Lexical properties in the writing of foreign language learners over eight years of study: Single words and collocations

Tami Aviad-Levitzky, Batia Laufer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Lexical proficiency has been defined and researched in terms of lexical knowledge , use and fluency. Different studies have shown that use of vocabulary in a foreign language (or L2) develops more slowly than vocabulary knowledge, either passive or active. However, many studies of free production compared learners of two or three proficiency levels and examined single words, not multi-word units, even though the latter are characteristic of idiomatic language, and should be considered a component of lexical use. The data for the present study was collected as part of the ongoing compilation of an Israeli learner corpus of written English. The data was analyzed to examine progress in vocabulary use over 8 years of learning, starting with students at the end of elementary school (grade 6) and ending with English majors at the university. The passages were compared on lexical richness – the proportion of frequent to non-frequent vocabulary, on lexical variation – type token ratio, and on the number of collocations. A total of 290 essays (200 words each) were analyzed using the VocabProfile, a software program that calculates the percentage of a text's words at different frequency levels and provides the text's type-token ratio. Significant increases in the use of infrequent vocabulary and collocations were found only with the university students. A significant increase in lexical variation was found at the end of high school. The lack of substantial progress during school years, on the one hand, and the significant progress during the one year at university, on the other hand, corroborate previous research. In light of this limited progress, recommendations are made for further investigations into the effect of different pedagogical approaches to the teaching of foreign language vocabulary.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationL2 vocabulary acquisition, knowledge and use
Subtitle of host publicationNew perspectives on assessment and corpus analysis
EditorsC. Bardel, C. Lindqvist, B. Laufer
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013

Publication series

NameEUROSLA Monographs 2


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