An investigation of incidental vocabulary acquisition in relation to learner proficiency level and word frequency

Tekmen, Elisabeth Anne Ferrell
Research into vocabulary acquisition in recent years has found that incidental learning represents an important component of acquiring a second language lexicon. However, it is not yet clear how learner proficiency level or frequency of a word in a text affect incidental acquisition. This study examines the relationship between learners' acquisition of vocabulary through reading and their level of proficiency, and between acquisition and the frequency of words in a text. The subject group was comprised of 99 students from the Bilkent University School of English Language (BUSEL), one-third of which were at the intermediate level, one-third at the upper- intermediate level, and one-third at the pre-faculty (advanced) level. Four vocabulary tests and one reading text were administered to the students over a two- week period. The first test measured the students' overall vocabulary inlevel, the second served as a pre-test, the third test, administered after the reading, served as a post-test, and the final post-test measured students' ability to retain the vocabulary over a week's time. An analysis of the data revealed that students' lexical gains from reading the text were significant for each of the three groups (p <.05) and that the groups with a higher level of overall English proficiency were able to acquire more words than lower level groups. Frequency was also found to be a significant factor in students' acquisition (p <.05), with 29% of the Variance in acquisition being accounted for by frequency of occurrence of a word for all three groups combined. However, frequency did not play a greater role in the vocabulary acquisition of lower-level learners than in that of higher-level learners. This may be due to the fact that some intermediate-level participants had only the minimum vocabulary level necessary to comprehend the text.
Citation Formats
E. A. F. Tekmen, “An investigation of incidental vocabulary acquisition in relation to learner proficiency level and word frequency,” M.A. - Master of Arts, Middle East Technical University, 2003.