First Advisor

Lynn Santelmann

Date of Publication

Summer 8-14-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




Second language acquisition, Vocabulary -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 75 pages)


The role that vocabulary learning plays in second language acquisition has been receiving increased attention from both teachers and researchers. However, there is still much that is not known about the processes through which new words become functioning components of the mental lexicon. This study used a word association test (WAT) to investigate how new words are initially integrated into the lexicon immediately after being studied for the first time. This initial lexical organization of new words was compared with the existing lexical organization of well-known items. In addition, this study investigated how sentence writing, thought to encourage deeper levels of processing, affected how the new words were initially integrated into the lexicon.

The participants in this study were 16 volunteers from an Intensive English Language Program. The participants first completed a vocabulary knowledge scale to assess if they knew the new vocabulary words. Then, the participants spent 20 minutes learning the words--either through writing sentences with the words or through choosing their own method of study. Immediately after the 20 minute learning period, the WAT was administered. The results of the WAT indicated that the new words were being organized into the lexicon through meaning-based connections just as the well-known words were. The majority of the meaning-based lexical organization was based on equivalent meaning connections such as synonymy or superordination. The sentence writing condition correlated with a decrease in meaning-based WAT associations for the new words, which indicated that sentence writing may have affected the lexical integration in unexpected ways. Finally, unanticipated WAT response patterns indicated that other contextual factors may have also influenced the responses.


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