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Examining the learning burden and decay of second language vocabulary knowledge

Barclay, Samuel Christopher; (2021) Examining the learning burden and decay of second language vocabulary knowledge. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Research in second language (L2) vocabulary learning has shown that not all words are equally easy to learn, and that several factors affect the difficulty with which words are acquired, i.e., their learning burden. However, research to date has explored only a few of the many factors affecting learning burden and existing findings are inconclusive. Another important finding in the L2 vocabulary learning literature is that L2 lexical knowledge is forgotten after learning but, to date, there has been minimal investigation of the variables that influence lexical decay. It has also been assumed that the lexical items most difficult to acquire are those easiest to forget, pointing towards a positive relationship between learning burden and decay (Webb & Nation, 2017). However, there is currently limited empirical evidence to support this assumption. This thesis reports research undertaken to explore the effect of different variables on learning burden and lexical decay, and the relationship between burden and decay. It consists of three empirical studies that investigated the effect of intralexical (i.e., part of speech, word length), contextual (i.e., meaning presentation code, form presentation mode), and individual (i.e., perceived target item usefulness, language learning aptitude) factors on the learning burden and decay of vocabulary knowledge that was intentionally learned with flashcard software. Each study also considered the effect of learning burden on lexical decay. Additionally, a cross-study analysis was conducted to explore the effect of the retention interval length on decay. The empirical studies showed that word length, aspects of language learning aptitude, and form presentation mode impacted learning burden but not decay, with shorter words, higher associative memory capacity, and bimodal form presentation related to less burden. Perceived target item usefulness was found to have no effect on burden or decay. Meaning presentation code and PoS were found to affect both burden and decay. Lexical items presented with an L2 definition and verbs were more burdensome and more likely to decay than items presented with an L1 equivalent and nouns. The findings also indicated that more learning burden was associated with a higher likelihood of decay. The cross-study analysis showed that decay was not directly proportional to the retention interval length and that form recall knowledge was more susceptible to decay than form recognition. Additionally, this thesis explores implications for vocabulary research and L2 pedagogy.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Examining the learning burden and decay of second language vocabulary knowledge
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10127853
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