Journal for Language Teaching

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Challenges of Testing Deep Word Knowledge of Vocabulary: Which Path to Follow?

D Nizonkiza, T Ngwenya


The present research explores the challenges of testing deep word knowledge of the vocabulary of students of English as a Foreign/Second Language (EFL/ESL) at higher education. A productive test modelled on the Lex30 test developed by Meara and Fitzpatrick (2000) was presented to the participants. Results indicate that (i) ESL students outperform their EFL counterparts of comparable class level, (ii) aspects of deep word knowledge among both higher education EFL and ESL students develop in the order of analytic relations, paradigmatic relations, and collocations; and (iii) aspects of deep word knowledge among both higher education EFL and ESL students grow alongside one another and correlate significantly with overall deep word knowledge; the strength of which may reflect the extent to which they contribute to it. On the basis of these findings, we conclude that Lex30 may constitute a good measure of deep word knowledge at the productive level, which is the path we suggest should be followed in order to test deep word knowledge of vocabulary at higher education. Furthermore, teaching implications aimed to foster deep word knowledge growth are discussed.

Keywords: Vocabulary Deep Word Knowledge, Testing Deep Word Knowledge Productively, Vocabulary Dimensions, English as a Foreign/Second Language (EFL/ESL)
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