A novel electronic measure of productive multi-word vocabulary knowledge for L2 English learners

A novel electronic measure of productive multi-word vocabulary knowledge for L2 English learners

First Author: Jessica Briggs -- University of Oxford
Additional authors/chairs: 
Sara A. Smith
Keywords: Vocabulary, Testing, Assessment, English Language Learners (ELL)
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: The non-compositional nature of figurative phrases presents a challenge for L2-English users, one which is disproportionate to their high prevalence in English and directly relates to reading comprehension (Barfield & Gyllstad, 2009; Carrol & Conklin, 2017). L1-English users approach figurative phrases holistically, while L2 users focus on familiar component words, resulting in slower acquisition (Cieślicka, 2006). L2 users typically rely on literal, compositional interpretation and/or semantic and context analysis when encountering unknown phrases in written text. The asymmetrical challenge of figurative language decreases with increased exposure and linguistic proficiency (Beck & Weber, 2016; Macias & Schmitt, 2016). Therefore, any valid multi-word phrase knowledge measure should be able to discriminate between differing L2 proficiency levels and will have implications for research into reading comprehension.

Method: This study presents an electronic assessment of knowledge of British-English multi-word phrases. Respondents complete a sentence using a matrix of individual lexical options, producing the target phrase (adapted from Smith & Murphy, 2014). Eighty-one adults participated: 61 UK-based L2-English users (37 intermediate; 24 advanced) and 20 British-English monolinguals.

Results: The measure is reliable (α=.95) with a median duration of 22.5 minutes. A one-way ANOVA indicated successful differentiation between groups, F(2,78)=17.03, p=.000: post-hoc tests revealed significant differences between intermediate and advanced L2 users.

Conclusion: The measure is easily administered without a tester and is suitable to discriminate between intermediate and advanced L2-English users. Future research can use the assessment to explore relationships between single and multi-word productive vocabulary and the impact of living in Anglophone environments.