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Salsbury, Crossley, McNamara, authors of this article use word information from the Medical Research council (MRC) psycholinguistic database to analyze the word development in the spontaneous speech data of six adult learners of English as a second language (L2) in one-year longitudinal study. Their focus was on the psycholinguistic values for concreteness, imagability, meaningfulness, and familiarity that are used as measures for learners’ depth of word knowledge. However, they also focus on the word frequency and lexical diversity that are the broad measures of the lexical development although with less weight than the psycholinguistic values. The data used in their writing was repeatedly carried by MRC using ANOVAs to yield the significant difference overtime for concreteness, imagability, and meaningfulness. In the ANOVA analysis, the temporal intervals act as the independent variables and MRC values function as the dependent variables. Salsbury, Crossley and McNamara findings were that learners’ productive vocabularies became more abstract, less context dependent, and more tightly associated overtime an indicator of deeper knowledge of L2 vocabulary.
In this paper, I summarize the article and offer my comments and remarks on the viability of Salsbury, Crossley and McNamara findings on the psycholinguistic values as an important measure of vocabulary knowledge in the future studies of L2 lexical development.
Salsbury, Crossley and McNamara use various techniques which would help them to get to their conclusion. They started with the evaluation of the effects of the psycholinguistic elements to word learning. They addressed each value on its own and the effects it has in L2 vocabulary. On concreteness, their finding in memory literature concrete words have an advantage over the abstract words in relation of recalling, word recognition, lexical decision, pronunciation, and comprehension. Similarly in L2 vocabulary, concrete words are learnt earlier and easier than abstract words. On imagability, they found that words score higher on imagery dimension than on the concrete dimension. These scores are important because words and concepts that arouse mental images easily and quickly are easier to recall. High imagery words were good candidates for keyword techniques in L2 vocabulary learning. On meaningfulness of the words, the words with high scores were found to be easy to learn than the words with fewer score (Gass & Selinker, 2008).
Higher scores meaningfulness indicates the association of the word to other words, which makes this kind of words easy to learn. The other value is familiarity, which highlights the incremental nature of vocabulary and is therefore evident that vocabulary proficiency develops overtime as more words that are familiar are acquired. They then proceeded from the purpose of each value to the development of word knowledge and acquisition. They used four hypotheses and the first was in reference to concreteness. Their prediction is that oral discourse of L2 learners exhibit a greater number of lexical items that are less concrete as time progress and oral proficiency improves. The other hypotheses was in reference to imagability where they predicted that words that score low for imagability would become more frequent in the oral discourse of L2 learners as time progress. The third hypotheses was on meaningfulness and their prediction was words that score low, that was, word with less association to other words would become more frequent in the discourse as the time progressed. The final hypotheses were on familiarity. Their prediction was that less familiar words that would occur with increasing frequency in L2 productive vocabularies (Fernandez & Cairns, 2010).
The next focus after the purpose was the methods used to study and analyze their results. The first method was participant selection in which L2 English learners were interviewed every two weeks for 18 sessions over a one-year period. Next was the corpus where the data collected from the learners in the interviews formed the basis for this analysis. The corpus provided a clear picture of learner growth overtime than cross- sectional study. The third method is coh-metrix, which is a computational method used to collect data from the Psycholinguistic Database of MRC, by analyzing each text file. They measured cohesion and text difficulty at various levels of language, discourse, and conceptual analysis. The final method was the statistical analysis and the statistical method that they applied there was the ANOVA. The ANOVA was mainly used to analyze the MRC coh-metrix data. The next focus was then on the results from the methods, where they compared MRC database and L2 corpus. Their finding was that there was a surprisingly high overlap between the two data sets. The normal frequencies for overall incidence of MRC words found in L2 corpus ranged between 80% to 85%, an indication that the data’s were reliable for the study. In addition, the results indicated that concreteness, imagability and meaningfulness scores decrease with time-spent learning English, while familiarity scores do not decrease as L2 students study English (Gaskell & Gareth, 2007).
The dominant purpose of Salsbury, Crossley and McNamara article is to address word-based factors related to L2 lexical acquisition. They did this through their own effort through participant’s interviews as well as the use of already available data from the Psycholinguistic Database from MRC. They have also relied on various notable work and books from Crossley et al.., 2009, 2010a, 2010b, Maera and Bell 2011, Landauer 2007 and several others books. This gives weight to the intensity of their study, where they relied on various ways of coming to their conclusion through various methods of research and analysis of the data. Therefore, I concur with them that the use of psycholinguistic values is an important way for measuring the knowledge base of L2 vocabulary. It is evident that the learners’ proficiencies in different lexical profiles increases the learners’ vocabularies develop.
The use of psycholinguistics values rather than using the measures of lexical diversity and frequency that focuses on surface level lexical vocabularies helps Salsbury, Crossley and McNamara to concentrate on deeper level of indices related to conceptual knowledge, sense relations, and lexical association models. This has demonstrated a better understanding to second language acquisition and lexical processing. Their study is also worth for the future research concerning the creation of the lexical meaning and the development of lexical proficiency. They have set a basis for the researches that may have the passion of carrying research on the notion of word learn ability. The overlap on the normal frequencies between the MRC words and the words on the corpus L2 is clear evidence that their data are reliable for the study that also gives weight to the results of their study (Adrian, Richard, Farmer & Harrish).
- Adrian, A., Richard, A., Farmer, A., &.Harrish, R. (2001). Linguistics: An introduction to language and communication. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Fernandez, E., & Cairns, H. (2010). Fundamental of psycholinguistics. United Kingdom: Wiley Blackwell Publishers.
- Gaskell M., & Gareth, G. (2007). The Oxford handbook of psycholinguistics. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press
- Gass, S., Selinker, L. (2008). Second language acquisition: an introductory course, third Edition. USA: Taylor and Francis.