Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

First Advisor

Aaron K Smith


The main purpose of this dissertation is to examine the (in)effectiveness of the Usage-based grammar approach through explicit instruction of adverbials in the US educational context. One area that can complicate the question of native speakers’ grammar knowledge is their awareness of grammatical terms and their functions. Along with exploring psychological and linguistic domains of language learning and instructional theories and methodologies, and also investigating grammar teaching in US schools, this dissertation intends to examine native speakers’ knowledge of grammar focusing on adverbs and adverbials as its pedagogical concern. Using a limited pool of students to examine the effectiveness of explicit instruction of adverbials following the parameters introduced in Usage-based linguistics theory, this dissertation looks at American native speakers’ knowledge of adverbs and adverbials, their grammar teaching method preference, and the contribution of grammar knowledge (of adverbials) to the students’ writing. Using a limited number of students enrolled in ENG-145- Writing in the Academic Disciplines, the researcher, in the pre-test, learned that the students didn’t have any familiarity with the grammatical functions of words in sentences. However, the results of the post-test showed that not only did the majority of students provide the correct answers for the definitions, but also their examples were more sophisticated. In fact, simply explicit instruction per se doesn’t necessarily lead to using the knowledge that is why the researcher developed a Usage-based inspired explicit instruction. In order to investigate the students’ grammar teaching method preference, the researcher provided the definitions of explicit and implicit grammar instruction indicating that the researcher would follow an explicit approach to the teaching of adverbials in the class. A quick look at students’ responses revealed that only 6 students (11.76%) out of 51 students preferred the implicit teaching method and 88.24% of students preferred the explicit approach. Out of the reasons the students indicated to support explicit instruction, “to know the rules, to learn better and to make more sense” stood out with the frequency of 39, 34, and 32 respectively. The researcher ran a Readability Test to qualitatively examine the contribution of adverbials in pre and post-grammar instructional classes. After examining the number of space, time, process, and adjunct adverbials in students’ memoir and autobiography in the pre-grammar instruction classes, the researcher found that students used 1136 space adverbials, 1184 time adverbials, 925 process adverbials, and 1096 adjunct adverbials in their papers in the pre-grammar classes. However, the results of the post-grammar classes showed a decline in the number of adverbials as space adverbials (743 times), time adverbials (961 times), process adverbials (462 times), and adjunct adverbials (505 times). It can be hypothesized that because students’ awareness of adverbials was increased through explicit instructions and they gained more knowledge of adverbials, they tended to use adverbials more cautiously and carefully in their papers. Therefore, the number of adverbials in the students’ papers decreased compared to pre-grammar instructional sessions. Qualitatively, the majority of the students’ papers had the quality of 7th graders (26 out of 51) which might be due to the unfamiliarity with the topic of memoir papers. Additionally, 12 students wrote as 8th and 9th graders, 11 students wrote at the level of 6th graders, one student wrote as 10th to 12th graders and only one student wrote their paper at the college level. However, the post-grammar papers showed significant growth in the quality of students’ papers in that 27 out of 51 students wrote their letters at the level of 10th to 12th grades, 19 students wrote at the college level, and only 5 students wrote at the 8th and 9th grades. Based on these findings, the researcher believes that writing instructors should follow the parameters introduced in the Usage-based linguistic theory and incorporate explicit grammar instruction in their classes, so learners better understand grammatical terminology and learn about their own language which ultimately results in students functionally using what they understand about their language in their writing practices.


Imported from Vakili_ilstu_0092E_12230.pdf


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