The Nature of Vocabulary Acquisition

The Nature of Vocabulary Acquisition

The Nature of Vocabulary Acquisition

The Nature of Vocabulary Acquisition

Excerpt

John Carroll (1971) pinpoints vocabulary acquisition as one of the most basic objectives of schooling.

Although a considerable amount of vocabulary learning is associated with primary language learning in the early years, the acquisition of most of the vocabulary characteristic of an educated adult occurs during the years of schooling, and in fact one of the primary tasks of the school, as far as language learning is concerned, is to teach vocabulary. (p. 121)

As such, it is easy to understand why the need to answer questions like "How does word knowledge develop?" and "How can its growth be promoted?" is of such importance to educators. Less understandable, perhaps, is why these questions have proven to be so difficult to answer. Uncertainty about vocabulary acquisition seems not to stem simply from neglect on the part of researchers to study it. Indeed, quite the opposite seems to be the case. To date, a substantial amount of research effort has been devoted to this topic. In a bibliography of vocabulary studies, published by Edgar Dale and Taher Razik (1963), over 3,000 titles were included. Since that time, authors of over 2,000 more articles have used "vocabulary development" as a descriptor in the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) database. Clearly, missing answers have not resulted from a reluctance to search for them.

Instead, although the study of vocabulary learning has been an ongoing one (as old as educational psychology itself), it seems to suffer from a lack of a framework powerful enough to organize and allow for interpretation of all the available evidence. As a consequence, research studies that use different . . .

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