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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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8 Dynamic Vocabulary Development in a Foreign Language 205


8 Dynamic Vocabulary Development in a Foreign Language The previous chapters have reported on a longitudinal multiple-case study that aimed to construct a comprehensive picture of Chinese EFL learners’ vocabulary development over an academic year. Findings have offered insights into the dynamic and varied developments by connecting the psycholinguistic processes with the multidimensional contextual influences. This chapter will summarize the major findings and the main contributions of the present study to L2 vocabulary ac- quisition research. As this is one of the first studies that explored the dynamic vocabulary development in a foreign language context, this chapter places particular emphasis on the contention that findings from the present study help deepen our current understanding of the DST perspective on L2 development, as exemplified in the develop- ment of macro- and micro-level vocabulary knowledge. 8.1 Overall findings This section aims to recapitulate the major findings of the present inquiry. The research questions are listed before the presentation of findings. 8.1.1 Macro-level vocabulary development How does first-year and third-year Chinese EFL learners’ L2 vocabulary knowledge at the macro level, including receptive, controlled productive, and free productive vocabulary use, de- velop over an academic year? 206 Findings of the participants’ receptive vocabulary test results indicated that, at the beginning of the year, both groups of students demonstrated almost full receptive mastery of the most frequent words at the 2,000 and 3,000 levels; the first-year participants’ receptive knowledge, espe- cially of words at the 5,000 and AWL levels, grew rapidly over...

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