Developing linguistics competence: The most important aspects of word knowledge. synonymy (e.g. hide / conceal) antonymy (e.g.

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1 Developing linguistics competence: Vocabulary The most important aspects of word knowledge 1. form (spoken & written, i.e. spelling & pronunciation) 2. word structure (common derivations, inflections) 3. syntactic pattern of the word in a phrase and a sentence 4. meaning referential (what non-linguistic entity in the outside world the word refers to) affective (connotation of a word, e.g. spinster, which unlike single woman is associated with old age, isolation, or sadness) pragmatic (suitability of the word in a particular situation, e.g. I have three offspring would be unsuitable in an everyday conversation) 5. lexical relations of the word with other words: synonymy (e.g. hide / conceal) antonymy (e.g. single / married) hyponymy (e.g. flower / rose) 6. common collocations (e.g. a high probability, but a good chance) Source: Laufer, B What s in a word that makes it hard or easy: some intralexical factors that affect the learning of words. In: N. Schmitt & M. McCarthy (Eds.) Vocabulary: description, acquisition and pedagogy (pp ). Cambridge: CUP. 1

2 Factors affecting word learnability: Vocab learning not random, rather subject to certain regularities. Acquisition of lexis influenced by two major variables: 1. Interlexical: variables related to the interaction between the new word and words the learner knows in L1 or L2. 2. Intralexical: a set of variables stemming from the word itself. Interlexical factors: Two major types of relationship between target words and words in L1: 1. similarity of form of L1 and L2 words. 2. meaning relations between words in l1 and l2. Similarity of form 1. COGNATES: words that are similar both in form and meaning in the same context. For example, martyr and mártír in Hungarian (also exotic vs. egzotikus, emancipation vs. emancipáció). 2. FALSE OR DECEPTIVE COGNATES: words similar in form but different in meaning. For instance, sympathetic (>understanding) vs. szimpatikus (>appealing); fantasy (something very strange appearing in your dreams / imagination) vs. fantázia (imagination) False cognates cause problems for learners as they often tend to associate similarity of form with similarity of meaning in L1 and L2.. Meaning relations between words in L1 and L2 It is a naïve but common assumption that all languages have vocabulary systems in which words are different in their form but basically refer to reality in the same way. In other words, each word in L2 has an exact equivalent in L1. We have already seen that this is definitely not the case with false cognates. Connotations Also, there are words that have different connotations in L2 and L1. In English adequate very often has a strong negative connotation, of something being enough, but only just. It is in fact normally used as a criticism. Thus, megfelelő may not be the proper equivalent for this word in all contexts, as it does not have a negative connotation in Hungarian. Similarly, propaganda in English is the means a government uses to make the general public believe what the government wants them to believe, whether it is true or false. Thus, this word is primarily used in a derogatory sense. The same word in Hungarian (propaganda), however, can also be used in the sense of publicity. Collocational differences Some words in L2 can have strange meaning. For example, in American English first floor means number one at ground level. In British English, cream tea is not understood as tea you drink with whipped cream but it refers to a full 2

3 meal that consists of a scone, some jam, butter and whipped cream which you eat while drinking English tea with milk. These strange meanings are usually culturally motivated. Collocational differences between L1 and L2 may cause errors. They usually occur when the learner relates the new items in L2 to concepts and meanings in the L1. Example for such misuse of collocations may include Hunglish sentences such as * How do you call this in English? (compare What do you call this in English? with Hogy hívják ezt angolul?) * I have a good connection with my boss. (connection in English should not be used in talking about the feelings between people, use relations or relationship instead) Intralexical factors affecting vocabulary learning: FACILITATING FACTORS DIFFICULTY-INDUCING FACTORS Familiar phonemes Regularity in pronunciation Fixed stress Consistency of sound-script relationship Inflextional regularity Presence of foreign phonemes Irregularity in pronunciation Variable stress Incongruency in sound-script relationship (consider e.g. the letter o in love, chose, woman, women) Inflexional complexity (e.g. a criterion > criteria) Derivational regularity Morphological transparency (e.g. mis-manage-ment) Generality (the word can be used in a large number of context) Register neutrality One form for one meaning Derivational complexity (e.g. authentic vs. inauthentic, and not *unauthentic) Deceptive morphological transparency (e.g. disagree, dislike vs. discourse) Similarity of lexical forms (e.g. historical/historic, affect/effect, industrial/industrious) Specificity (the word can only be used in specific contexts) Register restrictions, idiomaticity One form with several meanings Source: Laufer, 1997, p See full reference above. 3

