Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-v9xhf Total loading time: 0.606 Render date: 2022-05-18T23:23:24.539Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

3 - Practice with Formulaic Sequences: Can It Promote the Incidental Learning of Grammar?

from Part II - Receptive Practice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 February 2018

Christian Jones
University of Liverpool
Get access


The study described in this chapter examines whether practice with idioms can promote the acquisition of grammatical features of the language. Following the criteria for incidental learning described in Shintani and Ellis (2010), we designed a series of lessons based on Spanish idioms containing the copular verbs ser and estar (e.g., estar hasta el gorro ‘to be fed up’; ser pan comido ‘to be very easy’). Learners engaged in receptive practice activities that required them to demonstrate comprehension of the idioms. The participants (n=83) were assigned to one of two treatment conditions: 1) an incidental learning condition in which they were instructed on the meanings of the idioms and their appropriate use and 2) an enhanced incidental learning condition in which the same activities were implemented, but learners were directed to notice the copular verbs. The results provide some evidence of incidental learning, although the gains are most salient in one particular linguistic context: the use of estar for location. Differences between the groups are minimal and a post-study survey indicates that both groups reported similar levels of noticing the grammatical target of instruction. These results are discussed in relation to the findings of previous studies of incidental learning.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Alali, F. and Schmitt, N. 2012. ‘Teaching formulaic sequences: The same or different from teaching single words?TESOL Journal 3(2): 153180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bardovi-Harlig, K. and Stringer, D. 2016. ‘Unconventional expressions: Productive syntax in the L2 acquisition of formulaic language’, Second Language Research, 1–30.
Bruhn de Garavito, J. and Valenzuela, E. 2008. ‘Eventive and stative passives in Spanish: A matter of aspect’, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 11(3): 323336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, J. 1988. Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. 2nd edn. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Denhovska, N. and Serratrice, L. 2017. ‘Incidental learning of gender agreement in L2’, Journal of Psycholinguistic Research. doi: 10.1007/s10936-017–9487-xCrossRef
Denhovska, N., Serratrice, L. and Payne, J. 2016. ‘Acquisition of second language grammar under incidental learning conditions: The role of frequency and working memory’, Language Learning 66(1): 159190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fernando, C. 1996. Idioms and Idiomaticity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Geeslin, K. L. 2000. ‘A new approach to the study of the SLA of copula choice’, in Leow, R. P. and Sanz, C. (eds.), Spanish Applied Linguistics at the Turn of the Millennium. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla, 5066.Google Scholar
Geeslin, K. L. 2014. ‘The acquisition of the copula contrast in second language Spanish’, in Geeslin, K. L. (ed.), The Handbook of Spanish Second Language Acquisition. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 219234.Google Scholar
Geeslin, K. L. and Guijarro-Fuentes, P. 2008. ‘Variation in contemporary Spanish: Linguistic predictors of estar in four cases of language contact.’ Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 11(3): 365380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grant, L. and Bauer, L. 2004. ‘Criteria for redefining idioms: Are we barking up the wrong tree?Applied Linguistics 25(1): 3861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grey, S., Williams, J. N. and Rebuschat, P. 2014. ‘Incidental exposure and L3 learning of morphosyntax’, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 36(4): 611645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Guntermann, G. 1992. ‘An analysis of interlanguage development over time: Part II, ser and estar’, Hispania 74: 12941303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hatami, S. 2015. ‘Teaching formulaic sequences in the ESL classroom’, TESOL Journal 6(1): 112129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huckin, T. and Coady, J. 1999. ‘Incidental vocabulary acquisition in a second language’, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 21(2): 181193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hulstijn, J. H. 1989. ‘Implicit and incidental second language learning: Experiments in the processing of natural and partly artificial input’, in Dechert, H. W. and Raupach, M. (eds.), Interlingual Processes. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 4953.Google Scholar
Hulstijn, J. H. 1995. ‘Not all grammar rules are equal: Giving grammar instruction its proper place in foreign language teaching’, in Schmidt, R. (ed.), Attention and Awareness in Foreign Language Learning. Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Center, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, 359386.Google Scholar
Hulstijn, J. H. 2003. ‘Incidental and intentional learning’, in Doughty, C. J. and Long, M. H. (eds.), The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 349381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hulstijn, J. H. 2013. ‘Incidental learning in second language acquisition’, in Chapelle, C. A. (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 26322640.Google Scholar
