上海交大“985 工程”外语学院二语习得研究平台 > Ph.D Programs > 大学英语专业学生词汇能力发展研究

大学英语专业学生词汇能力发展研究

2008-11-18 19:38 来源: 作者: 网友评论 0 条 浏览次数 3103

大学英语专业学生词汇能力发展研究

崔嫣嫣

 

导师:王同顺 教授

 

本研究的主要目的在于揭示中国英语专业学生词汇能力的发展路径与特点。基于前人的理论与实证研究,本文提出了二语词汇能力的概念框架,该框架包括四个维度:词汇量(产出性与接受性)、词汇深度知识(产出性与接受性)、词汇组织模式、词汇语义自主。本研究重点考察以上四个维度在大学英语专业学习阶段的发展模式以及发展过程中四者之间的相互关系。

山东某大学一至四年级16个自然班的412名英语专业学生参加了本次调查。接受性词汇量采用Schmitt 等人设计的词汇水平测试测量。本文使用词汇频率概貌分析软件RANGE和语料库分析软件WordSmith考察学生限时作文中的词汇使用情况,揭示产出性词汇量的发展特点。词汇深度知识的测量采用Read开发的测试。词汇组织模式的发展使用自由词汇联想测试考察,试卷中40个刺激词选自Kent-Rosanoff 联想词表。词汇语义自主使用语义相关性判断测试测量。397名学生完成了全部测试项目,按照分层随机抽样方式,每个年级抽取50名学生作为本文的研究对象。

通过分析从一至四年级200个研究对象中取得的数据,本研究得出以下主要结论:  

一、英语专业一至四年级学生的接受性词汇量呈现出线性发展的趋势,每个学年词汇量都有显著增长,平均每年增加1,200词族左右。与低年级学生相比,高年级学生接受性词汇量的组内差异较大。此外,低年级学生接受性词汇量的增长主要体现在高频词族的习得上,而高年级学生的词汇增长主要集中在低频词族上。这一结果从一定程度上揭示出词汇习得与词频的关系,即高频词族优先习得,然后学习低频词族。当然,这并不意味着学生把某个层次的高频词族全部学会后再学习低频词族,而是在一定程度上交叉进行,只是在某些词频层次上的增长达不到统计学上的显著意义。

二、产出性词汇量的发展采用语料库研究方法分析学生作文中的词汇频率概貌与词汇丰富程度。研究结果表明:一、二年级与三、四年级在使用低频词族上有显著差异,高年级学生在作文中使用低频词族较多。而一年级与二年级、三年级与四年级并无显著差异。这意味着与接受性词汇量的发展相比,产出性词汇量发展较缓慢,要经历两年左右的时间才能达到显著增长(例如从大学一年级到三年级),而且容易出现“高原现象”。为了从更多层面分析学生产出性词汇的特点,我们运用Wordsmith考察了四组学生作文综合文本的标准型/次比与词长。三年级和四年级的标准型/次比明显高于一年级与二年级,这说明高年级学生的作文中词汇重复性小; 而低年级的学生则有较多词汇重复现象。研究还发现二年级与四年级的标准型/次比并不分别高于一年级与三年级,这样的结果与使用RANGE分析的学生低频词族产出情况是一致的,即:一、二年级之间没有显著差异,三、四年级之间也没有差异。平均词长随着年级的升高有所提高,从7字母词开始,三、四年级使用长词的频数逐渐增加,超过了一、二年级。

三、词汇深度知识的发展有别于接受性词汇量与产出性词汇量的发展,从一年级到三年级词汇深度知识逐年增长,而从三年级到四年级这种发展趋势渐渐消失。低年级学生词汇深度知识的组内差异较大,而随着年级的升高,组内差异逐渐缩小。可见,接受性词汇量、产出性词汇量与词汇深度知识发展路径和速度是不同的,词汇深度知识的发展在三、四年级之间出现了“僵化”现象与停滞趋势。研究还发现,词汇意义与搭配作为词汇深度知识的两个组成部分,其发展过程具有相关性。

四、本研究采用自由词汇联想调查二语心理词汇组织模式的发展,总的发展趋势是高年级学生能产出更多的语义联想,说明其心理词汇的组织主要基于词汇的概念意义;而低年级学生的语音联想与无反应的比例超过高年级学生,说明语音在其心理词汇组织中还起着较大的作用。语言水平固然影响心理词汇的组织模式,词汇频率与词汇本身具有的语义与文化特征也对词汇组织模式产生一定的影响。低频词、抽象词与具有特定文化内涵的词容易引发学生的语音反应,同时词汇误认现象也经常发生。四个学习阶段的学生都产出了数量不等的与刺激词属于同一词族的反应词。与低年级学生相比,高年级学生能产出更多较为复杂、抽象的组合与聚合反应词。