4 Stages of vocabulary learning: 1st essential step: encountering new words. If learners are motivated to learn certain words out of interest or need, they are likely to be learnt more easily. The way or context in which a word is presented as well as the number of times a word is encountered will affect whether it is learnt or not. Learners seem to need various encounters with the same word in multiple sources rather than in just one source. 2nd step: getting a clear image of the form of the vocabulary item. This image may be visual or auditory or both. Very often learners tend to associate new words with words that sound / look similar in their L1 or even L2 (or sometimes L3). Problems for learners arising from words similar in form have been found as a major problem for language learners, especially in such cases where L2 and L1 both use the Roman alphabet and the two languages are closely related historically. 3rd step: getting the word meaning. The level of distinctions that must be made in word definitions vary across situations and learner levels. Low level learners may be satisfied to grasp quite general meanings while advanced learners need more specific definitions in order to be able to see differences between near synonyms. 4th step: consolidation of form and meaning in memory. Various memory strategies (see in Oxford, R Language Learning Strategies. Newbury House) are available that help consolidate the connection between word form and meaning. 5th step: using the words. Ensures that learners gain confidence as autonomous language users, but at the same time they can refine their language knowledge in general. Stages of presenting vocabulary 1. Setting up a context, which is relevant to learners interest and age, builds on or incorporates learners experience. 2. Elicitation of the target vocabulary item (i.e. trying to get the target item from the learners first) in order to enhance their involvement as well as to help them fit the new item in their existing vocabulary knowledge. 3. Choral and/or individual repetition (this may be optional at higher levels) in order to standardise pronunciation. 4. Consolidation / concept check questions, which are aimed to check whether meaning has been properly understood and to provide further meaningful opportunities for learners to use the item in context. 5. Board record for later reference. 4

5 Techniques for presenting and/or eliciting vocabulary: Visual techniques Verbal techniques Miscellaneous flashcards miming blackboards drawings gestures realia wallcharts scales illustrative situation contrasts illustrative examples synonyms definitions opposites translation contextual guesswork peer teaching dictionaries (from Gairns, R. & Redman, S Working With Words. CUP.) Practising vocabulary: Having used any of the vocabulary presentation techniques in class, we cannot really say that learners have learnt the new items. Encountering a new vocabulary item once will not guarantee that it will be remembered. Learners need plenty of opportunities in order to acquire a new vocabulary item. In a vocabulary presentation lesson, the teacher should provide meaningful controlled practice for learners so that they could recognise, manipulate and use the new vocabulary items. Vocabulary practice should be regular, carefully planned and should not involve too many words at one time. Many simple vocabulary practice activities are based around the following ideas (Scrivener, J Learning Teaching. Heinemann. p. 83): discussions, communicative activities and role-play requiring use of the words making use of the vocabulary in written tasks More specific exercise types: matching pictures to words matching parts of words to other parts, e.g. beginnings and endings matching words to other words, e.g. collocations, synonyms, opposites, sets of related words, etc. using prefixes and suffixes to build new words from given words classifying items into lists using given words to complete a specific task filling in crosswords, grids or diagrams filling in gaps in sentences memory games The importance of recycling previously presented vocabulary is obvious. Revision activities can easily be incorporated into the lesson by way of five-minute activities or warmers. These activities can successfully aid students recall of the new words and develop their retrieval systems. Vocabulary revision activities: listing or categorising items, vocabulary quizzes, noughts and crosses, brainstorming round an idea, guessing games, etc. 5

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