VARGA Chinese Sources

This page is an extension of the main VARGA pages. It includes a number of sources which were originally published in Chinese. This page is not yet a comprehensive survey of contemporary Chinese vocabulary research, but our intention is to build up enough material that the main trends in Chinese vocabulary research will become available to Western researchers.
This site is maintained by Paul Meara and Yixin Wang-Taylor.
We will add a search facility to this page when it gets to an appropriate size.



Xu J

An overview of diachronic corpus linguistics research. Foreign Language Teaching and Research52,2(2020), 200-212.

Xu presents a review article on the recent development of the diachronic corpus linguistic research. The author summarises the charcteristics of several large language corpora, and the research methods used in diachronic linguistic research. He discusses how the usage of certain words/phrases and the language as a whole have changed over the time.

Zhang P and Fang N

Effects of lexical frequency, semantic congruency, and language proficiency on English collocational processing by Chinese EFL learners Foreign Language Teaching and Research 52,4(2020), 532-545.

This study analyses the influence of lexical frequency (node frequency, collocation frequency and collocational frequency), semantic congruency (same-meaning translated collocation and different-meaning translated collocation) and language ability (high and low levels) on native speakers' and Chinese EFL learners' judgement of the acceptability of English collocations. Through a trial test, 60 collocations were confirmed and arranged in an order from the most familiar to the least familiar to non-native speakers. Authors suggested that both native and non-native speakers could provide more accurate collocation judgement on the same-meaning translated collocations and there was no significant difference found on the judgement on the different-meaning translated collocations. Additionally, lexical frequency played an important role in the processing of collocations: with language ability improved, non-native speakers’ sensitivity to the frequency level moved from viewing constituent word frequency to viewing collocational frequency as a whole piece, like native speakers.


Chen B, Zhang Y and Ma T

The effect of word exposure frequency and proficiency on second language vocabulary acquisition in high constraint sentence context. Studies of Psychology and Behavior 12,2(2019), 153-159.

The study finds that when the sentence context is highly constrained, the effect of word exposure frequency is limited to L2 learners' incidental vocabulary uptake. The authors note that L2 learners can rapidly establish the form-meaning mapping of new word, usually within the first two times of the exposure. After that, word exposure frequency only has a positive effect on the speed of this mapping but not the correctness. In addition, L2 proficiency has a positive impact on the incidental vocabulary uptake, but in high constraint sentence contexts, there is no significant relationship between language proficiency and word exposure frequency. In another words, given a high constraint sentence context, L2 learners can establish the form-meaning mapping of new words within the first few times of the exposure, regardless of their proficiency level.

Qu C

The influence of L2 lexical proficiency on the L1 automatic activation during L2 lexical processing of Chinese-English bilinguals. Foreign Language Teaching and Research 51,4(2019), 560-571.

This empirical study examined the influence of L2 lexical proficiency level on L1 automatic activation during the L2 lexical processing of Chinese-English bilinguals. Participants were grouped into two proficiency levels (low and high) according to their performance on the Vocabulary Knowledge Scale, and were given 80 highly frequent word-pairs: 20 word-pairs with semantic relatedness and repetition in L1 translation; 20 with semantic relatedness but with no repetition in L1 translation; 20 without semantic relatedness but with repetition in L1 translation; and 20 without semantic relatedness and without repetition in L1 translation. Response time and correct reponse rate were used to investigate the relationship among lexical proficiency, semantic relatedness and repetition in L1 translation. Multiple ANOVA was conducted. Results showed that: 1) L1 automatic activation appeared in both low and high vocabulary proficiency groups; 2) repetition in L1 translation has a positive impact on L2 word processing when the two words in a pair were semantically related. However, repetition has a negative effect when the two words were not semantically related. 3) in processing unrelated word-pairs, repetition in L1 translation has a stronger interference on the high lexical proficiency group.

Yu Y and Zhang H

A neurocognitive investigation of English phrasal verb processing by Chinese English learners. Foreign Language Teaching and Research. 51,6(2019), 838-849.

Employing ERP (event-related potential) technique, the study investigates the neural mechanisms among Chinese English learners processing phrasal verbs. Participants from high and low proficiency levels were asked to judge the acceptability of the phrasal verbs under three conditions: semantically and contextually correct; semantically and contextually incorrect; meaningless semantics and incorrect context. The results showed that learners at high proficiency level only demonstrated P300 and N400 effects in the processing of semantically and contextually incorrect phrasal verbs. Learners at low proficiency level showed no reliable P300 and N400 effects while processing phrasal verbs.


