• Semantic Representation of L2 Lexicon in Japanese University Students

      Beglar, David; Childs, Marshall; Willis, Martin; Nation, I. S. P.; Webb, Stuart Alexander (Temple University. Libraries, 2011)
      In a series of studies using semantic relatedness judgment response times, Jiang (2000, 2002, 2004a) has claimed that L2 lexical entries fossilize with their equivalent L1 content or something very close to it. In another study using a more productive test of lexical knowledge (Jiang 2004b), however, the evidence for this conclusion was less clear. The present study is a partial replication of Jiang (2004b) with Japanese learners of English. The aims of the study are to investigate the influence of the first language (L1) on second language (L2) lexical knowledge, to investigate whether lexical knowledge displays frequency-related, emergent properties, and to investigate the influence of the L1 on the acquisition of L2 word pairs that have a common L1 equivalent. Data from a sentence completion task was completed by 244 participants, who were shown sentence contexts in which they chose between L2 word pairs sharing a common equivalent in the students' first language, Japanese. The data were analyzed using the statistical analyses available in the programming environment R to quantify the participants' ability to discriminate between synonymous and non-synonymous use of these L2 word pairs. The results showed a strong bias against synonymy for all word pairs; the participants tended to make a distinction between the two synonymous items by assigning each word a distinct meaning. With the non-synonymous items, lemma frequency was closely related to the participants' success in choosing the correct word in the word pair. In addition, lemma frequency and the degree of similarity between the words in the word pair were closely related to the participants' overall knowledge of the non-synonymous meanings of the vocabulary items. The results suggest that the participants had a stronger preference for non-synonymous options than for the synonymous option. This suggests that the learners might have adopted a one-word, one-meaning learning strategy (Willis, 1998). The reasonably strong relationship between several of the usage-based statistics and the item measures from R suggest that with exposure learners are better able to use words in ways that are similar to native speakers of English, to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate contexts and to recognize the boundary separating semantic overlap and semantic uniqueness. Lexical similarity appears to play a secondary role, in combination with frequency, in learners' ability to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate contexts when using L2 word pairs that have a single translation in the L1.