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Title: Tall stories and new word learning : an investigation of demanding texts and difficult words
Author: Melling, P. W.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2000
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This research targeted on apparent contradiction in modern language teaching practices. Although reading in a target language is thought to lead to new word uptake, the gains reported in reading studies are appallingly low. In explanation, two possible culprits were suggested: (a) tests insensitive to words only partially acquired from reading and (b) dull and poor-quality texts which failed to inspire worthwhile inferencing and new word learning. Our purpose then was to investigate new word learning in reading situations modified in two ways. Firstly, we suggested tests using word associations. These would allow freedom of response choice and would also usefully enable rich scoring procedures to be employed based on English native-speaker ratings and association norms. Secondly, we suggested that texts deliberately been made under-helpful or demanding might stimulate effective inferencing, coaxing better new learning. In a series of new word learning studies employing texts with controlled demandingness, we predicted that demanding texts would produce better new word learning than less demanding ones. Our hypothesis was not supported: weak and non-significant Text Type effects were produced. Unexpectedly, subsequent re-analysis of the data consistently produced large and highly significant Word Set effects. This suggested that some target words were more difficult to learn than others, even though the new word sets and been carefully controlled and matched for difficulty according to conventional standards. We concluded that orthographic factors exerted a considerable, yet elusive, influence on new word learning. The relative performance of our scoring method based on native-speaker association norms was disappointing. We attributed this to the remoteness of the native-speakers from the subjects' English learning context. Our conclusion was that the use of non-native speaker association data might be one remedy worth future investigation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available