Liu J and Huang Y

Reviewing the empirical research on foreign language testing: an analysis based on 14 leading Chinese foreign language journals (2006-2017) Foreign Language World2, (2018), 40-48

The purpose of this article is to analyse the development trends, research contents and features of empirical studies on foreign language testing published between 2006-2017. The author collected 286 journal articles published in 14 Chinese leading journals during this time and found that year 2009 and 2011 were the peak years of the publication of foreign language testing related articles, with 30 articles and 32 articles respectively. More than half (52.8%) of these papers focused on large-scale language testing, such as College English Test (CET) 4/6 (23.08%) and Test for English Majors (TEM) 4/8 (16.08%); the top three research topics were test validity particularly on TEM 4/8, human scoring and items/tasks/test papers analysis. Despite these empirical studies had covered a wide range of subjects, a variety of topics and employed mixed research methods, the authors suggest three areas that need improving for future studies on language testing. Firstly, research subjects should be more balanced instead of college students oriented; secondly, research content should be extended instead of TEM 4/8 or CET 4/6 focused. More research on other language tests, particularly speaking test are in demand. Finally, the practicality of the research should be improved especially for language tests for specific purposes, cognitive diagnostic tests and assessment literacy.

Li J, Zheng Y and Yang J

The influence of second language proficiency on the automatic activation of Chinese during English lexical access in Chinese-English bilinguals. Foreign Language Teaching and Research 50,1(2018), 101-113.

This study examined the influence of L2 proficiency level on L1 automatic activation during L2 lexical semantic-relatedness judgement among Chinese speakers. Participants were grouped into two English proficiency levels (low and high). They were asked to make semantic-relatedness judgments of 102 English word pairs, which were categorised according to semantic relatedness and first character repetition in L1 translation. Response time and accuracy rate were used to investigate the relationship among language proficiency, semantic relatedness and repetition in L1 translation. Results showed that: 1) L1 automatic activation appeared in both proficiency groups and impeded L2 processing, particularly for word-pairs characterised with repetition in L1 translation but without semantic relatedness; 2) repetition in L1 translation had stronger interference during L2 processing and this interferences became stronger among participants of higher lexical proficiency level.

Zhou Z

The effect of the input and output frequency occurrences on the acquisition of productive knowledge L2 phrases. Foreign Language World 185,2(2018), 40-48.

This study investigates the extent to which different input and output frequency occurrence can influence the acquisition of phrases' productive knowledge for L2 learners. The author claims that the frequency occurrences had significant impact on L2 learners’ phrases acquisition for both input and output types and this impact remained one week later for the input frequency occurrence and two weeks later for the output frequency occurrence. Zhou suggests there were significant differences between the effects of input and output frequency occurrences on the productive knowledge of phrases acquisition.


Zhou D

Experimental study on L2 vocabulary learning strategies. Journal of Anhui Vocational College of Electronics and Information Technology 16,3(2017), 76-78, 82.

Zhou reports an empirical study of 111 vocational college students and their vocabulary learning strategies. Each participant was asked to report:the strategies they used in learning new words; the most frequent strategies they used in memorising a word's meaning once it is known; their learning habits; their understanding on the function of “test/retrieval”; and whether they used repetitive test/retrieval during their learning activity. Results show that most respondents prefer to use reading and writing methods to learn new words (79%) and use repetition methods to consolidate their memory (78%). In terms of learning habits, about 72% of the participants rarely make study plans and only 24% of the students are willing to spend time learning vocabulary. The majority do not believe that test/retrieval is an effective way for vocabulary learning. Few students use repetitive test/retrieval methods during their learning.


Jin X and Ni C

Linguistic features of attrited English Vocabulary learned in Chinese context. Foreign Language Research 4,161(2016), 45-50.

The study aims to investigate what linguistic features are related to the attrition of English vocabulary of Chinese students working in Chinese spoken environment after graduation. Five linguistic features are considered in this study. They are the word frequency, the number of syllables in a word, the number of meanings of a word, the imageability of a word and its word class. Based on a random sampling method, 500 words are selected from the JDEST (Jiao Da English for Science and Technology) corpus. The participants are 128 graduate students with undergraduate degrees. The results show that English words that have longer syllables, fewer meanings and low imageability tend to be vulnerable to attrition. Word class is not identified as a significant feature related to attrition in the current study. More rigourous approach to measuring the influence of word frequency on vocabulary attrition is recommended for future studies.

