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Researching L2 Word Knowledge Depth and Its Acquisition Pattern: A Cross-sectional Study of Chinese EFL Learners in the Classroom Setting

刘绍龙  
【摘要】:L2 vocabulary learning in the classroom setting in China belongs in one of the major aspects of foreign language learning. Research into L2 vocabulary acquisition usually follows two lines of research: one looking into the expansion of vocabulary size, and the other, the development of receptive and productive knowledge about individual words. The former has received a lot of attention and witnessed great achievements in the past few decades, whereas the latter has so far been little studied in the field of second language acquisition research. This study investigated, within a single theoretical framework, the English vocabulary development with respect to the receptive and productive mastery of four types of knowledge about individual words. Some current theories of L2 vocabulary acquisition were examined, and then based on these representative theories, a tentative conceptual framework was first established which identified three relevant factors and the relationship among these factors. To explore the developmental pattern of L2 word knowledge across learners of different English proficiency, the data for this study were collected in three-month period from 100 students of English. Among them 75 were university students majoring in English, and 25 were senior high school students. In addition, 22 native speakers of English were used as a control group. The primary data consisted of two parts: (a) participants' performance on a receptive knowledge test, and (b) participants' performance on a productive knowledge test. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of the collected data yield the following major findings. First, regarding receptive mastery of word knowledge, the route of development followed by the Chinese participants is word class →meaning → affix → collocation, but regarding productive mastery of word knowledge, the route of development followed by Chinese participants is meaning → word class → affix →collocation, and the route followed by native speakers of English is meaning → affix/collocation → word class. Second, the Chinese participants appeared to have a better mastery of receptive word knowledge than productive word knowledge, and the gap remained despite the improvement of participants' L2 proficiency. Third, native speaker participants exhibited an exclusive superiority over Chinese participants in the productive mastery of collocation, while Chinese participants' superiority manifested in both receptive and productive mastery of word class. Fourth, receptive ability to use word knowledge failed to turn into corresponding productive ability for the Chinese participants at all proficiency levels, and the dual mastery of both receptive and productive word meaning appeared to be mostly incomplete. The above findings are discussed by drawing on the theory of language processing and the salient features of the English teaching and learning in China. Two conceptual frameworks are finally prop osed as an attempt to theorize the acquisition of word knowledge in the classroom setting.


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