Is writing a valuable technique for structural elaboration in L2 vocabulary learning?

Sarah Candry, Irina Elgort, Julie Deconinck, June Eyckmans

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished abstract

Abstract

Many techniques for L2 vocabulary learning involve semantic elaboration, i.e. the increased attention to a word's meaning. Studies claim, however, that employing semantic elaboration during L2 vocabulary learn- ing can inhibit word-form learning and it is structural elaboration, i.e. the enhanced attention to the form of a word, which helps learners to acquire the form of the new word (Barcroft 2003). In this psycholinguistic study, we aim to discover whether structural elaboration, in particular the writing of the target vocabulary, promotes English L2 word-form learning. The research design used in this study is a partial replication of Elgort's contextual word learning study (under review). Her study showed that for Chinese-speaking learn- ers of English, writing new target vocabulary led to more robust lexical knowledge and better form-meaning mapping than guessing the target vocabulary's meaning from the context. The present study, however, was carried out with participants whose native writing system is similar to English (Roman alphabet).
The participants were 50 Dutch speaking EFL speakers who have all had formal English instruction in secondary school. Their proficiency level varied from B2 to C2. Forty-eight new English words, of which 24 were pseudo words and 24 were low-frequency words, were presented in 3 different contexts. During the learning procedure, the participants had to write down half of these words on paper and derive the meaning of the other half from the context given. The two conditions were counterbalanced to avoid order effects. After learning the words, the participants performed a working memory test and an immediate test in which they first listened to the word, then typed the word and subsequently provided its meaning. This test measured the extent of form-meaning mapping that had occurred. One day later, they were subjected to two priming tasks to measure the amount of lexicalization that had taken place. In order to correlate lexical gains with vocabulary size, two vocabulary size tests and a productive gapfill test were administered a day after the treatment. In this last test, the participants were presented with 24 sentences, each of which was missing a newly learned word. This measure of delayed recall allowed us to discover whether the meaning of a new word activates the form of this target word. As such, it is a valuable addition to Elgort's (under review) immediate form-meaning mapping test, since form recall reflects declarative rather than implicit word knowledge.
The results should shed more light on the value of writing as a technique for structural elaboration. A comparison between this study and Elgort's (under review) should also reveal more about the relative efficacy of writing for English L2 vocabulary acquisition for users of different writing systems.

Barcroft, J. (2003). Effects of questions about word meaning during L2 Spanish lexical learning. The Modern Language Journal, 87 (4), 546 – 561.
Elgort, I. (under review). The power of the written word: Contextual word learning in English by Chinese speakers with and without handwriting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages27
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2015
EventEuroSLA 25, Aix-en-Provence - , France
Duration: 27 Aug 201529 Aug 2015

Conference

ConferenceEuroSLA 25, Aix-en-Provence
CountryFrance
Period27/08/1529/08/15

Keywords

  • writing
  • vocabulary acquisition
  • structural elaboration
  • form-meaning mapping
  • EFL
  • psycholinguistics

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