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Title: Measuring and assessing L2 English spoken vocabulary : insights from Chinese candidates
Author: Li, Hui
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 905X
Awarding Body: Swansea University
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2008
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Much research on vocabulary to date has contributed to examining vocabulary in written contexts. Vocabulary assessment in spoken contexts, however, has just recently become a burgeoning field for both vocabulary researchers and language testers. Few empirical studies to date have addressed the issue of how vocabulary is assessed in oral examinations. Consequently, little is known about what components of vocabulary knowledge contribute most to L2 English learners' oral proficiency, or whether candidates' vocabulary production is related to raters' subjective assessment of vocabulary in oral examinations. Two arguments are raised in this thesis pertaining to measuring and assessing spoken vocabulary: (1) effectiveness of some vocabulary measures; and (2) vocabulary as a discrete construct in oral examinations. Candidates' spoken vocabulary was investigated in two oral situations: oral proficiency interview (dialogic) and storytelling (monologic) tasks. Vocabulary measures i.e. types, tokens, TTR, D, Vocabulary profile and PLex were employed for an overview of candidates' vocabulary production. Most lexical measures used were able to discriminate at different proficiency levels in both tasks. The results also revealed, however, restrictions on some of the lexical measures in oral contexts. These measures were further used as benchmark statistics of candidates' spoken vocabulary production to compare against raters' subjective assessments of candidates' vocabulary, which was assessed by raters as a discrete construct in six empirical experiments. The scores raters provided, nonetheless, were found to relate more closely to candidates' overall language proficiency than to their lexical statistics. This, without a doubt, raises questions of the reliability of vocabulary scores in oral examinations. Six empirical studies are presented in this thesis, with a combined/mixed method approach (quantitative and qualitative) to data analysis. Experimental segmental ratings, which present a new method of recording and of exploring raters' cognitive process in handling oral data, are adopted to explore raters' decision-making process in assessing vocabulary. The studies in this thesis not only enrich the knowledge of vocabulary measures examined in oral contexts, but raise quite a few concerns in view of vocabulary assessment in oral examinations, e.g. the application of 'range of vocabulary' may be problematic as a stand-alone measure of candidates' lexical resources in oral contexts. The findings in this thesis, together with its overall critical review of the current standing of vocabulary assessment in oral examinations, call for more empirical research of examining vocabulary in spoken contexts, and demand further in-depth investigations of the relationship between the development of L2 learners' lexical proficiency and that of their oral language proficiency.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available