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Title: The effects of semantic clustering in L2 word learning : evidence from an action research study
Author: Papathanasiou, Evagelia
ISNI:       0000 0001 3467 0852
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2007
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In recent years, contradictory advice to teachers has been emerging from studies into the use of semantic links or networks in classroom materials and activities for vocabulary learning in a L2. There is some experimental evidence which suggests that learning semantically related words (e.g., body parts) at the same time makes learning more difficult (Tinkham, 1993, 1997; Waring, 1997; Finkbeiner, Nicol, 2003). There is also a theoretical framework that strongly supports the idea that it is very useful to present words of related meaning together so that learners can see the distinctions between them and gain a complete coverage of the defined area of meaning (Channell, 1981, 1990; Neuner, 1992; Dunbar, 1992). The following paradox appears: while the experimental evidence suggests that semantically related vocabulary does not help vocabulary learning, the EFL coursebook-writers present vocabulary in semantic clusters. The experimental evidence mainly derives from research using artificial language and not a natural L2. The purpose of our research is to investigate which of the two contrasting views will prove to be a useful tool in L2 vocabulary learning. The present study was influenced by action research. It was conducted in EFL classrooms with natural learners in Greece. The subjects were 31 intermediate EFL children and 32 beginners EFL adults. Two different ways of organizing new vocabulary for presentation were employed: a) presenting semantically related words (topic-related vocabulary i.e. mugging, terrorism,jorgery, synonyms, antonyms or homonyms) together at the same time, and b) presenting vocabulary in an unrelated fashion (i.e. carpenter, tornado, sage). Short and long-term tests were administered to the students. The presentation will focus on the main conclusion that semantically related vocabulary impedes L2 vocabulary learning. Adult beginners performed significantly better on the unrelated vocabulary test compared to their performance on the related vocabulary test. Word frequency (in language) when combined with unrelated presentation of new L2 vocabulary appears to make a difference in students' performance.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available