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Current Perspectives in Second Language Vocabulary Research

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Edited By David Hirsh

Reflecting growth in research interest in second language vocabulary over the past 30 years, this edited volume explores the current themes and possible future directions in second language vocabulary research. The collection brings together review papers and quantitative studies, and considers vocabulary in the contexts of teaching, learning and assessment. Key themes explored in the volume include multidimensionality of vocabulary knowledge, the nature of word learnability, the interface between receptive vocabulary knowledge and productive vocabulary use, the partial-to-precise continuum of vocabulary knowledge, conditions favouring vocabulary learning and use, and the use of corpora to develop word lists to inform second language teaching. The themes presented in this volume reflect current thinking and research avenues at the interface between research enquiry and second language teaching practice.

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CHEN-CHUN LIN The Nature of Word Learnability in L2 Contexts 57

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CHEN-CHUN LIN The Nature of Word Learnability in L2 Contexts 1. Introduction Word knowledge plays an essential role in language acquisition, and second language (L2) learners need to acquire a substantial vocabulary in order to achieve competency in all L2 skills (Hinkel 2006). In this context, there has been increasing interest in the nature of word knowledge and its learning process in the past decades. L2 vocabulary studies have focused on lexical acquisition in different learning conditions, examining how learners acquire lexical knowledge receptively (see Hill/Laufer 2003; Jenkins/Stein/Wysocki 1984; Min 2008; Nagy/Anderson/Herman 1987; Rott 2007; Webb 2005; Zahar/Cobb/Spada 2001), how they acquire lexical knowledge productively (Lee 2003; Lee/Muncie 2006; Snellings/van Gelderen/de Glopper 2004), the relationship between L2 learners’ vocabulary size and their lexical competence (Koda 1989; Laufer 1997; Meara 1996; Qian 1999; Ward 2009), and how well a learner knows a given word and how well the lexical items are organized into the learner’s mental lexicon system (see Stæhr 2009). Limited attention has been given to the nature of word knowl- edge, particularly the various dimensions of word properties that af- fect word learnability, in order to indicate ‘the ease or difficulty with which a particular word can be acquired’ (Bogaards/Laufer 2004: X). This chapter seeks to raise awareness of the features of a word’s ‘writ- ten form’ – orthography, morphology, and word length – that impact on L2 word learnability. 58 Chen-Chun Lin 2. Word learnability From a linguistic point of view, learning a new word involves learning its form...

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