Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Relationship between Depth and Breadth of Vocabulary Knowledge and Writing Performance of Iranian Ma Students of Tefl

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Relationship between Depth and Breadth of Vocabulary Knowledge and Writing Performance of Iranian Ma Students of Tefl

Article excerpt


There is consensus among language learners, teachers, and researchers that vocabulary is a fundamental element in the process of learning a language, because words are the primary transformers of meaning and thus carry the main information load in communication (Schmitt, 2008). As Wilkins (1972) stated, "without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed" (p. 111).

Previous research shows that learners for sufficient comprehension must know 98-99% of words in a written text which means that knowing 8,000-9,000 word families is required to be able to read a variety of texts in English (Nation, 2006). Accordingly, vocabulary knowledge has been investigated in relation to different language skills. For example, it has been found that vocabulary knowledge highly correlates with reading comprehension (Akbarian, 2010; Moinzadeh & Moslehpour, 2012; Nassaji, 2004), speaking ability (Koizumi, 2013), and listening comprehension (Feng, 2014; Milton, 2013; Mohammadi, 2015; Stæhr, 2008). Moreover, vocabulary has been recognized as one of the essential and fundamental components of communication (Nergis, 2013).

Broadly speaking, vocabulary knowledge encompasses breadth and depth of vocabulary (Nation, 2001; Wesche & Paribakht, 1996). Breadth of vocabulary knowledge is referred to the size or number of words learners know at a certain level of language proficiency while depth of vocabulary knowledge is defined as a learner's knowledge of various aspects of a given word. Besides, it is about word associations and interactions with other words. This would include, word collocations, idioms and several possible meanings.

Likewise, one of the areas of researchers' interest is the number of words a foreign language learner needs to communicate and interact successfully. Accordingly, most of the researchers and language teaching specialists focus their attention on the vocabulary breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge in relation to language skills (Akbarian, 2010; Esmaeli, 2013; Farvardin & Koosha, 2011; Feng, 2014; Hashemi, 2013; Mehrpour, Razmjo & Kian, 2011; Qian, 1998; Stæhr, 2008). These studies show that different aspects of vocabulary are important in gaining control over receptive and productive skills. Therefore, this emphasis on the multidimensionality of vocabulary knowledge suggests that vocabulary breadth development is not enough to establish rich vocabulary knowledge repertoire (Nation, 2001). Instead, because words are complex, rich and intensive instruction that provides various exposures to the words within instructionally rich contexts is necessary in order for learners to acquire in-depth knowledge of vocabulary and improve their proficiency in language learning.

The review of literature show that reading comprehension is the most popular construct being studied in relation with the learners' lexical breadth and depth. Although reading is one of the fundamental language skills, the contribution of other skills should be considered in relation to vocabulary knowledge. This is in parallel with one of Nation's (2001) ideas in designing a wellbalanced language course to ensure that the learners obtain sufficient and necessary input through listening and reading activities while at the same time they are trained to produce meaningful output through speaking and writing exercises.

Furthermore, interest in the relationship between vocabulary and writing performance has not a long history in the research of English as a second language (ESL) and English as a foreign language (EFL). However, writing is also an area that should not be neglected and should be paid more attention by language teachers and researchers. It is one of the most important language productive abilities in educational fields that reflect social, cultural, and complex cognitive phenomena. Writing is a very complex process that requires the coordination of many high level metacognitive skills. …

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