Morphological awareness in enlarging third-year english-majored students' vocabulary size in can tho university

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MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRANING CAN THO UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES MORPHOLOGICAL AWARENESS IN ENLARGING THIRD-YEAR ENGLISH-MAJORED STUDENTS' VOCABULARY SIZE IN CAN THO UNIVERSITY B.A THESIS SUPERVISOR: STUDENT: LE TRUNG KIEN MRS. NGUYEN THI VIET ANH, M.A CLASS: NN0954A4 STUDENT’S CODE: 7096462 CAN THO, APRIL 2013 1 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Firstly, I would like to express my appreciation to my supervisor, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Viet Anh for her insightful guidance and support. Her expertise about morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge, her thoughtful questions and her reflections on my work, all challenged me to deeply think about the topic. Second, I owe thanks to the some of my teachers who helped me during my thesis progess: Ms. Vo Thi Tuyet Hong, B.A, Ms. Ly Thi Anh Tuyet, B.A, and especially, Mr. Nguyen Hong Qui, M.A who allowed me an access to the participants. Finally, I would like to thank my father and mother for their assurance and support throughout the process of writing the thesis. 2 Announcement of copy right with the researchers’ and supervisor’s signiture Researcher: Supervisor: 3 TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS………………………………………………..i TABLE OF CONTENTS…………………………………………………iii LIST OF CHARTS AND FIGURES……………………………………..iv TÓM LƯỢC……………………………………………………………….vi ABSTRACT………………………………………………………………..vii CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION………………………………………….1 1.1. Statement of the problem………………………….……………….1 1.2. Background information………………………..………………….2 1.3. Aims of the research………………………………………………..3 1.4. Significance of the research………………….……………………..3 1.5. Thesis organization………………………...……………………….4 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW………...……………………….5 2.1. Definitions of technical terms………………..……………………..5 2.2. Review of the related literature…………………………………….9 2.3. Summary and indications…………………………………………..12 2.4. Research question(s)…………………………..………………...….13 2.5. Research hypothesis(es)………………………………………….....13 CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY………………………….14 4 3.1. Research design……………………………………………………. ...14 3.2. Sample and sampling………………………….…………………….. 14 3.3. Data collection………………………………….……………………..14 3.3.1. Measuring instrument(s)…………………….…………………..14 3.3.2. Procedure…………………………………………………………14 3.5. Data analysis…………………………………………………………..15 CHAPTER 4: RESULTS, DISCUSSION, AND CONCLUSION……….…17 4.1 Research results……………………………………………………..…17 4.2. Discussion………………………………………………………………20 4.3. Conclusion……………………………………………………….……..22 CHAPTER 5: LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATION………..……23 5.1. Limitations of the research…………………………………………....23 5.2. Recommendation………………………………………………………23 - REFERENCES………………………………………………………….........viii - APPENDIX 1…………………………………………………………………x - APPENDIX 2……………………………………………………………...…xiii 5 LIST OF CHARTS AND FIGURES - CHART 1: Students’ rate of marks in prefixes, suffixes and roots in two tests………………………………………………………………………………………..18 -CHART 2: Students’ changes of mark percentage through five scales in Morphology pre-tests and post-tests………………………………………………….19 6 TÓM LƯỢC Nhiều nghiên cứu liên quan tới vai trò của việc nhận thức về hình vị trong tiếng Anh lên việc mở rộng vốn từ vựng đối với người học tiếng Anh như là ngôn ngữ thứ 2 đã được tiến hành ở nhiều nơi trên thế giới. Tuy vậy, nhiều nhà nghiên cứu vẫn còn đang bàn cãi về chủ đề này. Nghiên cứu hiện tại nhằm tìm ra tỷ lệ điểm số của sinh viên rơi vào hình vị nào là thấp nhất (tiền tố, hậu tố hay gốc từ) để từ đó chú trọng hơn đối với hình vị đó, đồng thời kiểm tra xem liệu có tác động nào của kiến thức hình vị của sinh viên lên việc mở rộng vốn từ của họ hay không. Nghĩa là người nghiên cứu đi tìm lời đáp cho 2 câu hỏi: (1) Trong bài kiểm tra về kiến thức hình vị của sinh viên gồm 3 phần, phần hình vị nào sinh viên có điểm số thấp nhất? (không nằm trong mục “Các bài nghiên cứu có liên quan”, nhưng câu trả lời tìm ra được từ kết quả của bài nghiên cứu) (2) Liệu có tác động nào của kiến thức hình vị của sinh viên lên việc mở rộng vốn từ của họ hay không? Đối tượng tham gia trong bài nghiên cứu này là 75 sinh viên năm thứ 3 chuyên ngành tiếng Anh. Phương pháp nghiên cứu thực nghiệm được áp dụng trong bài nghiên cứu. Các kết quả cho thấy, trước tiên, trong 3 loại hình vị, phần gốc từ là phần sinh viên có tỷ lệ điểm