• Literacy and language learning

     

    Abstract: This study investigated the effects of a 12-week language-enriched phonological awareness instruction

    on 76 Hong Kong young children who were learning English as a second language. The children were assigned randomly to receive the instruction on phonological awareness skills embedded in vocabulary learning activities or comparison instruction which consisted of vocabulary learning and writing tasks but no direct instruction in phonological awareness skills. They were tested on receptive and expressive vocabulary, phonological awareness at the syllable, rhyme and phoneme levels, reading, and spelling in English before and after the program implementation. The results indicated that children who received the phonological awareness instruction performed significantly better than the comparison group on English word reading, spelling, phonological awareness at all levels and expressive vocabulary on the post-test when age, general intelligence and the pretest scores were controlled statistically. The findings suggest that phonological awareness instruction embedded in vocabulary learning activities might be beneficial to kindergarteners learning English as a second language.

     

    Keywords: English reading, Bi-literacy, Chinese ESL children, Phonological awareness instruction

     

    Abstract: Communicative adequacy is a key construct in second language research, as the primary goal of most language learners is to communicate successfully in real-world situations. Nevertheless, little is known about what linguistic features contribute to communicatively adequate speech. This study fills this gap by investigating the extent to which complexity, accuracy, and fluency (CAF) predict adequacy; and whether proficiency and task type moderate these relationships. Twenty native speakers and 80 second language users from four proficiency levels performed five tasks. Speech samples were rated for adequacy and coded for a range of complexity, accuracy, and fluency indices. Filled pause frequency, a feature of breakdown fluency, emerged as the strongest predictor of adequacy. Predictors with significant but smaller effects included indices of all three CAF dimensions: linguistic complexity (lexical diversity, overall syntactic complexity, syntactic complexity by subordination, frequency of conjoined clauses), accuracy (general accuracy, accuracy of connectors), and fluency (silent pause frequency, speed fluency). For advanced speakers, incidence of false starts also emerged as predicting communicatively adequate speech. Task type did not influence the link between linguistic features and adequacy.

     

    Abstract: This study evaluated the ability for two rhythmic rhyming programs to raise phonological awareness in the early literacy classroom. Year 1 (5–6-year-olds) from low socioeconomic status schools in Bedfordshire, learned a program of sung or spoken rhythmic rhymes, or acted as controls. The project ran with two independent cohorts

    (Cohort 1 N= 98, Cohort 2 N= 136). Program-related gains from pre- to post-tests of phonological awareness (Rhyme Detection, Rhyme Production, and Phoneme Deletion), were statistically significant with the exception of Rhyme Detection in the Spoken group (Cohort 1) and Rhyme Production in the Sung group (Cohort 2). The Spoken program achieved medium and large effect sizes for Cohort 1 on measures of rhyming awareness (although the effect size was small for Cohort 2). Comparatively, the Sung program was associated with smaller effects (small, negligible, or with a small positive effect for Controls) across tasks and cohorts

     

    Keywords: English reading, Bi-literacy, Chinese ESL children, Phonological awareness instruction

     

    Abstract: Listeners efficiently exploit sentence prosody to direct attention to words bearing sentence accent. This effect has been explained as a search for focus, furthering rapid apprehension of semantic structure. A first experiment supported this explanation: English listeners detected phoneme targets in sentences more rapidly when the target-bearing words were in accented position or in focussed position, but the two effects interacted, consistent with the claim that the effects serve a common cause. In a second experiment a similar asymmetry was observed with Dutch listeners and Dutch sentences. In a third and a fourth experiment, proficient Dutch users of English heard English sentences; here, however, the two effects did not interact. The results suggest that less efficient mapping of prosody to semantics may be one way in which nonnative listening fails to equal native listening.

