Word Writing vs. Meaning Inferencing in Contextualized L2 Vocabulary Learning: Assessing the Effect of Different Vocabulary Learning Strategies
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Word Writing vs. Meaning Inferencing in Contextualized L2 Vocabulary Learning:
Assessing the Effect of Different Vocabulary Learning Strategies
Abstract

The majority of L2 vocabulary studies concentrate on learning word meaning and provide learners with opportunities for semantic elaboration (i.e., focus on word meaning). However, in initial vocabulary learning, engaging in structural elaboration (i.e., focus on word form) with a view to acquiring L2 word form is equally important. The present contextual word-learning study aims to compare the effects of an increased attention to form condition and an increased attention to meaning condition. Native speakers of Dutch (N = 50) learned new English vocabulary in a meaning-inferencing condition, which focused their attention on word meaning, and a word-writing condition, which prompted the learners to focus on word form. The results demonstrate that the word-writing condition advanced both form recall and meaning recall to a greater extent than the meaning-inferencing condition. We conclude that word writing benefits initial word learning more than meaning inferencing in a contextual word-learning situation.

Résumé

La majorité des études de vocabulaire en langue seconde (L2) sont axées sur l'apprentissage du sens des mots et offrent aux apprenants des occasions de construire le sens (c'est-à-dire qu'elles sont centrées sur la signification des unités lexicales). Toutefois, dans l'apprentissage du vocabulaire initial, il est tout aussi important d'apprendre à construire la structure (c'est-à-dire de se concentrer sur la forme) afin de comprendre la formation lexicale. L'étude sur l'apprentissage contextuel du vocabulaire dont il est question ici compare les effets d'une situation où davantage d'attention est accordée à la forme et d'une situation où davantage d'attention est accordée au sens. Des locuteurs natifs du néerlandais (n = 50) ont appris de nouveaux mots anglais dans une situation d'inférence sémantique, ce qui focalisait leur attention sur le sens des mots, et dans une situation d'écriture des mots, ce qui focalisait leur attention sur leur forme. Les résultats montrent que la situation axée sur [End Page 293] l'écriture favorise le rappel de la forme et le rappel du sens, dans une mesure plus élevée dans les deux cas, que la situation axée sur l'inférence du sens. Nous en concluons qu'en situation d'apprentissage contextuel du vocabulaire, l'écriture des mots profite davantage à l'apprentissage initial que l'inférence sémantique.

Keywords

contextual word learning, L2 vocabulary learning, meaning inferencing, second language acquisition, semantic elaboration, structural elaboration, word writing

Mots clés :

apprentissage contextuel du vocabulaire, apprentissage du vocabulaire en langue seconde, inference sémantique, acquisition d'une langue seconde, construction sémantique, construction structurale, écriture des mots

Over the past decades, an extensive body of research in SLA has illustrated the importance of vocabulary learning for successful L2 learning. Yet experimental research on vocabulary learning should be extended even further, since these studies usually focus on learning word meaning, while word form tends to be overlooked (Barcroft & Rott, 2010; de la Fuente, 2006; Laufer & Girsai, 2008; Schmitt, 2008). Consequently, most activities included in classroom L2 vocabulary learning aim to direct the learner's attention to word meaning. This type of activity elicits what Barcroft (2002) labels semantic elaboration (i.e., increased attention to the meaning of a new word). However, if a learner is unable to recognize the form of a new word during reading or retrieve it to express meaning, no meaningful communication is possible. Word meaning and word form in L2 learning are thus inextricably linked. Establishing a form-meaning link, or form-meaning mapping, is considered by many to be a pivotal step in the vocabulary acquisition process (de la Fuente, 2006; Laufer & Girsai, 2008; Schmitt, 2008, 2010), and scholars also agree that word meaning and word form should receive equal attention in this learning process (see, for instance, Nation's [2007] language-focused instruction and Laufer's [2010] word-focused instruction). One could even argue that word form merits more attention than word meaning, since learners will already be familiar with the...


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