Li X and W Wang

Word class influence upon L1 and L2 English word association. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics 39,4(2016), 440-458

The current study first investigate if L2 response patterns are fundamentally different from L1 patterns in Word Association (WA) test. The study then investigate the influence of three types of word classes (Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives) on response patterns in L1 and L2 WA test. The WA test consists of 24 stimuli balanced on word frequency, word class and degree of concreteness. Participants include 26 native speakers of English and 28 Chinese advanced EFL learners. Participants' responses were categorised into four types: paradigmatic, syntagmatic, encyclopedic and form-based. In terms of the first question, results show that the response patterns produced by L1 and L2 groups are very similar. In both groups, paradigmatic responses are the most salient type of association, followed by syntagmatic responses, encyclopedic responses and form-based responses. Despite that this pattern applies to the L2 group, the L2 group tends to produce more form-based responses (13.6%) than L1 group (4.4%). In terms of the second question, results show that word class has influence upon both L1 and L2 responses. In L1 group, Nouns elicit more form-based responses (6.4%) than Verbs (2.9%) and Adjectives (4.7%) and the differences are significant (F = 3.926, p < .05). The word class also has influence on other types of responses in L1 group, however, the influence is not significant. In L2 group, Verbs and Adjectives both elicit 15% more syntagmatic responses than Nouns (14.1%) and these differences are significant (F = 3.433, p < .05). Therefore the authors concluded that L2 English mental lexicon is largely organised in the same way as that of L1 English, with paradigmatic association being stronger than syntagmatic, encyclopedic and form-based association. Further, form plays an important role in L2 lexical network even for L2 learners with advanced level of proficiency. Lastly, the authors suggested that Chinese EFL learners need to consciously expand their lexical network when they are learning Nouns, especially concrete Nouns.

Yi B

Lexical psycholinguistic features and their effect on L2 writing performance. Foreign Language Education 37,3(2016), 56-60

Yi examines how lexical psycholinguistic features vary as L2 writing improves, and whether these features will influence the fluency, the accuracy and the complexity of L2 writing performance. The "psycholingustic features" examined in this study include age of acquisition, lexical concreteness meaningfulness and familiarity. Yi collected a set of written essays from 23 advanced L1_Chinese learnes of English. Every two weeks, these students were asked to write a timed essay. Essays from the 1st week, the 7th week and the 13th week were analysed in this study, using the features listed above. the Results show that at the beginning of the semester, students tend to use words that are acquired in the early stages of their English study. More words acquired at the later stage of their English study appear in their writings at the end of the semester. In contrast, both the concreteness and meaningfulness of words decrease when students' L2 English proficiency improves. Familiarity does not appear to change as proficiency improves. Based on a regression analysis, Yi concludes that lexical psycholinguistic features are connected with the accuracy, the fluency and the lexical complexity, but not with syntactic complexity of the texts.

Yu H and Dai W

Visualisation analysis for L2 vocabulary acquisition development abroad - based on the Social Network Analysis. Foreign Language World 5(2016), 52-60.

The purpose of this study is to identify the developmental features of L2 vocabulary acquisition research published outside China between 1980 and 2015. The analysis focusses the research topics and research methods used in these papers. Authors employ Social Network Analysis method and collect a total of 396 articles published in high-ranking linguistics journals listed in the Web of Science. Two variables, the frequency of key words and the shared key words, are used to visualise the features for vocabulary research topics at three periods: 1980-2000, 2000-2010 and 2011-2015. Based on the results of the key words frequency list and the shared key words net graphs, authors conclude that between 1980 and 2000, the vocabulary research was at the beginning stage when the focus was mainly on vocabulary learning strategies, children's vocabulary and incidental vocabulary learning. The second period saw the development of vocabulary research as an interdisciplinary subject. Vocabulary studies were combined with other subjects such as cognition analysis, psycholinguistics, corpus linguistics and social cultural theories. The results were closely tied with pedagogical methods. Apart from using interdisciplinary methods, the vocabulary research started absorbing new theories, such as Dynamic Systems Theory, in the third period. Further, the participants were no longer limited to children and school students, but included learners at all levels and different age groups. In terms of the research methods, the experiment designs and statistical methods were limited in the first period and most of the studies were based on quantitative analysis. During the second period, the experimental designs and statistical methods were more varied. This period also saw the start of the use of qualitative research methods and the use of combined qualitative and quantitative research methods. This trend continued to grow during the last period, 2011-2015. Authors conclude that the L2 vocabulary acquisition research methods started from limited qualitative or quantitative research method to a combined method. There is also a diversity in research designs and statistical methods.

