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Over the last 20 years vocabulary research has grown from a ‘Cinderella subject’ in foreign language teaching and research, to achieve a position of some salience. Vocabulary is now considered integral to just about every aspect of language knowledge. With this development have come standard and widely used tests, such as vocabulary size and lexical richness measures, and very commonly accepted metaphors, such as ‘a web of words’ to describe the mental lexicon. Less widely known outside academic circles, however, is the extensive work on learners’ lexis and the utility, reliability and validity of the tests we use to measure and investigate vocabulary knowledge and growth. Vocabulary is a lively and vital area of innovation in academic approach and research. The penalty we pay for working in so vital a subject area is that even recent, and excellent, surveys of the field are rapidly overtaken by new ideas, fresh insights in modelling and testing, a healthy re-evaluation of the principles we work under, and an ever-growing body of empirical research. The intention of this volume, therefore, is to place in the hands of the reader some of these new ideas and insights. It brings together contributions from internationally renowned researchers in this field to explain much of the background to study in this area, and reconsider some of the ideas which underpin the tests we use. It introduces to a wider audience the concerns, new approaches and developments in the field of vocabulary research and testing.
The findings of the present chapter are a contribution to the discussion on the role of lexical richness within the construct of foreign language proficiency. The present study investigates to what extent teacher judgement of EFL essays can be predicted by measuring the lexical richness of these texts. Thirty-one essays from students on English for Academic Purposes (EAP) short courses were analysed with various measures of lexical richness (D, Advanced Types, P-Lex, Guiraud's Index, Advanced Guiraud and Type-Token Ratio (TTR)). Four experienced EFL teachers rated the essays according to a set of band descriptors that was familiar to the teachers, and is also used in EAP exams. The raters were asked to judge the overall proficiency and a number of other linguistic aspects of the texts. Although the teachers did have different individual preferences in the detailed analysis of the essays, there was a highly significant correlation between them, especially on the overall score (rho >.9), which is an indication of reliable rating. Other studies on teacher ratings of oral texts (Richards and Malvern, 2000; Malvern and Richards, 2002; Malvern, Richards, Chipere, and Duran, 2004: 103) suggest that teacher rating is influenced by the use of advanced vocabulary or rare words. The present study confirms this for written texts as well. In line with our expectations this chapter shows that the measures based on the occurrence of infrequent words are most useful in predicting teacher judgement.
The aim of this chapter is to develop Nation's final concern discussed in the opening chapter of this book: that of the importance of testing vocabulary in use. We have a variety of lexical measures available to us and the differences between them suggest that they may be useful in different ways and in different circumstances. It is not always clear which measure is most useful in any given set of circumstances. Indeed, as Fitzpatrick's Chapter 6 (in this volume) has made clear, we often lack basic information on the use of these tests from which to draw a conclusion. In this chapter, therefore, we intend to investigate which measurement of lexical richness appears the most suitable for measuring oral proficiency of Chinese EFL learners. This is a specific task and one where the vocabulary knowledge that a learner can bring to bear should play an important role in their success in carrying out the task. It might be expected that some measures would be more suitable than others. What, then, are the measures available which might prove suitable?
A person's language proficiency is closely related to the size and depth of their vocabulary, and this is true of both first and foreign languages. The lexical richness displayed in an oral or written text is a result of this underlying vocabulary knowledge. The term lexical richness covers several aspects of vocabulary use (see Read, 2000: 200ff.) such as lexical diversity, which is ‘the variety of active vocabulary deployed by a speaker or writer’ (Malvern and Richards, 2002: 87).
This book explores approaches to the measurement of vocabulary knowledge and vocabulary development in second and foreign language learners. Vocabulary plays an important role in the lives of all language users, since it is one of the major predictors of school performance, and successful learning and use of new vocabulary is also key to membership of many social and professional roles. The measurement of vocabulary knowledge in second language learners is of interest not only to language teachers, who are often required to make assessments of development of their learners’ language proficiency, but also to researchers and test developers who seek to develop valid and reliable measures of second language knowledge and use. While there is a considerable literature of many aspects of language testing, the assessment of lexical knowledge has received relatively little attention until recently, despite the fact that vocabulary can be viewed as the core component of all the language skills. The papers in this book show how scholars in a number of different countries are addressing fundamental questions related to vocabulary modelling and measurement.
Modelling and Assessing Vocabulary provides an overview of issues involved in vocabulary measurement in second and foreign language learning. The central question which the contributors to the book explore is, how can one assess the extent and richness of a person's vocabulary knowledge and use? Lexical competence is difficult to assess with a single measure since vocabulary knowledge is multi-faceted.
Modelling and assessing vocabulary knowledge are two sides of the same coin. Progress in modelling will help to develop more refined ways of assessing vocabulary knowledge, and empirical data from assessments will feed into the development of models for this aspect of language proficiency. The focus of this book is on both, modelling and assessing. The initiative for this book came after a BAAL/CUP workshop in January 2004 at the University of the West of England, Bristol. Researchers from various backgrounds were discussing their way of approaching vocabulary knowledge in the development and evaluation of measures, or in the discussion of models. After an intensive discussion over two days we decided to bring our views on this topic together by replying to the keynote chapter of Paul Nation, who outlined the threats to the validity of various measures of lexical knowledge. Chapter 1 of this book gives an overview of these threats; the remainder of the book is dedicated to the approaches to overcome these methodological problems. Overall, most researchers in the field stress that a single ‘one-size-fits-all’ measure or a ‘Holy Grail’ does not exist for the measurement of vocabulary knowledge. Instead many researchers stress the importance of multiple measures to give a valid picture of the lexical richness of a person. A broad variety of these measures are discussed in this book.
Over the last 20 years vocabulary research has grown from a Cinderella subject to a position of some importance. Vocabulary is now considered integral to just about every aspect of language knowledge and is a lively and vital area of research and innovation. With this development have come standard and widely-used tests, such as vocabulary size and lexical richness measures, and commonly accepted metaphors, such as the mental lexicon as a web of words. Less widely known outside academic circles, however, is the extensive work on learners' lexis and the utility, reliability and validity of the tests we use to measure and investigate it. This volume brings together contributions from internationally-renowned researchers in this field to explain much of the background to study in this area. It introduces to a wider audience the concerns, the newest approaches and developments in the field of vocabulary research and testing.
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