thấp nhất, và thứ hai là, sinh viên có kiến thức hình vị càng nhiều bao nhiêu, sẽ dễ dàng hơn cho họ bấy nhiêu trong việc tìm ra nghĩa của từ vựng mà họ bắt gặp. 7 ABSTRACT A lot of research related to the role of English morphological awareness in enlarging EFL learners’ vocabulary size has been conducted in many parts of the world. However, there are still arguments about this topic amongst the researchers. The present study aims at finding out in which part (prefixes, suffixes, roots) the students’ marks are the worst and need to be paid attention to more, and investigating the effect of students’ morphological awareness on their vocabulary size, that means it answers the two questions: (1) Amongst the three kinds of morphemes (prefixes, suffixes and roots) included in the tests as the separated part of multiple choice questions, which is at the lowest rate of marks?(This is not included in Literature Review part, but the answer comes from the results of the study), (2) Is there a relationship between students’ English morphological awareness and their vocabulary size? The participants are 75 third-year students of English in Can Tho University. The experimental research method is used in the study. The findings showed that, first, amongst the three kinds of morphemes (prefixes, suffixes and roots) included in the tests, the part of multiple choice questions on roots is at the lowest rate of marks, and second, the more morphological awareness the students have, the more easily they can figure out the meanings of new words that they come across. 8 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1.1 Statement of the problem Vocabulary is part and parcel of every language. Vocabulary items are sets of words which form the basis for producing and understanding sentences (Miller, 1991).Therefore, “without some knowledge of that vocabulary, neither language production nor language comprehension would be possible” (Angelin, Miller & Wakefield, 1993). As you might know, to master a language, there are four main skills namely Listening, Speaking, Writing and Reading, and knowledge from generality to details related to that language practiced and accumulated intentionally and regularly. However, maybe, not all of language learners have realized the importance of vocabulary acquisition during their study. In fact, possessing a large amount of vocabulary can help learners to easily access those skills and the knowledge, leading them to language proficiency. 1.2 Background information According to Nation (1993), vocabulary knowledge is one of the language skills crucial for fluent language use. To him, knowledge of around 3,000 word families is the threshold needed for tapping other language skills. Without this threshold, learners encounter problems understanding the language they are exposed to (Alderson and Banerjee, 2002). Vocabulary size is an indicator of how well the second language (L2) learners can perform academic language skills such as, reading, listening, and writing (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton and Johnston, 2008; Treiman and Casar, 1996). Ellis (1997) argues that vocabulary knowledge is a predicator of learners’ discourse comprehension, which allows grammatical rules to be patterned in the learners’ mind. Having inadequate vocabulary hampers learners’ reading comprehension in a way that makes it more likely the learners will face difficulties in the path of academic 9 achievement. English is not an exception. A fundamental way to dominate English is that learners must have as much vocabulary knowledge as possible. Understanding its importance, a lot of researchers have conducted studies to find out the most effective strategies for learning English vocabulary. One method is applying morphological knowledge to infer the meanings of new words. In this method, students apply morphological analysis when they read or hear a complex word that they have never encountered before. They analyze the words to see if they recognize any of the pieces (White, Power, & Sheida, 1989). Because English has borrowed many words from different foreign languages, students should learn how to analyze the different parts of any new word. Mastering such skills will equip students with a useful tool to decode most unfamiliar words in a given text (Nation, 2001). Other researchers (Morin, 2003; McBride-Chang, Wagner, Muse, Chow, & Shu, 2005; Schiff & Calif, 2007) have also suggested that using morphological cues for inferring meaning can help with L2 learning. It is recommended that students are taught to identify affixes and Greek and Latin roots in English words