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The Language of Hunter-Gatherers

Edited by Tom Güldemann, Patrick McConvell, Richard A. Rhodes

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Role of Intentional Decontextualised Learning in Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition: Evidence from primed lexical decision tasks with advanced bilinguals Add Dissertation
Author: Irina Elgort Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Victoria University of Wellington, School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Completed in: 2007
Linguistic Subfield(s): Applied Linguistics; Linguistic Theories; Psycholinguistics; Language Acquisition;
Director(s): Paul Warren
Paul Nation

Abstract: This study investigates effects of intentional decontextualised learning
(IDL) on vocabulary acquisition in a second language. Three experiments
were designed to measure acquisition of a set of studied pseudowords across
the representational and processing knowledge domains, using the lexical
decision task with visually presented stimuli and three priming procedures.
In each of the three experiments, the findings were examined to test
whether the expected perceptual effects had occurred, and whether the
patterns of results observed with the newly-learned vocabulary items
aligned with low-frequency English words or with nonwords, in the same

In Experiment 1, a clear prime lexicality effect (Forster & Veres, 1998)
was revealed for the seven- and eight-letter stimuli (but not for the
nine-letter stimuli) using an unmasked form-priming procedure. In
Experiment 2, a robust masked repetition (identity) priming effect was
recorded for the newly-learned pseudowords, irrespective of their length in
letters. Taken together the results of these experiments suggest that
formal-lexical representations of the pseudowords had been established.
Experiment 2 also demonstrated that the participants were able to fluently
access representations of the newly-learned vocabulary items under
automatic task conditions. In Experiment 3, a reliable semantic priming
effect provided evidence that lexical-semantic representations of the
pseudowords had been established and that the process of their integration
into the participants' system of lexical-semantic representations had
begun. Priming generated by the pseudowords was, however, weaker and less
reliable compared to that resulting from real English word primes,
suggesting that the acquisition of lexical-semantic representations was in
its early stages. Overall, the findings that both formal-lexical and
lexical-semantic representations of the newly-learned vocabulary items had
been established and integrated into the mental lexicon of the bilingual
participants clearly demonstrate that IDL triggered acquisition of
representational knowledge of these vocabulary items. Furthermore, using
coefficient of variation (Segalowitz & Segalowitz, 1993) calculated for the
participants' response latencies in Experiments 2 and 3, it was shown that
high automaticity had been achieved by the participants in processing the
newly-learned vocabulary items, indicating that IDL can also facilitate
acquisition of the procedural aspects of the L2 vocabulary knowledge.

Implications of the findings for the learning–acquisition debate are
discussed. Evidence gathered in this study is also used to consider the
organisational structure of the L2 mental lexicon of advanced bilinguals
and the mechanisms underlying word processing in the second language.
Finally, some suggestions for high-stakes vocabulary learning in the second
language are offered.