Zhang X, Zhang Y and Ren X

Research on Chinese students' infrequent usage of English frequent verbs - corpus based. Journal of Hunan Institute of Engineering 26,2(2016), 42-47.

Comparing two corpora, the CLEC (Chinese Learner English Corpus) and the LOCNESS (The Louvain Corpus of Native English Essay), Authors identify 15 verbs (represent, argue, involve, allow, discuss, create, support, remain, continue, show, accept, explain, force, believe and act) that are frequently used by English native speakers but not by Chinese students. They analyse this situation in terms of four dimensions of vocabulary knowledge (vocabulary breadth, depth, accuracy of use and automaticity). All fifteen words are high frequency items that the students ought to know, so authors conclude that lack of vocabulary depth, poor command of vocabulary use and lack of automaticity is what stops students from using these words frequently and confidence.


Tan H and Yin B

Vocabulary size of non-English major Chinese students. Journal of Shandong University of Technology (Social Sciences) 31,3(2015), 76-80

Using a longitudinal study method, this study traces the development of receptive and productive vocabulary size of Chinese undergraduate students through three semesters' English study. Results found that students had an average vocabulary size of 3945 words for the 1st semester, 4128 for the 2nd and 4972 for the 3rd. The differences between the first and third semester and between the second and third semester were significant. On the contrary, no significant differences were found between each semester for productive vocabulary size, despite the fact that productive vocabulary size increased to 3201 in the third semester from 3042 in the first semester. Furthermore, correlation analysis showed that there were close relationships between receptive and productive vocabulary size, with a correlation of .75, .82 and .84 for each semester.


Liu J

Features of the development of the productive vocabulary. Journal of Heilongjiang College of Education 33(2014), 137-138.

Liu conducts a range of vocabulary tests among students from four years at university level, with an aim to investigate students' productive vocabulary ability, receptive vocabulary size, productive vocabulary size and the depth of vocabulary knowledge. The results show that, in terms of the productive vocabulary ability, the 2nd year students achieve the highest scores, followed by the 3rd year students. The 4th year students achieve the lowest scores. The 1st year students achieve a relatively low scores but higher than the 2nd year students. Liu concludes that this is because the 1st year students are still used to their high school English studying mode dominated by the grammar and the reading comprehension and therefore lack of understanding on the context and the vocabulary collocation. After passing the compulsory National Level 4 and Level 6 tests on the 2nd year, students gradually lose their English studying motivation. The author claims that the unbalanced knowledge in the vocabulary size and the depth is a classic feature of the development of the productive vocabulary among students at senior level in Chinese studying context.

Niu, R.

Chinese EFL learners' actual word processing and lexical learning in performing a collaborative output task. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics (Quarterly) 37,3(2014), 309-333.

Using a collaborative output task, this study investigates how Chinese EFL learners' word processing, derived from participants' conversations resulting from performing the task, is associated with their productive and receptive lexical learning, as measured by vocabulary post-test. Lexical learning in this study includes both lexical acquisition and retention. Before the study, to make sure the zero baseline knowledge of 10 target words, participants were asked to complete a letter-cued sentence blank-filling test (as a measure of productive lexical learning) and an adapted Vocabulary Knowledge Scale (VKS) (as a measure of receptive lexical learning). The collaborative output task required participants to reconstruct a passage orally by using cued cards, followed by one dyadic member orally reporting their reconstruction and both members evaluate their reconstruction against the original passage. In total, 34 pairs of participants' data were analysed. After the study, four productive and four receptive vocabulary post-test were used to assess participants' lexical acquisition and retention. Results show that during the collaborative output task, participants engaged in four types of cognitive word processing: simple repetition, generative use, reflective repetition and metatalk. In terms of the relationship between learners' word processing and the productive and receptive lexical learning, correlation analysis indicated that the overall word processing correlated significantly with both productive (with an average r=.587, p<.001) and receptive vocabulary acquisition and retention (with an average r=.486, p<.05). However, the correlation coefficients among the overall word processing and the productive vocabulary acquisition and retention tests are much stronger. Niu adds that the collaborative oral output task used here provides better data than studies of reading comprehension and essay writing do.

