0514 (Online)
2015 Khate Sefid Press

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2015 Khate Sefid Press

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