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You are here: Home / News & Events / CLS Speaker Series / Katherine Kerschen (Penn State) - The Effect of Abstract Word Training on Productive Vocabulary Knowledge in a Second Language

Katherine Kerschen (Penn State) - The Effect of Abstract Word Training on Productive Vocabulary Knowledge in a Second Language

When Sep 21, 2018
from 09:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Where Moore 127
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The Effect of Abstract Word Training on Productive Vocabulary Knowledge in a Second Language

 

Vocabulary is an essential component of L2 learning, yet many adult learners struggle to learn vocabulary and, in particular, to develop productive vocabulary knowledge, which is the ability to spontaneously produce words in the appropriate context. Prior research has demonstrated that this is in part due to difficulty in mapping new word forms to already-known concepts (Jiang, 2000). Certain word-level variables, such as concreteness, have also been shown to affect lexical acquisition and processing, with abstract words being more difficult to acquire in the L2 (de Groot & Keijzer, 2000). However, these concerns are not unique to L2 acquisition. Persons with acquired language disorders such as aphasia often have problems with lexical retrieval, i.e. with connecting forms to meanings, especially with more complex items such as abstract words (Kiran et al., 2009). With these potential parallels in mind, we have explored whether models and methodologies developed in the field of aphasia research can fruitfully be applied to aspects of L2 learning.

In this talk, I will report on two studies which investigated the effect of abstract word training on the development of productive vocabulary knowledge in the L2. In the first study, a word training paradigm initially developed to treat lexical retrieval deficits in patients with aphasia was used to train L2 learners on abstract words in specific context-categories (e.g., restaurant). The training, which was conducted in individual sessions with the investigator, led to increased productive knowledge of both the trained abstract words and untrained concrete words within that category, paralleling previous findings from aphasia research (Sandberg & Kiran, 2014). The second study implemented a modified version of the training paradigm in a low-intermediate L2 classroom and found a similar pattern of gains. These findings not only indicate that techniques from communication disorders research can successfully be applied in an L2 context, but they also open up new avenues for exploring the underlying conceptual representations of abstract and concrete words in the L2 lexicon