Wang Z

An empirical study of the predictability of the Vocabulary Size Test for language proficiency. Foreign Language Learning Theory and Practice 2(2014), 71-75

This study investigates the predictive validity of Nation’s and Beglar’s Vocabulary Size Test (VST) to Chinese students’ general English language proficiency, as measured by two national tests in China, the College English Test 4 and 6 (CET 4 and CET 6). Both tests consist of four parts: Listening, Reading, Writing and Translating, and Close test. In total two groups of students took the study, with 59 students in Group 1 taking the CET 4, and 37 students in Group 2 taking the CET 6. All participants were given the VST. Results show that vocabulary size is significantly correlated with the total score of CET 4 and its Listening and Reading subtests. Although the average vocabulary size in Group 2 is significantly higher than that in Group 1, no significant relationships were found between CET 6 and its subtests. The author concluded that more attention should be paid to depth and production of vocabulary knowledge in preparing students developing their English level to a higher level.

Wen, W.

Assessing the roles of breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge in Chinese EFL learners' listening comprehension. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics 37,3(2014), 358-372.

This study investigates the effects of the breadth and the depth of vocabulary knowledge on Chinese EFL learners' listening comprehension. The Vocabulary Levels Test (VLT) was used to measure the breadth of participants' vocabulary knowledge. The Depth of Vocabulary Knowledge Test (DVKT) and a self-made Morphological Knowledge Test (MKT) were used to measure the depth of participants' vocabulary knowledge. These three tests were administered to 150 Chinese non-English major students. Participants' listening comprehension was measured by their listening scores obtained from the College English Test (CET) 4. Correlation and regression analysis were used to analysis the data. Results show that all three tests showed significant correlations with listening comprehension. However, VLT achieves the highest correlation coefficient with participants' listening comprehension (r=.495, p<.01). Similar results were also found with regression analysis. Compared with other tests, VLT explained the most variance (24.5%) of participants listening comprehension. The author therefore concludes that the breadth of vocabulary forms the basic dimension of the vocabulary knowledge in listening comprehension. Depth of vocabulary knowledge mkes only a small contribution to listening comprehension.

Yang N

The framework of metaphorical competence and vocabulary acquisition Foreign languages research 2(2014), 7-12.

Yang notes that previous research suggests that the development of L2 vocabulary acquisition needs to go through three stages: a formal stage (learners rely on L1 lexeme structure to remember L2 lexeme structure); a lemma mediation stage (L2 lexeme structure and L1 lemma structure can be activated at the same time); and an integration stage (a direct link between L2 lexeme structure and L2 lemma structure is established). Yang's view is that this framework can be made more explanatory with the inclusion of metaphorical competence. At the initial stage, learners need to employ metaphorical competence to build the connection between L1 lexeme structure and L2 lexeme structure. At the second stage, when establishing L2 lemma structure, metaphorical competence is used to copy L1 lemma structure. At the final stage, metaphorical competence helps to consolidate the relationship between L2 lemma structure and L1 lemma.


Xing H Collocation knowledge and second language lexical acquisition. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics 4(2013), 117-126.

Xing suggests that corpus-based collocation can be used in Chinese language teaching as it not only helps learners to discover the syntactic function of words, but also help learners to discover how to use words by looking at the frequency of their collocations. This is because many factors other than grammar rules affect how words are used. In addition, corpus-based collocations can show learners how to tell two similar words apart, e.g. “转变” (transform) and “改变” (change). Xing provides a contrastive analysis comparing collocations in an L2 corpus and collocation knowledge in a native speaker target language corpus. The analysis covers four aspects: error rate (the number of times a word used wrongly in the L2 corpus / times of the word used in the target language corpus); collocation richness (total number of collocations for a word in the L2 corpus / total number of the word's collocations in the target language corpus); compatibility (how closely a word's collocation in the L2 corpus match the collocations in the target language corpus); and bundle rate (the frequency of two words used together in L2 corpus / the frequency of two words used together in the target language corpus).


Dong Y

Discussion on issues in language attrition research. Journal Beijing University of Chemical Technology (Social Science Edition) 4(2012), 63-68.

