Melanie C. Gonzalez
December 18, 2013
Vocab@Vic
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Introduction
Many second language (L2) learners lack sufficient vocabulary
knowledge to meet the academic demands of unive...
Background
Vocabulary size: frequency-based number of words in essay’s lexicon
• Learners with larger vocabulary sizes use...
Research Questions
1.

Are there significant differences between advanced NNS learners’
and NS learners’ measures of vocab...
Methods
• Description of the Sample:
• 104 advanced NNS academic essays, 68 NS academic essays (N =
172) collected from si...
Descriptive Results

1 NS essay scored a 4
8 NNS essays scored a 5
Research Question 1
RQ1: Are there significant differences between advanced NNS
learners’ and NS learners’ measures of voc...
Research Question 2
RQ: Is there a significant relationship between vocabulary size
and lexical diversity?
Results:
• A mo...
Research Question 3
RQ: Is vocabulary size or lexical diversity a greater predictor of writing
score in NNS and NS college...
Discussion

Figure 1. Lexical Diversity

Figure 2. Vocabulary Size

Writers’ vocabulary size helps in the beginning to adv...
Significance of the Findings
• Offers further explanation of vocabulary criteria for assessment rubrics

• Suggests that m...
Implications for Practice
• Highlights the importance of vocabulary instruction in the composition
classroom, even for adv...
Limitations
• Text length, task topic, and writing genre presents challenges to any study
of lexical diversity
• CELEX fre...
Future Directions
• Study assignments from intact freshman composition courses that contain
both NNS and NS

• Control for...
Questions?

Thank you!
Contact information:

gonzalezmelaniec@gmail.com
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The relationship between vocabulary size and diversity in L2 writing (Vocab@Vic Presentation on 12/18/2013)

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Abstract:
Although vocabulary has long been an important criterion for assessing second language (L2) writing proficiency, recent research on academic discourse has positioned word study as a leading method to improve learner writing. As a result, teachers must make decisions on which words warrant instructional time and how to help learners deploy these words effectively in production. While there has been a growing trend in research investigating word lists, comparatively fewer studies have examined how words are actually used to achieve writing quality.

Thus, the present paper reports the findings of a quantitative study that examined the extent to which vocabulary size and lexical diversity contributed to writing scores on 172 native and advanced non-native English speakers’ academic essays. Results revealed that lexical diversity had a significantly greater impact on writing score than vocabulary size in both native and non-native speaker essays. Nevertheless, vocabulary size did initially facilitate writing scores at the lower score levels; however, it was lexical diversity that promoted an essay into the higher score range. Additional findings demonstrated that vocabulary size had only a moderate relationship to lexical diversity.

Outcomes from this study suggest that variation of mid-range vocabulary may play a more important role in writing proficiency than the use of infrequent terms that signal a larger productive lexicon. Furthermore, the results indicate that it is not enough to simply teach vocabulary words in the L2 composition classroom, but to also guide learners in how to employ these words in a varied manner within their writing.

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The relationship between vocabulary size and diversity in L2 writing (Vocab@Vic Presentation on 12/18/2013)