in order to predict the meanings of unknown vocabulary. Through analyzing words into recognizable roots and affixes, classroom teachers can demonstrate that each isolated element of words can provide informational clues (Brown, 1994; Aebersold & Field, 1997). Certain affixes are more useful than others, so when students are instructed to which affixes they should pay more attention to, they can be less frustrated. The most important affixes are claimed to be the combining forms, prefixes, or suffixes that carry single, invariant meanings. However, students should not be exposed to long lists of affixes in isolation. Rather, teachers should present affixes as they are in need; to analyze the structure of the words that students will encounter in an assigned reading text (Vacca & Vacca, 1989; Seal, 1991; Johnson & Steele, 1996). Although morphological analysis is not the only strategy teachable to enhance learners’ vocabulary size, it is a potential learning strategy that seems particularly 10 useful for the learners when attempting to tackle the meanings of new words (Badriya Al Farsi, 2008). Therefore, in my study, I focus on checking whether the knowledge of morphological awareness of 3rd-year students in English major in Can Tho University can help them enlarge their vocabulary size effectively. Besides, some implications on English language learners who want to challenge themselves with TOEFL Reading sections or who deal with Reading texts should be offered. 1.3 Aims of the study The study aims at investigating the part in which the students get the lowest rate of marks, and whether there is a relationship between students' morphological awareness and their English vocabulary size. 1.4 Significance of the research The findings of the study proved that, with the morphological awareness, the students' vocabulary size could be enlarged significantly. Moreover, amongst the 3 parts of the test, the prefix-checking part was the one in which the number of the correct answers was the most while the number of the correct answers was the least in the rootchecking part. However, through the two tests, the researcher recognizes that although there are improvements on students’ morphological awareness in the three parts, the number of the correct answers in root-checking part was still under the average point. 1.5 Organization of the thesis There are totally five chapters in the present study. Chapter 1: Introduction; Chapter 2: Literature Review; Chapter 3: Research Methodology; Chapter 4: Results, Discussion and conclusion, Chapter 5: Limitations and Recommendation. Chapter 1 presents the statement of the problem, background information. Also, aims of the research and significance of the research are mentioned in the chapter. 11 Chapter 2 includes 5 parts. They are: Definitions of technical terms, Review of the related literature, Summary and Indications, Research question(s), and Research hypothesis(es). Chapter 3 focuses on Research design, Sample and sampling, Data collection and Data analysis. In Data collection part, detailed descriptions of measuring instrument(s) and procedure are included. Chapter 4 presents the Results of the study, Discussion and Conclusion. Chapter 5 discusses Limitations of the study and Recommendation for it. 12 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1 Morphology and Morphemes 2.1.1. Definition of Morphology The term “morphology” is derived from the Greek word “morph”, which means shape. In linguistics, “morphology” refers to the mental system involved in word formation or to the branch of linguistics that deals with words (their interior structure, and how they are formed) (Aronoff & Fudeman, 2005). According to Michael J. Kiefer & Nonie K. Lesaux, the word “morphology” can be broken down into two meaningful parts: “morph”- meaning shape, and “ology” - meaning the study of. Thus, “morphology”, in its most generic form, is the study of shape. In addition, they say that, in language and reading, “morphology” refers to the study of the structure of words. Moreover, in terms of linguistics, “morphology” is the identification, analysis and description of the structure of a given language's morphemes and other linguistic units, such as root words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context (words in a lexicon are the subject matter of lexicology) (“Morphology” (linguistics)Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). “Morphology”, on the views of Leong and Parkinson (1995), is the study of the hierarchical and relational aspects of words and the operation on lexical items according to word formation rules to produce other lexical items. Another definition on “morphology” comes from Kordula De Kuthy (2001). According to him, “morphology” is the study of basic building blocks of meaning in language. Last but not least, “morphology” is defined as “the area of grammar concerned with the structure of words and with relationships between words involving the morphemes that compose them” (McCarthy, 2002). 