Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

The Correlation Study on the Relationship between the Depth of Vocabulary Knowledge and Comprehensive Ability

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

The Correlation Study on the Relationship between the Depth of Vocabulary Knowledge and Comprehensive Ability

Article excerpt


This paper examines the correlation between English as a second language (ESL) learners' depth of vocabulary knowledge and their comprehensive ability. Two tests, including the word associate test and CET4 paper, are given to the participants to assess what depth of vocabulary knowledge could add to the prediction of comprehensive ability, and whether the degree of this predictive power is the same among different level learners. The results from the scores indicate that depth of vocabulary knowledge has a positive correlation with the comprehensive ability, and this predictive contribution becomes bigger with the increased level of the comprehensive ability. Depth of vocabulary knowledge plays a fundamental role in these ESL learners' comprehensive ability.

Key Words: Depth of vocabulary knowledge; Comprehensive ability; Vocabulary acquiring for ESL

Zhang, X., Pan, Y., & Xu, Q. (2014). The Correlation Study on the Relationship Between the Depth of Vocabulary Knowledge and Comprehensive Ability. Studies in Literature and Language, 9 (1), 94-110. Available from: DOI:

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(a) Background of the Research. Vocabulary is arguably the most important aspect of language learning. It is the words that carry the meaning and the knowledge that enables us to understand. It is considered to be the core of language. Therefore, in the process of second language learning, vocabulary acquisition is quite an important part. Vocabulary knowledge and vocabulary acquisition in a second language have emerged after years of neglect as key areas for research (Meara, 1980; Laufer, 1986). "In the last twenty or so years, there has been a growing realization that total language proficiency consists of much more than just grammatical competence" (Schmitt & Meara, 1997).

Although the understanding and explanations of vocabulary knowledge vary in some way, there is a clear agreement that the development of vocabulary knowledge is gradual and processing, and the vocabulary knowledge is complex and multi-dimensional, not single dimensional. The breadth of vocabulary knowledge and the depth of vocabulary knowledge are the two dimensions usually considered in the understanding of the vocabulary knowledge, which are also the basic categories in this paper. In most frameworks, there is a clear consideration that depth of vocabulary knowledge occupies a primary and central place in the multi-dimension of vocabulary knowledge. (Laufer & Elder, 2004).

In the researches on the depth of vocabulary knowledge, some researches explore the model of vocabulary development and changes for the second language learners on certain aspects or the components of the vocabulary knowledge and the inter-relationship of those components. They find the receptive vocabulary knowledge is growing more after a period of learning than the productive one.

In terms of the relationship of the vocabulary knowledge with English abilities, many researchers pay much more attention on the role of vocabulary size in the English competence. It is found the size of the vocabulary has a great influence on the English abilities. However, there are less researches mainly or directly focusing on the influence and indicative ability of the depth of the vocabulary. Recent years, researchers began to discuss the role of the depth of the vocabulary in the English skills. (Nation, 1990; Schmitt & Meara, 1997; Read, 2000; Qian, 2002; Liu, 2001).

(b) Purpose of the Research. In the area of second language teaching and learning, vocabulary size is commonly considered to be an indicator of the comprehensive ability while the depth of vocabulary knowledge is not paid so much attention. Moreover, many of the already researches focus on the relationship between the depth of vocabulary and reading. …

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