Departmental Bulletin Paper The effects of word length and word familiarity on vocabulary learning

河内, 千栄子  ,  Chieko, Kawauchi

This study attempted to examine how word length and word familiarity related to learners’ vocabulary knowledge and how they affected L2 vocabulary learning. Twenty long words comprising 9 ~ 11 letters and 30 short words with 3 ~ 4 letters were selected from the 3,000-word level and examined for learners’ receptive/productive knowledge and word familiarity. Results indicated that before learning, productive vocabulary knowledge for long words was significantly higher than their receptive vocabulary knowledge, while short words did not show any significant differences. Long words were also produced significantly more often than short words. Moreover, long words were perceived to be significantly more familiar than short words. After learning, however, no significant difference was found between long and short words in either productive or receptive knowledge, indicating greater gains for short words. The post-test also showed that productive knowledge was significantly higher than receptive knowledge for both long and short words, which disconfirmed Laufer and Goldstein (2004). Word familiarity also increased, with long words again being perceived as more familiar than short words. Word familiarity with long words became correlated with both receptive and productive knowledge, suggesting that a strong connection may be created where long words are concerned.

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