THE INCREMENTAL NATURE OF LEARNING A WORD: A STUDY WITH EFL LEARNERS

Adelaide P. de Oliveira

Resumo


Learning vocabulary is an essential part of speaking a second language. It is often being said that learners carry dictionaries not grammar books and that without vocabulary one cannot convey anything in a language. This crossEsectional study examined the ability of 45 EFL learners at preEintermediate, intermediate and upper intermediate levels of proficiency to recognize and produce collocations, inflections and derivations of six words, two in the three major word classes (nouns, verbs and adjectives). The participants were presented six sentences in Portuguese and asked to translate the underlined words and to provide information about them which are required to determine whether the word is known or not. The results show that verb + preposition collocations appear at all levels with talk but not make. Derivations for talk appeared only at upper intermediate level and even so only very few students demonstrated knowledge of those derivations. Despite the fact that nouns are acquired first, fewer verb + noun collocations with the two nouns, room and money, were  provided and the greatest variety of verbs appeared at upper intermediate level. As far as adjectives are concerned, they seem to be the hardest to be acquired. The study showed that vocabulary acquisition is incremental in nature when the different aspects of knowing a word are analyzed. The more advanced the learner, the more aspects of a word are acquired. Pedagogical implications will also be discussed.


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