Conceptual transfer and second language vocabulary acquisition : evidence from young adult Chinese learners of English

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Conceptual transfer and second language vocabulary acquisition : evidence from young adult Chinese learners of English

 

Author: HE, Xuehong
Title: Conceptual transfer and second language vocabulary acquisition : evidence from young adult Chinese learners of English
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2015
Subject: Second language acquisition -- Study and teaching.
Vocabulary -- Study and teaching.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of English
Pages: x, 172 pages : illustrations (some color)
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2825779
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/8198
Abstract: This study focuses on conceptual transfer in L2 vocabulary acquisition and investigates the interactions between conceptual relationship and level of difficulty, between conceptual relationship and receptive and productive vocabulary knowledge, and between conceptual transfer and learning numeral meanings of nouns. By accessing L2 learners' mental lexicon, this study tries to reveal how conceptual differences between L1 and L2 could account for different outcomes of L2 vocabulary learning. One hundred and forty-two college freshmen majoring in English from mainland China participated in data collection and completed an elicited narrative task, a forced-choice task, and an adapted language history questionnaire. Their productive vocabulary knowledge, receptive vocabulary knowledge, and language background were assessed by these tasks respectively. Data from the elicited narrative task and the forced-choice task were analyzed quantitatively, and further analysis based on the qualitative data that had been quantified was conducted for the elicited narrative task. Results show that for L2 words with lexicalized concepts, conceptual equivalence may pose the least difficulty for learning receptive and productive vocabulary knowledge. Partial equivalence may cause the greatest difficulty for learning receptive knowledge, while non-equivalence may be the most difficult for learning productive knowledge. For numeral meanings of L2 nouns, countability and plurality may be two major sources of conceptual transfer. Within these sources, words can be further divided into four groups: countable without s (CWS), uncountable as countable (UAC), plural without s (PWS), and with s but singular (WSS), with the probability of conceptual transfer increasing from CWS, PWS, WSS, to UAC. Another form of conceptual transfer due to plurality can be the collocations between the classifier pair and L2 nouns: the collocations may be more likely to take place with words sharing the same plural status with its Chinese translation equivalents than words that do not. Findings from this study support the Modified Hierarchical Model (Pavlenko, 2009) and can provide empirical evidence for its refinement and elaboration. Results also indicate that in the teaching and learning of L2 vocabulary, conceptual transfer should be taken into consideration and the focus of teaching and learning needs to be tailored. For words with partial equivalence, teachers and learners need to devote more efforts to making clear differentiations between L1 and L2 translation equivalents, and for words with non-equivalence, their main task is to establish L2-specific categories. When teaching numeral meanings of L2 nouns, teachers need to provide not only grammatical rules but also explicit comparisons of different treatments to numeral meanings of nouns between L1 and L2, so as to arouse learners' awareness of conceptual differences.

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