Dong discusses some issues in defining language attrition. He points out that language attrition is often confused with language loss, language shift and aphasia. Language attrition is best defined as a type of non-pathological and intragenerational language loss that happens individually. Dong proposes that five features should be considered in order to distinguish forgetting from language attrition: the theoretical context (linguistic or psychological), the research content (much of the forgetting research deals with meaningless syllables, whereas attrition research is concerned with real words), the time span between learning and loss (short-term in the forgetting studies, but long-term in attrition studies), how the loss is evaluated (learners fail to acquire words, but mature speakers lose words which were previously well-learned) and the method of assessing loss (forgetting is usually assessed using quantitative methods, whereas attrition is usually assessed using a mixed methods approach). The relationship between language acquisition and language attrition is discussed, and Dong suggests that dynamic systems theory should be used when studying these two features. Only in this way can language acquisition and attrition be treated as a single issue, rather than as two separate sets of phenomena.

Lin Y

A survey of senior high students' English vocabulary knowledge (Master's thesis). Retrieved from Wanfang Data (2012), DOI: 10.7666/d.y2078420

In this thesis, Lin aims to explore how well Chinese senior high school students have mastered English words they have learnt and the extent of their meta-vocabulary knowledge. 150 participants from three local senior high schools participated the study. A self-reported questionnaire concerning four general aspects (“sound”, “form”, “meaning” and “use”) of meta-vocabulary knowledge was developed to assess their meta-vocabulary knowledge. A word association test and a revised Vocabulary Knowledge Scale (VKS) test were used to assess the prticiapnts' depth of vocabulary knowledge. Results show that scores for students' meta-vocabulary knowledge of “form” (3.84) and “meaning” (3.89) are generally better than “sound” (3.48) and “use” (3.45), which reflects the fact that Chinese learners spend more time on reading and writing than on listening and speaking. The average scores for the word association test and the revised VKS test are both less than 60% of the total score. Lin considers this averge score to be unsatisfactory. Significant correlations between the meta-vocabulary knowledge questionnaire and two measures of depth of vocabulary knowledge (r=0.321 with the word association test, and r=0.445 with VKS) suggest that students' meta-vocabulary knowledge can influence their learning of the depth of vocabulary knowledge. Lin therefore concludes that if learners have a relatively good mastery of the meta-vocabulary knowledge, they might be able to use this knowledge to guide their language learning.

Wu G

Features of the developing process of the productive vocabulary of Chinese English learners at tertiary level - Corpus based. Journal of Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications (Social Science Edition) 5(2012), 133-140.

Wu collected a set of 240 essays written by L1_Chinese learners of English, 60 essays from each of four years at University Level. The essays were analysed in terms of vocabulary range, vocabulary richness and diversity (to assess vocabulary breadth), morpho-syntax and semantics (to measure vocabulary depth) and vocabulary frequency and diversity of lexical bundles (to measure lexical fluency).Wu reports changes in all these measures across the four years, with particularly strong improvements in Yr 1 and Yr 2. Three phases of improvement are identified: a rapid growth phase, a transitional phase and a consolidation phase. The rapid growth phase usually occurs during years 1 and 2, and is especially obvious in the vocabulary breadth measures; in the transitional phase, vocabulary breadth increases less quickly, but measures of depth show an increase. The consolidation phase, usually occurring in Yr 4, is associated with rapid growth in the measures of fluency.


Li, X. and H. Ren,

A review of the study in vocabulary attrition at home and abroad Journal of Ocean University of China (Social Science Edition) 3(2011), 112-116

A review of the research on vocabulary attrition over the past thirty years. Li and Ren divide these studies into two categories: studies focusing on understanding vocabulary attrition itself and studies investigating variables affecting vocabulary attrition. They conclude that, studies in the first category seem to have come to a consensus that productive ability is more vulnerable to attrition than receptive ability. In the studies in the second category, three major factors are identified: external factors, learner factors and lexical factors. Li and Ren conclude that the time span during which learners stop using the target language, the age of learners and lexical features such as form, pronunciation, the length of words and frequency are closely related to vocabulary attrition

Liu J and Huang Y

The relationship between four vocabulary measures and CET-4/6 essay scores Technology Enhanced Foreign Language Education139(2011).

