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Islamic Azad University - Takestan Branch
English Language Department
Master's Research Proposal

The effect of Task-based Instruction and Content-based Instruction On the comprehension and Production of Existential Constructions by Iranian EFL Learners

February 2012
The acquisition and appropriate use of grammatical constructions have always been one of the significant dimensions of foreign language teaching. They have always been at the center of attention in any approach or method focusing on teaching and learning a foreign language. Researchers are always concerned with finding a new way to help foreign language learners learn the rules of the second language better. "Existential sentences" or existential constructions (ECs) a term coined by Jesperson (1924: p, 155), refer to sentences that assert or deny the existence of something. The term existential refers to a type of grammatical structure in English where the phrase starts with a dummy element –there- which ‘is put in the subject position and the subject is moved forward to a later position [to] . . . present the postponed subject and the rest of the sentence as new information’ (Greenbaum and Nelson 2002, 130). Persian learners have difficulty in learning these constructions due to the absence of similar constructions in their mother tongue (Karimi, Samiian, and Stilo 2008). In English, Existential constructions lack real meaning. The following sentences have the same meaning: 1) a. Being late is unacceptable. (1) b. It is unacceptable to be late.) (2) a. A green pen is on the table. (2) b. There is a green pen on the table. The italicized subjects (there and it above) are known as expletive subjects. In expletive (existential) sentences, the phrase that would otherwise be the subject ('a green pen' and 'being late' above) are associate of the expletive. (Jenkins 1975). White (2003) emphasized that there and it are non-referential lexical items for structural reason. Pro-drop languages (like Persian and Italian) do not have this requirement.

Statement of the problem
Persian learners of English have difficulties in learning existential constructions due to the absence of these constructions in their mother tongue. Teachers in Iran use traditional methods to teach these structures to learners. It has been practically observed by many teacher practitioners within classroom contexts that ECs (see Biber et al. 1999) have always been a source of confusion for Persian learners of English. Even when these structures are fully taught to the learners and they are informed about their specific use and function, learners tend to avoid them or else utilize various other structures that might be totally inappropriate, or even irrelevant, to the grammatical needs of a certain linguistic and communicative context. The purpose of this study is to compare the effectiveness of two methods of teaching these structures(using task-based instruction and content-based instruction).

Significance of the study
Acquiring the correct use of existential constructions in the context like Iran, which the first language of the learners is Persian and the learners do not have these constructions in their mother tongue is essential. Researchers in recent decades have confirmed the positive effect of task-based language teaching in different dimensions of foreign language process. In this study by comparing the result of task-based language teaching and content-based language teaching, we will figure out which one is more effective to teach existential constructions to Iranian EFL learners.

Research questions and research hypothesis
The present study will address the following research questions: 1. Are there any significant differences among the effects of teaching existential constructions by task-based language teaching and content-based language teaching?

2. Are there any significant differences among the...
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