     

     

    Abstract: Vocabulary knowledge is central to a speaker’s command of their language. In previous research, greater vocabulary knowledge has been associated with advantages in language processing. In this study, we examined the relationship between individual differences in vocabulary and language processing performance more closely by (i) using a battery of vocabulary tests instead of just one test, and (ii) testing not only university students (Experiment 1) but young adults from a broader range of educational backgrounds (Experiment 2). Five vocabulary tests were developed, including multiple-choice and open antonym and synonym tests and a definition test, and administered together with two established measures of vocabulary. Language processing performance was measured using a lexical decision task. In Experiment 1, vocabulary and word frequency were found to predict word recognition speed while we did not observe an interaction between the effects. In Experiment 2, word recognition performance was predicted by word frequency and the interaction between word frequency and vocabulary, with high-vocabulary individuals showing smaller frequency effects. While overall the individual vocabulary tests were correlated and showed similar relationships with language processing as compared to a composite measure of all tests, they appeared to share less variance in Experiment 2 than in Experiment 1. Implications of our findings concerning the assessment of vocabulary size in individual differences studies and the investigation of individuals from more varied backgrounds are discussed.


    Keywords: vocabulary, word knowledge, individual differences, lexical decision, vocabulary tests

     

     

    Abstract:  This thesis adopts a mixed methods approach to investigate the interplay between lexical knowledge and written language proficiency among learners of English as a Second Language (ESL). To achieve its objectives, the study examines how written language ability relates to a battery of size and depth lexical measures. The Word Associates Test (WAT), the Vocabulary Levels Test (VLT), the Vocabulary Profile (VocabProfile) tool and written compositions were used to produce quantitative data on the interplay between learners' breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge on the one hand, and writing proficiency on the other hand. Purposive sampling was used to identify ESL participants in order to ensure that data generated would be capable of producing relevant insights to address research questions. Stratified random sampling was used to select 40 written language samples from the International Corpus of Learner English (ICLE) to ensure topic consistency with 18 essays from ESL students. This allowed for a comparative analysis between lower proficiency (ESL) and higher proficiency (ICLE) students. Following written assessments, the study employed the stimulated reconstruction procedure to obtain emic perspectives on the rationale behind the lexical choices that ESL learners made during the WAT. Quantitative findings obtained highlight aspects of both size and depth of lexical knowledge as important factors in the interplay between vocabulary knowledge and written language skills. Qualitative findings highlight the potential for multiple factors that could affect individual learners' trajectories. Taken together, the findings from quantitative and qualitative data deepen lexical insights by highlighting the complex interplay between lexis and writing. The study draws on the Dynamic Systems Theory (DST) as a lens for interpreting and reconciling these findings. To that effect, it offers methodological contributions by highlighting the relevance of DST to ESL developmental processes, which is a relatively new theory in the field of Applied Linguistics

     

     

    Abstract: Nation (2006) has calculated that second language (L2) learners require much more vocabulary than previously thought to be functional with language (e.g., 8,000–9,000 word families to read independently). This level is far beyond the highest graded reader, and would be difficult to explicitly teach. One way for learners to be exposed to mid- frequency vocabulary is to read authentic materials. The original A Clockwork Orange study (Saragi, Nation, & Meister, 1978) showed impressive amounts of incidental vocabulary learning with first language (L1) readers, but subsequent studies with L2 learners (using graded readers or simplified materials) showed only modest gains. This study explores the degree to which relatively advanced L2 readers can acquire spelling, word class, and recognition and recall of meaning from reading the unmodified authentic novel Things Fall Apart. After more than 10 exposures, the meaning and spelling could be recognized for 84% and 76% of the words respectively, while the meaning and word class could be recalled for 55% and 63%.
     

