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Title: Text encounters of the frequent kind : learning L2 vocabulary through reading
Author: Horst, M. E.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2001
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It is generally believed that reading in a second language is one of the main ways learners acquire vocabulary. Increased exposure to new words in context is assumed to result in increased vocabulary knowledge. However, good experimental evidence supporting this connection is hard to come by. Most available studies report only tiny gains in vocabulary knowledge as a result of reading. We believe this problem arises because experiments typically use insensitive methodologies and study the acquisition of only a few words. Our research addresses these design issues. When we carefully controlled the conditions in which L2 learners read a text, we found clear evidence of a role for frequent exposures to new words. Although this experiment made a stronger case for the benefits of frequent encounters than previous studies, we felt results were limited by two factors: constraints on learning opportunities in natural texts and insensitive testing. Repeated readings of the same text proved to be a way of offering learners more frequent exposures to new words than are normally available, and a ratings scale allowed us to test word knowledge more sensitively. We implemented these innovations in two case studies that tracked the acquisition of hundreds of target words over many weeks. Reporting learning results as matrices allowed us to identify growth patterns not picked up by more standard methodologies. The data showed that repeated reading of a single long text does result in substantial learning, but learning is unstable and non-linear. Matrix modeling predicted patterns of growth surprisingly well. Results also indicated that word knowledge gains were achieved over the course of repeated text exposures regardless of the overt informativeness of contexts surrounding unfamiliar items. Thus, the research confirmed that frequent text encounters with new words play a crucial role in the incidental acquisition of L2 vocabulary.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available