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Dynamic Vocabulary Development in a Foreign Language


Yongyan Zheng

The Dynamic Systems Theory perspective offers new lenses to probe into long-term foreign language development. This book reports on findings of a longitudinal multiple-case study on the vocabulary development of eight university-level Chinese learners of English. Framed within the Dynamic Systems framework, the study assumes a holistic perspective towards vocabulary knowledge and aims to project a comprehensive picture of vocabulary development in a typical foreign language learning setting such as the Chinese context. To this end, a wide array of quantitative measurements and qualitative methods was employed. In-depth examination was given to both psycholinguistic and sociocultural processes involved in the complex and dynamic development of vocabulary knowledge. Efforts were also made to establish meaningful links between the learners’ cognitive, mental, pedagogical and social contexts. Although the focus is on vocabulary development, what is discussed in the book is applicable to a wide range of topics in foreign language learning and development.


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2 Towards a DST perspective on L2 vocabulary development 19


2. Towards a DST perspective on L2 vocabulary development This chapter describes and justifies the DST perspective that has been applied to the present study against a critical review of empirical find- ings on L2 vocabulary acquisition. I will first explore several models of L2 vocabulary acquisition, followed by an extensive review of the empirical research on the macro- and micro-level L2 vocabulary de- velopment. By identifying the discrepancies between existing models and empirical findings, I go on to explain how some current theoreti- cal advancements in the field of SLA, namely, the DST perspective on second language development (SLD) and L2 Motivational Self Sys- tem, can contribute to L2 vocabulary development research. 2.1 A theoretical review of L2 vocabulary development This section focuses on theoretical accounts for L2 vocabulary devel- opment. I will first elucidate and operationalize the multi-faceted nature of L2 vocabulary knowledge. Aitchison’s (2003) theory of children’s L1 semantic development, the Incidental Vocabulary Learning Hypoth- esis and the Involvement Load Hypothesis will be introduced. Of par- ticular relevance to the present study, the Three-stage Model of L2 Lex- ical Development will be elaborated on at the end of the section. 2.1.1 A two-layered approach to L2 vocabulary knowledge What does it mean to know a word? A simple question as it appears, a number of L2 vocabulary acquisition researchers attempted to seek to answer it from different but inherently overlapping ways (Chapelle 1994, 1998; Henriksen 1999; Nation 1990, 2001; Schmitt/McCarthy 20 1997a). Chapelle (1994, 1998), for example,...

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