    Keywords: vocabulary acquisition, incidental learning, English as a foreign language (EFL), extensive reading, word knowledge

     

     

    Abstract: There are a high number of students who struggle with reading comprehension beyond the primary grades and understanding the skills involved in successful reading comprehension continues to be a topic of investigation. The Simple View of Reading (SVR) is a viable theory of reading that suggests reading comprehension results from developing skills in the areas of decoding and linguistic comprehension. This study examined the role of linguistic comprehension in reading comprehension within the SVR framework concurrently and over time in a sample of fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade students. I organized linguistic comprehension into word-, sentence-, and discourse-level skills. Linguistic comprehension is poorly defined in the extant literature and although results consistently support a relationship between linguistic and reading comprehension, no inference can be made regarding which specific linguistic comprehension skills are most influential in reading comprehension, concurrently or longitudinally. Through the use of hierarchical regression, results suggest that there are differential effects of the linguistic comprehension variable(s) on reading comprehension at all grades. Namely, word-level linguistic skills were significant positive predictors of reading comprehension at all grades. Similarly, discourse-level linguistic skills significantly predicted fourth- and fifth-grade, though not sixth-grade reading comprehension. Finally, sentence-level linguistic skills did not emerge as significant predictors of reading comprehension at any grade. Additional hierarchical regression analyses revealed that over time the influence of linguistic comprehension on reading comprehension was stable from fourth to sixth grade. These results are discussed in light of the limitations of the study and areas of future research are suggested.

     

     

    Abstract: This paper describes the development of two test formats, COLLEX and COLLMATCH, measuring receptive recognition knowledge of English verb +NP collocations, and reports findings from pilots and initial test administrations involving Swedish upper-secondary school and university level learners. Administrations of the test formats produced highly reliable scores and the performance of native speakers provided evidence of test validity. The tests discriminated significantly between upper secondary school learners, university learners, and native speakers. Significant differences were however not observed throughout between advanced learner groups only one term apart in terms of level of formal instruction. A vocabulary size measure was found to correlate highly with scores on both tests, which seems to suggest that learners with large vocabularies have a better receptive command of verb + NP collocations than learners with smaller vocabularies.

     

     

    Abstract:  Lexical effects in auditory rhyme-decision performance were examined in three experiments. Experiment 1 showed reliable lexical involvement: rhyme-monitoring responses to words were faster than rhyme-monitoring responses to nonwords; and decisions were faster in response to high-frequency as opposed to low-frequency words. Experiments 2 and 3 tested for lexical influences in the rejection of three types of nonrhyming item: words, nonwords with rhyming lexical neighbors (e.g.,jop after the cue rob), and nonwords with no rhyming lexical neighbor (e.g., vop after rob). Words were rejected more rapidly than nonwords, and there were reliable differences in

    the speed and accuracy of rejection of the two types of nonword. The advantage for words over non words was replicated for positive rhyme decisions. However, there were no differences in the speed of acceptance, as rhymes, of the two types of nonword. The implications of these results for interactive and autonomous models of spoken word recognition are discussed. It is concluded that the differences in rejection of nonrhyming non words are due to the operation of a guessing strategy.

     

    Abstract: Communicative adequacy is a key construct in second language research, as the primary goal of most language learners is to communicate successfully in real-world situations. Nevertheless, little is known about what linguistic features contribute to communicatively adequate speech. This study fills this gap by investigating the extent to which complexity, accuracy, and fluency (CAF) predict adequacy; and whether proficiency and task type moderate these relationships. Twenty native speakers and 80 second language users from four proficiency levels performed five tasks. Speech samples were rated for adequacy and coded for a range of complexity, accuracy, and fluency indices. Filled pause frequency, a feature of breakdown fluency, emerged as the strongest predictor of adequacy. Predictors with significant but smaller effects included indices of all three CAF dimensions: linguistic complexity (lexical diversity, overall syntactic complexity, syntactic complexity by subordination, frequency of conjoined clauses), accuracy (general accuracy, accuracy of connectors), and fluency (silent pause frequency, speed fluency). For advanced speakers, incidence of false starts also emerged as predicting communicatively adequate speech. Task type did not influence the link between linguistic features and adequacy.

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