Using data from the writing task of the College English Test (CET) 4/6 test, (84 compositions on Topic 1 'Haste Makes Waste' and 46 compositions on Topic 2 'My View on Job-hopping'), this study investigated the relationship between writing scores and four vocabulary features (standard TTR, average word length, low-high frequency ratio and lexical density). The study also examined the extent to which error percentage and content quality can influence the assessment of writing by L2 speakers. Correlation analysis showed that average word length and low-high frequency ratio give significant and relatively strong correlations with writing scores of compositions on Topic 2, but the relationship diminished when all compositions (from Topic 1 and 2) were considered together. This led the authors to conclude that the four vocabulary features were n ot effective predictors of the writing scores. Further, Liu and Huang found that percentage of errors and content quality predicted a larger percentage of the writing scores, 29% (r=-0.54) and 50% (r=0.7) respectively. They suggest that the test takers' relatively low language ability might have limited the the predictive power of the vocabulary features.


Luo, H.

Review of research on L2 vocabulary acquisition. Foreign Language Education 29,2(2008), 46-50.

Luo provides a brief review of research on L2 vocabulary acquisition in the last thirty years. Firstly, the author discusses the change of the position of L2 vocabulary acquisition in the second language acquisition. Secondly, Luo summarises different definitions of knowing a word, such as Richard's eight assumptions, National's vocabulary framework, Paribakht and Wesche's vocabulary knowledge scale and Coady's three types of vocabulary knowledge. Thirdly, Luo provides a review on theoretical research on L2 vocabulary acquisition. This includes Kroll and Steward's Revised Hierarchy Model, De Bot, Paribakht and Wesche's vocabulary processing model and Jiang's psycholinguistic model. This is followed by a review on experimental research on L2 vocabulary acquisition, especially on incidental vocabulary acquisition and vocabulary learning strategies. Finally, Luo believes that, with the inclusion of cognitive linguistics, vocabulary research has a promising future.

Wu J

Receptive and productive vocabulary profile of Chinese postgraduate students. Journal of South China Normal University (Social Science Edition) 1(2008), 122-129

This paper reports Chinese postgraduates' receptive and productive vocabulary profile at 3000, 5000 and 10000 level and academic vocabulary. Nation's Vocabulary Levels Test (VLT) and the Productive Levels Test (PLT) of Laufer and Nation were used to measure their receptive and productive vocabulary profile. Results showed that students achieved the highest recognition rate (92.1%) for academic vocabulary and the recognition rate declined from 87.9% to 20.2% when the frequency level went down. Results from the productive vocabulary test revealed that students could produce almost 50% of the words at 3000 level, but only 38% of the academic words and 30% of the 5000 level. Students could produce hardly any words from the 10000 level (5.6%). In general, students receptive vocabulary size is much bigger than their productive vocabulary size and this gap tends to get bigger as the frequency level decreases. Although students achieved the highest recognition rate for academic words, they failed to produce many academic words.


Li, X.

Assessing the roles of breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge in second language. Foreign Language Teaching and Research 39,5(2007), 352-359.

This study explores the relationship between breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge and four tests of English ability: a listening test, a gap-filling test, a reading test and a writing test. Breadth of vocabulary was measured via the Vocabulary Levels Test at 2000, 3000, 5000 and at the academic level. Depth of vocabulary was measured via Word Associates Test. Students' English language ability was measured using the National Public English Level 3 test. Results revealed that breadth of vocabulary predicted up to 39% of students' English language ability, 31.9% of the writing test scores, 28.3% of the readingtest scores and 27.1% of the gap-filling test scores. Vocabulary wa not closely related to l;istening skills (8.6%). a second analysis showed that a combintion of vocabulary breadth and vocabulary depth scores could predict 49.4% of students' English language ability. Vocabulary depth scores usually explained more of the variance than the vocabularty breadth scores, but this was not the case for the students' reading scores. Li also note that in general vocabulary breadth scores had a significant positive relationship with the vocabulry depth scores.


Cui Y and Wang T

Developments and relationships of receptive vocabulary size, productive vocabulary size and depth of vocabulary knowledge. Modern Foreign Languages 29,4(2006), 392-400.