  1. 1. Melanie C. Gonzalez December 18, 2013 Vocab@Vic Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2. Introduction Many second language (L2) learners lack sufficient vocabulary knowledge to meet the academic demands of university-level writing tasks (Ferris, 1994; Laufer, 1994; Laufer & Nation, 1995; Ruegg, Fritz, & Holland, 2011) What does this gap in productive word knowledge look like? Is it just a problem solved by teaching and learning more words? Or is it more?
  3. 3. Background Vocabulary size: frequency-based number of words in essay’s lexicon • Learners with larger vocabulary sizes used fewer higher-frequency words and more academic and uncommon words in their compositions (Laufer & Nation, 1995) • Significant correlations between learners’ vocabulary size and measures of writing quality (Agustin Llach & Gallego, 2009; Albrechtsen, Haastrup, & Henriksen, 2008; Crossley & McNamara, 2009; Staehr, 2008) Lexical diversity: varied use of different words in writing • Tended to be the strongest predictor of writing quality (de Haan & van Esch; 2005; Grobe, 1981; Linnerud, 1986; Crossley & McCarthy, 2009; Crossley, McNamara, & Jarvis, 2010; Schoonen, et al., 2003) • There is an assumption that the ability to vary words in discourse requires a large vocabulary size (Laufer, 1994)
  4. 4. Research Questions 1. Are there significant differences between advanced NNS learners’ and NS learners’ measures of vocabulary size and lexical diversity as evidenced in samples of their academic writing? 1. Is there a relationship between vocabulary size and lexical diversity? 2. Is vocabulary size or lexical diversity a greater predictor of writing score in NNS and NS college writing?
  5. 5. Methods • Description of the Sample: • 104 advanced NNS academic essays, 68 NS academic essays (N = 172) collected from six intensive English writing programs in the U.S. • Spanned 14 different L1s and 7 writing genres • 3 raters • Instruments: • MTLD – typical score range between 70 and 120 • Voc-D – range is highly variable • CELEX – score range 0 to 6; 0 = rarest words, 6 = common words • Available within the Coh-Metrix 3.0 computational linguistics tool • TOEFL iBT Writing Rubric – score range 0 to 5; 0 = lowest score, 5 = highest proficiency
  6. 6. Descriptive Results 1 NS essay scored a 4 8 NNS essays scored a 5
  7. 7. Research Question 1 RQ1: Are there significant differences between advanced NNS learners’ and NS learners’ measures of vocabulary size and lexical diversity? Results: • NS texts exhibited significantly higher levels of lexical diversity and used lower-frequency words than NNS (F3, 168 = 20.30, p < .05, η2 = .27) • Voc-D showed the greatest differences (F3, 168 = 55.02, p < .05, η2 =.25) • For NS texts, only the MTLD was able to detect differences (F1, 66 = 4.17, p < .05, η2 = .06) Native speakers’ vary their words more and produce less common words than non-native speakers.
  8. 8. Research Question 2 RQ: Is there a significant relationship between vocabulary size and lexical diversity? Results: • A moderate correlation between vocabulary size and lexical diversity existed in the sample (MTLD [r = −.44, p < .001]; voc-D [r = −.46, p < .001]) • Split-file analysis shows that for NS, the correlation is a little less (MTLD [r = −.36, p < .05]; voc-D [r = −.31, p < .05]) Essays with greater lexical diversity utilized lower-frequency words, but only to a moderate degree.
  9. 9. Research Question 3 RQ: Is vocabulary size or lexical diversity a greater predictor of writing score in NNS and NS college writing? Results: • Lexical diversity was the only significant contributor to the model for both NS and NNS writings (Exp[B] = 1.07, p < .001). • Although both the MTLD and CELEX scores significantly differed by each score level (F6, 336 = 10.61, p < .001, η2 = .16), only the MTLD accounted for a greater amount of the variation in ratings (F3, 168 = 21.66, p < .001, η2 = .28). As lexical diversity within an essay increased, so did its likelihood of earning a score of 5.
  10. 10. Discussion Figure 1. Lexical Diversity Figure 2. Vocabulary Size Writers’ vocabulary size helps in the beginning to advance score from level 2 to 3, but it is their ability to diversify lexis that pushes the composition’s quality into the 4 to 5 range.
  11. 11. Significance of the Findings • Offers further explanation of vocabulary criteria for assessment rubrics • Suggests that mid-range vocabulary words could account for some of the differences between native speaker and non-native speaker writers’ ratings • Indicates that vocabulary instruction needs to go beyond growing advanced learner lexicons and teach advanced NNS writers how to vary these words in composition • Offers some validation of the MTLD; it performed well despite large variation in text length
  12. 12. Implications for Practice • Highlights the importance of vocabulary instruction in the composition classroom, even for advanced learners • Instruction should not only focus on expanding learner lexicons in the midfrequency range, but also how to diversify these words in production • Help interpret vocabulary benchmarks such as “appropriate word choice”, “sufficient range of vocabulary”, or “control of lexical features” • Allow for instructors to give more targeted feedback
  13. 13. Limitations • Text length, task topic, and writing genre presents challenges to any study of lexical diversity • CELEX frequency bands were created in 1995; it is possible that word frequencies have changed • No covariates • Generalizability due to demographics of the sample
  14. 14. Future Directions • Study assignments from intact freshman composition courses that contain both NNS and NS • Control for covariates such as text length, grammar, cohesion, lexical error, or other factors that relate to writing quality • Qualitative component to raters’ scores • Include an independent measure of productive vocabulary size such as a productive version of Nation’s Vocabulary Size Test; also correlate CELEX frequencies to BNC/COCA • Examine lexical density, or content words, and its impact on writing quality
  15. 15. Questions? Thank you! Contact information: gonzalezmelaniec@gmail.com
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