五、考察词汇能力各维度之间的关系也是本研究的重点,研究结果显示接受性词汇量、产出性词汇量、词汇深度知识与词汇组织模式在发展过程中具有显著正相关。据此我们认为在词汇能力的发展过程中,四者之间的发展相互联系、相互制约。换言之,某一维度能力突出,其他维度也会相应地发展。

六、尽管从一年级到四年级接受性词汇量、产出性词汇量、词汇深度知识与词汇组织模式都有不同程度的发展,但四个年级研究对象的词汇语义并没有获得自主性,他们在提取二语词汇时还无一例外地受母语语义系统的干扰。这一结果揭示了二语词汇发展中克服母语语义系统的影响是一个漫长的过程,应采用适当的教学手段,结合质优量足的语言输入与数据驱动的学习方式,消除词汇习得过程中的语义僵化现象。

本研究对词汇习得的理论建设与研究方法以及教学实践具有一定的启示意义。本文构建的二语词汇能力的概念框架可以指导词汇研究与教学,综合利用多种成熟的测试手段考察词汇能力的发展也为今后的研究提供了新的思路。在教学实践中,大纲设计人员、教材开发人员、教师与学生应该认识到词汇能力是个多维概念,词汇能力的发展是指多个维度的平衡发展。因此,要设计平衡的词汇课程,鼓励学生在语言产出中及时使用新学到的词汇,加深词汇深度知识,加速接受性词汇向产出性词汇转化的进程。采用显性的词汇教学与数据驱动的学习方式,帮助学生建立合理的心理词汇组织模式,克服母语语义系统的干扰,促进二语词汇能力的发展。

总之,本研究是对中国英语专业学生词汇能力各维度发展的一次尝试性探索,无论是研究角度,还是研究方法,都有别于国内外的相关研究。作者希望本文的研究发现能在一定程度上揭示出我国英语专业学习者词汇能力发展的特点与规律,以便在教学中不断寻找适宜的方法,使课堂环境下英语词汇教学更具有系统性、目的性与实效性。

 

关键词:词汇能力,接受性词汇量,产出性词汇量,词汇深度知识,词汇组织模式,词汇语义自主

Abstract

 

This dissertation constitutes an attempt to explore the developmental features of lexical competence on the part of tertiary English majors in China. Built on the collective strengths of previous theoretical and empirical studies, a tentative conceptual framework of lexical competence in the foreign language classroom setting has been specifically constructed for the present research, which consists of four measurable dimensions, viz. vocabulary size (receptive and productive), depth of vocabulary knowledge (receptive and productive), lexical organization, and lexical semantic autonomy. Then research efforts have been made to investigate the developments of the four aforementioned dimensions and the relationships among them.

Four hundred and twelve English majors from 16 intact classes from Year One through Year Four in a university in China participated in the cross-sectional investigation, and data were collected on the four dimensions of lexical competence. The Vocabulary Levels Test developed by Schmitt et al. (2001) was employed to measure the learners’ receptive vocabulary size. RANGE and WordSmith Tools were exploited to process the timed compositions produced by the students. Lexical frequency profile and lexical diversity obtained from such analysis were considered as the indicators of the development of productive vocabulary size. An established test constructed by Read (1998) was used to assess the participants’ depth of vocabulary knowledge. Lexical organization was gauged by a word association test containing 40 stimulus words strictly selected from Kent-Rosanoff word association list. Lexical semantic autonomy was tackled by a semantic relatedness judgment task, which characterized the specific semantic information in an L2 lexical entry in the mental lexicon. On a stratified-random sampling basis, 200 students (50 freshmen, 50 sophomores, 50 juniors, and 50 seniors) were selected from a population of 397 students who finished all the five test instruments.

After analyzing the data obtained from the 200 subjects, the present research yields the following important findings:

(1) In respect of receptive vocabulary size, the present research has revealed that it develops in a linear pattern from Year One to Year Four. There is a significant increase in each academic year, and the average gain of vocabulary per year is approximately 1,200 word families. The higher the learning stages, the larger the variation of receptive vocabulary size. From Year One to Year Two, the subjects increase their vocabulary in the five word frequency levels addressed in the Vocabulary Levels Test while the growth of receptive vocabulary size for the Year Three and Year Four subjects mainly occurs in the low frequency word levels like 5,000 word level or 10,000 word level. Another feature is that the subjects increase their receptive vocabulary size in the diverse word frequency levels simultaneously. The Year Three and Year Four learners gain word families in the low frequency word levels as well as word families in the high frequency word levels, though the increase in some word levels does not reach statistical significance.