Ionin, T. and Zyzik, E. 2014. ‘Judgement and interpretation tasks in second language acquisition’, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 34: 3764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Loewen, S., Erlam, R. and Ellis, R. 2009. ‘Incidental acquisition of 3rd person -s as explicit and implicit knowledge’, in Ellis, R., Loewen, S., Elder, C., Erlam, R., Philp, J. and Reinders, H. (eds.), Implicit and Explicit Knowledge in Second Language Learning, Testing and Teaching. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 262280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Montrul, S. 2008. ‘Form–meaning mappings in the aspectual domain: What about the L1?’ A response to Bruhn de Garavito and Valenzuela. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 11(3): 337339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pellicer-Sánchez, A. and Schmitt, N. 2010. ‘Incidental vocabulary acquisition from an authentic novel: Do things fall apart?Reading in a Foreign Language 22(1): 3155.Google Scholar
Pigada, N. and Schmitt, N. 2006. ‘Vocabulary acquisition from extensive reading: A case study’, Reading in a Foreign Language 18(1): 128.Google Scholar
Rebuschat, P. and Williams, J. N. 2012. ‘Implicit and explicit knowledge in second language acquisition’, Applied Psycholinguistics 33(4): 829856.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reinders, H. and Ellis, R. 2009. ‘The effects of two types of input on intake and the acquisition of implicit and explicit knowledge’, in Ellis, R., Loewen, S., Elder, C., Erlam, R., Philp, J. and Reinders, H. (eds.), Implicit and Explicit Knowledge in Second Language Learning, Testing and Teaching. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 281302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Robinson, P. 1997. ‘Generalizability and automaticity of second language learning under implicit, incidental, enhanced, and instructed conditions’, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 19: 223247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Robinson, P. 2002. ‘Effects of individual differences in intelligence, aptitude and working memory on adult incidental SLA: A replication of Reber, Walkenfeld, and Hernstadt (1991)’, in Robinson, P. (ed.), Individual Differences and Instructed Language Learning. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 211266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Robinson, P. 2005. ‘Cognitive abilities, chunk-strength, and frequency effects in implicit artificial grammar and incidental L2 learning: Replications of Reber, Walkenfeld, and Hernstadt (1991) and Knowlton and Squire (1996) and their relevance for SLA’, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 27(2): 235268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rogers, J., Révész, A. and Rebuschat, P. 2016. ‘Implicit and explicit knowledge of inflectional morphology’, Applied Psycholinguistics 37(4): 781812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ryan, J. M. and Lafford, Barbara A. 1992. ‘Acquisition of lexical meaning in a study abroad environment: Ser and estar and the Granada Experience’, Hispania 75: 714722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmidt, R. 1994. ‘Deconstructing consciousness in search of useful definitions for applied linguistics’, AILA Review 11: 1126.Google Scholar
Shintani, N. 2015. ‘The incidental grammar acquisition in focus on form and focus on forms instruction for young beginner learners’, TESOL Quarterly 49: 115140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shintani, N. and Ellis, R. 2010. ‘The incidental acquisition of English plural -s by Japanese children in comprehension-based and production-based lessons: A process-product study’, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 32: 607637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shintani, N., Li, S. and Ellis, R. 2013. ‘Comprehension-based versus production-based grammar instruction: A meta-analysis of comparative studies’, Language Learning 63(2): 296329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Song, J. and Sardegna, V. G. 2014. ‘EFL learners’ incidental acquisition of English prepositions through enhanced extensive reading instruction’, RELC Journal 45(1): 6784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
VanPatten, B. 1985. ‘The acquisition of ser and estar in adult second language learners: A preliminary investigation of transitional stages of competence’, Hispania 68: 399406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
VanPatten, B. 1987. ‘Classroom learners’ acquisition of ser and estar: Accounting for developmental patterns’, in VanPatten, B., Dvorak, T. and Lee, J. (eds.), Foreign Language Learning: A Research Perspective. Rowley, MA: Newbury House, 6175.Google Scholar
VanPatten, B. 2010. ‘Some verbs are more perfect than others: Why learners have difficulty with ser and estar and what it means for instruction’, Hispania 93(1): 2938.Google Scholar
Williams, J. N. and Kuribara, C. 2008. ‘Comparing a nativist and emergentist approach to the initial stage of SLA: An investigation of Japanese scrambling’, Lingua 118(4): 522553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zyzik, E. and Marqués Pascual, L. 2012. ‘Spanish differential object marking: An empirical study of implicit and explicit instruction’, Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics 5(2): 387421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats