L2 writers who lack sufficient lexical knowledge to transform their thoughts to paper may encounter barriers to the expression and communication of their ideas, thus leading to lower writing scores. Lexical differences are likely to be marked as errors by evaluators due to rater sensitivity towards comprehensibility, acceptability, and fluency when assessing L2 writing. This is in specific regards to lexical variation (diversity), sophistication (use of specialized voc), and control (purposeful and strategic use of words). All point to the need for a large lexicon.
Lexical variation is roughly calculated by counting the number of word types , or number of different words, in a text, multiplying it by 100, and then dividing the result by the number of tokens , or running word count (Laufer & Nation, 1995). The resulting figure indicates how varied a writer’s vocabulary is; that is, the larger the type-token ratio is, the more varied the vocabulary (1995). Research measuring variation and diversity of vocabulary in L2 writing state that texts that contain more repetition and a smaller set of words are perceived as lower quality than texts that contain a greater proportion of different words (Engber, 1995; Schoonen et al, 2003; Silva, 1993).
To test lexis knowledge to gauge a learner’s productive vocabulary size using frequency bands
Also looking into how receptive vocabulary size affects its productive counterpart, Staehr (2008) performed a study of 88 EFL learners in secondary school in Denmark to examine the impact of reading, listening, and writing on vocabulary size and to determine if a vocabulary threshold exists in order to read, listen, and write in the L2. Participants were given a the VLT to measure their vocabulary size, then a multiple choice reading comprehension test, a multiple choice listening comprehension test, and a writing prompt to write a job cover letter. Results provided further evidence that a large vocabulary size is critical for reading and writing and slightly less so for listening. Comparisons between the reading, listening, and writing scores revealed that knowing the most frequent 2000 word families aided participants the most on the writing test (2008). Participants whose VLT revealed they lacked knowledge in the first 2000 frequent words still were able to perform on the reading and listening tests but failed the writing portion, suggesting that the productive vocabulary threshold to succeed in writing is higher than receptive vocabulary thresholds (2008). More than half the variance in writing score was accounted for by vocabulary size, lending more insight into how many words L2 writers would need to know to perform academic writing tasks.
-Included test of receptive vocabulary to reduce this effect, measured L’s compositions and their isolated VLT -Given that the majority of tests, word lists, etc are based on word families, researcher is confident that results gained in this study can be applicable however, given that each group are composed of intact classes determined by placement tests (TOEFL score at the IEP; standardized test scores/university-acceptance), the researcher is confident this is accounted for. -Participation and attendance grades are a regular component of the classroom -Order of procedure here is crucial to compensate. Receptive test comes first. Even if they recognize a word, they still might not be able to produce it
SSLW 2012 presentation
Measuring Vocabulary Size inSecond Language Writing Melanie C. Gonzalez, University of Central Florida
Background to this presentation Research has shown that L2 writers’ use of vocabulary is an important component affecting a reader’s perception of the quality of their writing (Laufer & Nation, 1995; Ruegg, Fritz, & Holland, 2011; Silva, 1993) Lexical errors in writing are the most bothersome to raters, native speakers, university professors (Dordick, 1996; Engber, 1995; Ruegg et al., 2011; Santos, 1988) Receptive vocabulary threshold for receptive tasks such as reading has been found (Goulden, Nation, & Read, 1990; Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010; Nation, 2006) No threshold for productive vocabulary tasks in reading’s productive counterpart of writing has yet to be identified (Nation & Webb, 2011; Staehr, 2008).
Why lexicon size is important Studies looking into quality of lexis in writing have often found lexical richness to be a central component within L1 texts that often needs development in L2 and foreign language compositions (Laufer & Nation, 1995; Silva, 1993; Tiball & Treffers-Daller, 2008) The term lexical richness refers to the variation, sophistication, and control of words in production, all which require a large vocabulary (Read, 2000) L2 writers may have issues in varying their words within their writing because academic terms are less likely to be encountered in ordinary conversations (Coxhead & Byrd, 2007)
Objectives of this presentation To gain a clearer picture of the impact of vocabulary size on L2 writing quality To examine the state of the research on productive vocabulary size issues Avenues for further research
1: Instruments testing productive vocabulary sizeTest PsychometricsThe Productive Vocabulary Levels Test Solicits vocabulary knowledge within a(Laufer & Nation,1999) sentence with only first few letters of target item given; Cronbach’s alpha of .92-.96%The Lexical Frequency Profile (Laufer, 1994); Calculates a vocabulary size score using aRANGE (Nation & Heatley, 2002) computer counter to sort compositions by frequency band; reliability has been debated (see Collins & Edwards, 2010; Meara, 2005)Coh Metrix Text analyzer that profiles vocabulary size(Crossley & McNamara, 2009) with a range of analyses such as lexical diversity or word frequency; r = .86 interrater reliability
2: Vocabulary affects qualityStudy Purpose Participants ResultsSantos To find out professors’ 178 university instructors Professors rated(1988) perceptions of nonnative asked to read and rate two vocabulary as the gravest English speaker problem, stressing the compositions importance of word choice and useFerris To explore lexical and Corpus of 160 ESL student Number of words,(1994) syntactic features placement exam essays synonymy/antonymy, common in L2 writing and word length equaled higher scores; higher proficiency writers used varied word choiceDordick To examine what types of 289 native-speaking Versions containing(1996) written errors interfere college students asked to lexical errors such as poor with reading read 10 different versions word choice or form comprehension of essays with varying interfered the most with errors reader comprehension
3: A productive vocabularythresholdStudy Purpose Participants ResultsLaufer To compare ESL learners’ 1 group of 26 tenth Indicated that receptive(1998) growth in receptive and graders and 1 group of 22 vocabulary knowledge productive vocabulary eleventh graders in EFL grows fast, but does sizes over time high school always transfer to written production suggestingStaehr To examine vocabulary 88 EFL learners in a revealed that knowing the(2008) size in reading, listening, secondary school in most frequent 2000 word and writing Denmark families aided participants the most on the writing testWebb To see if receptive 83 Japanese EFL students Receptive vocabulary size(2008) vocabulary size could at a Japanese university is larger than productive predict the size of a vocabulary size; learners learner’s productive with a larger receptive vocabulary vocabulary are likely to be able to use those words in production than learners with a smaller receptive
Limitations in vocabulary sizestudies Productive vocabulary size is a tricky construct to measure for writers do not produce all the words they know in a given task Instruments count words according to word families; some research suggest counting lemmas are a better counting unit for measuring productive vocabulary size (Nation & Webb, 2011)
Potential implications & furtherresearch Measuring L2 writers’ vocabulary size could could serve as a diagnostic test for appropriate placement in courses and writing interventions Justification for including vocabulary-enriching exercises in the classroom to solicit receptive knowledge and apply learners’ lexical knowledge A productive vocabulary threshold for instructors and learners to reach in order to meet academic writing standards
References Coxhead, A. &Byrd, P. (2007). Preparing writing teachers to teach the vocabulary and grammar of academic prose. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16(3), 129-147. Crossley, S.A. & McNamara, D.S. (2009). Computational assessment of lexical differences in L1 and L2 writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 18(2), 119-135. Dordick, M. (1996). Testing for a hierarchy of the communicative interference of errors. System, 24(3), 299-308. Edwards, R. & Collins, L. (2011). Lexical frequency profiles and Zipfs law. Language Learning, 61(1), 1-30. doi: 10.111 1/ j.1467-9922.2010.00616.x Engber, C. (1995). The relationship of lexical proficiency to the quality of ESL compositions. Journal of Second Language Writing, 4(2), 139-155. Ferris, D. (1994). Lexical and syntactic features of ESL writing by students at different levels of L2 proficiency. TESOL Quarterly, 28(2), 414-420. Folse, K. (2008). Myth 1: Teaching vocabulary is not the writing teacher’s job. In J. Reid (Ed.) Writing myths: Applying Second Language Research to classroom teaching (pp.1-17). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Goulden, R., Nation, P., & Read, J. (1990). How large can a receptive vocabulary be? Applied Linguistics, 11, 341-363. Laufer, B. (1994). The lexical profile of second language writing: Does it change over time? RELC Journal, 25(2), 21-33. Laufer, B. (1998). Development of passive and active vocabulary in a second language: Same of different? Applied Linguistics, 19(2), 255-271. Laufer, B. & Nation, I.S.P. (1995). Vocabulary size and use: Lexical richness in L2 written production. Applied Linguistics, 16(3), 307-322. Laufer, B. & Nation, I.S.P. (1999). A vocabulary-size test of controlled productive ability. Language Testing, 16(1), 33-51. Laufer, B. & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, G. (2010). Lexical threshold revisited: Lexical text coverage, learners’ vocabulary size and reading comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 22(1), 15-30.
References Meara, P. (2005). Lexical frequency profiles: A Monte Carlo analysis. Applied Linguistics, 26(1), 32-47. doi:10.1093/applin/amh037 Nation, I.S.P. (2006). How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening? The Canadian Modern LanguageReview, 63(1), 59-82. Nation, I.S.P. & Webb, S. (2011). Researching and analyzing vocabulary. Boston: Heinle-Cengage. Read, J. (2000). Assessing vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ruegg, R., Fritz, E., & Holland, J. (2011). Rater sensitivities to qualities of lexis in writing. TESOL Quarterly, 45(1), 63-80. Santos, T. (1988). Professor’s reactions to the academic writing of non-native-speaking students. TESOL Quarterly, 22(1),69-90. Silva, T. (1993). Toward an understanding of the distinct nature of L2 writing: The ESL research and its implications.TESOL Quarterly, 27(4), 657-677. Staehr, L.S. (2008). Vocabulary size and the skills of listening, reading and writing. Language Learning Journal, 36(2), 139-152. Tidball, F. & Treffers-Daller, J. (2008). Analyzing lexical richness in French learner language: what frequency lists andteacher judgments can tell us about basic and advanced words. Journal of French Language Studies, 18(3), 299-313. doi:10.1017/S0959269508003463 Webb, S. (2008). Receptive and productive vocabulary sizes of L2 learners. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 30, 79-95.doi: 10.1017/S0272263108080042
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