   (2) The development of productive vocabulary size has been investigated by adopting a corpus-based approach. The lexical frequency profile yielded by RANGE shows that Year Three and Year Four subjects use significantly more low frequency word families in the “beyond 2,000” category while Year One and Year Two subjects employ more high frequency word families in the “basic 2,000” category. Compared with the development of receptive vocabulary, the expansion of the productive vocabulary is slower in rate and prone to fossilization in the course of improvement. The lexical diversity yielded by WordSmith is in congruence with the lexical frequency profile produced by RANGE. The standardized type/token ratios from Year Three and Year Four are larger than those from Year One and Year Two. However, the differences between Year Three and Year Four and that between Year One and Year Two are not so pronounced. With regard to word length, the subjects at higher learning stages surpass those at lower learning stages in their ability of producing long words with 7 or more letters.

   (3) The development of depth of vocabulary knowledge differs from that of receptive vocabulary size and productive vocabulary size in rate and pattern. From Year One to Year Three, the subjects increase their depth of vocabulary knowledge significantly while such development stagnates from Year Three to Year Four. In contrast to the subjects at lower learning stages, those at higher learning stages are more homogeneous and less varied in their depth of vocabulary knowledge. The results also indicate that meaning and collocation, two components of depth of vocabulary knowledge, are interrelated and interdependent in their developmental routes.

(4) As an important dimension of lexical competence, the development of lexical organization has been gauged by the word association test in the present research. The general developmental pattern is that the subjects at higher learning stages produce more semantic associations than those at lower learning stages. The opposite is true for the non-semantic responses, and the subjects with less learning experiences yield more such responses than those with more learning experiences. A hasty conclusion, however, is untenable that the development of lexical organization is exclusively determined by language proficiency. Other factors such as word frequency, abstractness, and cultural strangeness exert influence on the organization of L2 mental lexicon. A close inspection of the clang-other responses shows that L2 learners often misperceive some stimulus words and thus produce unclassifiable responses. Another noticeable feature is that the L2 subjects tend to make responses belonging to the same word families as the stimuli, irrespective of their learning stages. Nevertheless, Year Three and Year Four subjects produce more sophisticated and abstract paradigmatic and syntagmatic associations than Year One and Year Two learners, indicating the possession of considerably larger and better-developed mental lexicon. Furthermore, some encyclopedic responses exhibit the influence of L1 semantic or conceptual system on the organization of L2 mental lexicon.

(5) Research findings point to the fact that receptive vocabulary size, productive vocabulary size, depth of vocabulary knowledge and lexical organization are significantly and positively interrelated with each other, denoting the interdependent developments of the different dimensions of lexical competence.

(6) Despite the obvious developments of receptive vocabulary size, productive vocabulary size, depth of vocabulary knowledge and lexical organization, the lexical semantic autonomy has not been achieved by the subjects at the four learning stages, confirming the view that L1 semantic involvement in L2 word processing is a long and constant state of L2 lexical development. Appropriate instructional interventions complemented by contextualized input from corpora can be an invaluable way to overcome semantic fossilization and promote the development of lexical semantic autonomy in L2 vocabulary acquisition.

This research has theoretical, methodological and pedagogical implications. Theoretically, the conceptual framework of L2 lexical competence constructed and substantiated in this research can act as guidelines of vocabulary research and teaching. Methodologically, the multiple-test approach adopted in this exploration may be an insightful way to gauge the development of lexical competence. Pedagogically, Chinese EFL syllabus designers, material developers, classroom teachers and learners should be informed of the multidimensional nature of lexical competence and the developmental features of the different dimensions. Consequently, vocabulary teaching and learning can be improved through raising consciousness of lexical competence and designing balanced vocabulary courses aimed at the development of receptive and productive vocabularies as well as the construction of a well-structured mental lexicon. In addition, explicit vocabulary teaching complemented by data-driven learning can be adopted to trigger the semantic restructuring and overcome the L1 semantic mediation in L2 word processing.

In short, this dissertation reports on a tentative exploration into the development of lexical competence of Chinese tertiary English majors, which is carried out in different ways and from different perspectives compared with previous research ever conducted at home and abroad. It is expected that the findings of this research will lead to a better understanding of the progress of L2 lexical competence and an improvement in vocabulary teaching and learning.

 

Key Words: lexical competence, receptive vocabulary size, productive vocabulary size, depth of vocabulary knowledge, lexical organization, lexical semantic autonomy

 

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