This study discusses the development of receptive, productive vocabulary size and depth of vocabulary knowledge among 200 Chinese English major students over four years of university study. Vocabulary Levels Test and Word Associates Test were used to measure receptive vocabulary size and depth of vocabulary knowledge respectively. Productive vocabulary size was assessed with lexical richness software (RANGE and Wordsmith) based on participants’ writings. Results show that receptive vocabulary size increases in a linear pattern over four years. Productive vocabulary size expanded at a much slower rate. Significant progress was found between the first two years and the final two years but not within the first two years or within the last two years. Depth of vocabulary knowledge improved from year one to year three, but development stagnated from year three to year four. The study then discusses the relationships between receptive, productive vocabulary size and depth of vocabulary knowledge through four years via correlation analysis. Results show that these three factors are correlated significantly with each other at the four different year levels.

Ding, X

A correlation study of high school students' vocabulary learning strategies and their vocabulary size Journal of Huzhou Teachers College 28,4(2006), 58-62

To investigate the relationship between high school students' vocabulary learning strategies and their vocabulary size, Ding carried out a study with 100 high school students from Huzhou Shuanglin. The vocabulary size tests consist of 100 words. For each word, participants were asked to choose the correct Chinese translation from the provided four options. A self-reported questionnaire was provided to elicit participants' biographic information, vocabulary learning concepts (acquiring vocabulary through rote repetition, context or usage) and three parts of vocabulary learning strategies. These strategies include five metacognitive strategies, fifteen cognitive strategies and two social/emotional strategies. Results showed that metacognitive strategies had significant relationship with students' vocabulary size. Nine out of fifteen cognitive strategies correlated significantly with participants' vocabulary size. No significant relationship was found between social/emotional strategies and vocabulary size. The author concluded that despite high school students being aware of the importance of context and usage in vocabulary learning, they tended to learn words through repetition. He found that high school students were not combining different vocabulary learning strategies but merely looking up the dictionary or guessing words from their background knowledge. Finally, he concludes that thirteen out of twenty vocabulary learning strategies are significantly related to students' vocabulary size.


Ma G

The study of the college English vocabulary proficiency of Chinese tertiary-level students.Foreign Language Education 22,2(2001), 48-52.

This study investigated the vocabulary proficiency difference of Chinese science and engineering students from three aspects: the university level (key university or ordinary), gender difference and age difference. A total of 133 second-year students from three universities participated the study. Vocabulary proficiency is measured via receptive and productive vocabulary size tests. Results show that these second-year university students have an average of 2276 receptive words and 1996 productive words. The vocabulary proficiency of students from the key university is significantly higher than students from the ordinary university for both receptive and productive vocabulary. Furthermore, the vocabulary size of female students is significantly higher than male students, especially for vocabulary at the intermediate level, with 406 words difference for the receptive vocabulary and 319 for the productive vocabulary. Last, the authors found significant a correlation between age and vocabulary size. Younger students tend to have a bigger vocabulary size.


Zhou D and Wen B

A track investigation of English vocabulary of Chinese college students. Foreign Language Teaching and Research 32,5(2000), 356-361

Zhou and Wen conducted a longitudinal study tracking the change of vocabulary size of undergraduate students during the four years' undergraduate study. Participants were given a vocabulary test containing E category (50 words at high school level), I category (100 words at College English Level 1 to Level 4) and A category (50 words at Level 5 and Level 6). Results show that students had a vocabulary size of 2404 words after graduation from high school. At the end of two years' study, the vocabulary size reached a maximum of 3818 words. From the third year, this number started dropping down and dropped to about 3000 words. This was similar to the vocabulary size students achieved at the end of the first year. Zhou and Wen also found that students tend to remember words at easier levels. After four years' study, among the words students acquired, 75% were from the E category, 54% from the I category and only 35% from the A category.


Wang Q

Discussion on the vocabulary size of Chinese undergraduate students.Foreign Language World 2(1998), 23-27.

Wang begins by discussing an issue with vocabulary teaching in Chinese classrooms. He noted that when the communicative teaching method was introduced into classrooms, many language teachers started focusing on language fluency but left limited time for enhancing fundamental knowledge, such as word spelling and word usage. He believes that having a large vocabulary size is key to fluent communication and the focus of teaching should still be on vocabulary. He then discusses an issue with vocabulary size requirement in the 1985 version of the Chinese College English Teaching Curriculum. Wang notes that several empirical studies pubn;lished in the 1990s have shown that high school graduates generally scored about 2000 words. This shows that the target of only 1600 words in the 1985 Curriculum is clearly out of date and suggests that the target should be amended.

© 2020 Paul Meara and Yixin Wang-Taylor