That sounds like it!: Motivating the form-meaning connection of new L2 words

Onderzoeksoutput: Unpublished abstract


Research in the field of second language vocabulary acquisition has shown that the pace at which new words or phrases are acquired is dependent on the degree of engagement with them on the part of the learner (cf. Schmitt 2008). A cherished notion within Cognitive Linguistics is that of linguistic motivation, which supposes that a retrospective explanation can be sought for why a lexical item in a specific language comes in a particular form or with a particular meaning. In their endeavours to foster engagement, most applied cognitive linguists have been concerned with helping learners appreciate the motivated nature of the meaning of certain items (e.g. polysemous words and figurative idioms), while some have started to exploit the motivated nature of their form, as in the case of alliterative compounds and collocations (see Boers and Lindstromberg 2008 for a review). This study is different in that it explores the potentially motivated nature of the connection between word form and word meaning, a form of elaboration that could accelerate the learning of semantic and structural aspects of words equally.

We report on an experiment (n=56) in which advanced learners were stimulated to consider the possibility that the form-meaning link in new words might not be (fully) arbitrary. The effect on retention of this type of externally induced engagement was subsequently assessed (in comparison with success rates obtained under control conditions) in immediate and delayed post-tests measuring both meaning and form recall. The paper will present the design of the experiment in detail, and results will be evaluated in terms of the overall mnemonic merits of the proposed pedagogical intervention and its scope of applicability. If learners are shown to benefit from such a prompted, explicit evaluation of the form-meaning connection, it can be recommended as a learner-friendly and time-efficient pathway to word learning.


- Boers, F. & Lindstromberg, S. (eds.) (2008). Cognitive Linguistic Approaches to Teaching Vocabulary and Phraseology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

- Schmitt, N. (2008). Review article: Instructed second language vocabulary learning, Language Teaching Research 12 (3), 329-363.
Originele taal-2English
StatusPublished - 3 sep 2010
EvenementEuroSLA 2010 Conference - Reggio Emilia, Italy
Duur: 3 sep 20103 sep 2010
Congresnummer: 2010


ConferenceEuroSLA 2010 Conference
StadReggio Emilia


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