Word Associations in L2 Vocabulary

Kudo, Yoshimitsu
Thagard, Devon
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L1 word association research findings indicating that there may be a shift in response types from syntagmatic to paradigmatic responses as a function of age led L2 researchers to study whether or not there is a similar shift as a function of proficiency mong L2 leamers. Using the Kent-Rosanoff Iist, a lis of 100-word stimuli, to elicit leaners' written responses, Soderman (1993) observed a trend towards such a shift and took it as evidence that L2 eamers and children acquiring their L1 go through similar proceses of lexical orgaization. This study elicited responses via an aural-oral version of the Kent-Rosanoff list from 25 Japanese participats using the TOEFL as a measue of proficiency. We found nosyntagmatic-paragmatic shift: Across the proficiency levels all leaners produced more pandigmatic than syntagmatic resposes, and few clang responses. We attributed this finding to be problematic categorization of response types: the broad definition of pradigmatic responses and narrow definition of syntagmatic responses led to a natural dominance of paradigmatic responses accross all levels. Word association research shows promise for exmining the orgnization of mental lexicons, but the syntagnatic-paradigmatic categories are too simplified to offer an indepth insight into the complexity of lexical organization. Futher research is necessary with different L1 backgorunds using different lists and operationalizations of leanrers' proficiency.
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