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Categorization and L2 Vocabulary Learning

A Cognitive Linguistic Perspective


Xiaoyan Xia

The book addresses the role of the L1 (first language)-based concept categorization in L2 (second language) vocabulary learning from a cognitive linguistic perspective. The author hypothesizes that the patterns of one’s L1-based concept categorization will be present in his or her L2 vocabulary learning as well. The two characteristics pertaining to concept categorization under investigation are the prototypicality and the basic-level effects. The results show that the psychological salience of the basic-level and the prototypical concepts in one’s L1-based conceptual system is related to better retention and faster retrieval of the corresponding L2 words. The author argues that these two effects are dynamic in L2 contexts, being influenced by factors such as concept familiarity, formal instruction and exposure to the specific culture.
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In this chapter, Section 9.1 presents a summary of the major findings in the present study, a discussion of the findings in general, and the pedagogical implications of those findings respectively. Section 9.2 discusses the theoretical and pedagogical areas to which this study has made contributions. Section 9.3 concludes this chapter with the limitations of this study and offers suggestions for future research in this field.

The general objective of this study was to explore, via a Cognitive Linguistic or Experientialist perspective, the role of the L1-based conceptual system in L2 vocabulary learning. The three theoretical propositions relevant to this study were (1) the model of language in Experientialism which stresses a motivational relationship between surface linguistic representations and underlying conceptual structures, (2) the conceptual model of word meaning and learning, and (3) the notion of a single conceptual system in L2 learners’ minds. The general hypothesis tested in this thesis was that the patterns of concept categorization which a learner has acquired along with his or her L1 and which underlie his or her learning and use of the L1 will be present in his or her L2 vocabulary learning. The specific patterns of concept categorization which were under investigation in this study were two characteristics pertaining to human categorization, namely the basic-level effect and the prototypicality effect. From the general hypothesis, three specific hypotheses were derived and hence tested in this thesis. The first two examined respectively the presence of the basic-level effect and...

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