Verb movement as a teaching tool


Abstract – The article discusses the results of an experiment conducted as a follow-up to a previous research (Formisano, 2013) in which the theory of Verb Movement (Pollock, 1989) was used to teach the position of English adverbs to Italian students of English as a foreign language. The hypothesis underlying the experiment is that an explicit explanation of the deep computational mechanisms of a language should be more effective in resetting a parameter than a traditional descriptive explanation.

The first experiment was conducted in 2008 with a total of 67 participants of which 38 were in their second year of Junior High School (mean age 12) and 29 were in their third year of High School (mean age 17). Eighteen students in their first year of university (mean age 20) participated to the follow-up experiment carried out in 2011. The methodology was the same for both studies. In the first phase the participants were tested to record their knowledge of the position of English adverbs. Then they were divided into two groups (for each age range). One was given a descriptive account of adverb placement, and the other was given a linguistic account of the reason why the two languages differ on adverb position, namely the verb movement theory. They were tested immediately after the explanation and again after 10 weeks. Results show a greater and longer lasting improvement in the ability to place adverbs correctly in those participants who were exposed to the linguistic account of the difference between the two languages compared to the ones who were only given the descriptive explanation

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v10p33


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