2.1.2 Definition of morphemes A morpheme is, by definition, a meaningful linguistic unit that contains no smaller meaningful units (Evelyn Hatch and Cheryl Brown 2007: 261). In another view, the 13 term “morpheme” refers to the smallest, visible unit of semantic content or grammatical function of which words are made up (Katamba, 1993). According to him, “morphemes” can be divided into four general classes: free, bound, derivational, and inflectional morphemes. “Free morphemes” are those which can stand alone in words such as dog, cat, and house. “Bound morphemes” must be attached to other morphemes to make sense, such as un-, dis-, and ex-. “Derivational morphemes” create new words by changing the part of speech or the meaning, e.g. legal /illegal. “Inflectional morphemes” add a grammatical element to the word without changing its meaning or part of speech, e.g. book/books. Also, there is a very creative definition of “morphemes”. According to Norah Sultan Alsalama (2011), “morphemes” can be compared to Lego pieces. The same morphemes can be attached to different words to compose new words. For example, the morpheme un- can be attached to a large number of words, e.g. unsafe, unhappy, and unorganized. Yet, some morphemes are limited to a few numbers of words, such as the morpheme “–dom”, which is found in words such as kingdom. The roots of complex words of Germanic origin are usually free morphemes, such as the word “festschrift”, a book prepared by colleagues to honor a scholar, often on an important birthday, such as the “sixtieth”. 2.2 Morphological Awareness “Morphological awareness” is the ability to combine familiar spoken units of meaning or morphemes (the smallest meaningful units of words) to create new meanings that can be used as an indicator or reading development (Carlisle, 1995). To another view, “morphological awareness” refers to students’ understanding of the structure of words as combinations of the smallest meaningful units of word- known as morphemes (Michael J.Kieffer- Nonie K. Lesaux, 2007). From a broader perspective, “morphological awareness” refers to a learner’s grasp of morphological structure, as well as his or her capability of using the knowledge during morphological processing in visual word recognition (Koda, 2000). The conscious 14 ability to think about and manipulate morphemes in words is called “morphological awareness” (Carlisle, 1995; McBride-Chang, Wagner, Muse, Chow, & Shu, 2005). One aspect of “morphological awareness” is the ability to recognize relations between base words and derived words (e.g., fun-funniest;Tyler & Nagy, 1989). Also, “morphological awareness” is defined as the ability to use the knowledge of word formation rules and the pairings between sounds and meanings (Kuo & Anderson, 2006). With morphological awareness, learners are able to learn morphemes and morphemic boundaries by disassembling complex words into meaningful parts (e.g. childhoods= child+ -hood+ -s), learning the meanings of roots, affixes (child= baby, hood= the state of being, -s= to indicate plural nouns), and reassembling the meaningful parts into new meanings (motherhood, fatherhood, brotherhood). 2.3 Vocabulary size 2.3.1 Definition of Vocabulary “Vocabulary” is knowledge of words and word meanings. “Knowing a word is a matter of degree rather than all or nothing. Knowing a word implies knowing how that word relates to other knowledge and being able to recognize its connotations and subtleties.” (Heibert, Lehr & Osborn). Vocabulary, following another definition ( Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary), is all the words that a person knows or uses. 2.3.2 Vocabulary through morphemes Vocabulary through Morphemes enables students to both deepen their present word knowledge and to better understand unknown words encountered in the future. Vocabulary growth should be seen in terms of breadth of knowledge (how many words do you know?) and depth of knowledge (how well do you know the words that you do know?), as described by Bowers & Kirby (2009) and Baumann et al. (2002). 2.3.3 Vocabulary size 15 “Vocabulary size” is an indicator of how well the second language (L2) learners can perform academic language skills such as, reading, listening, and writing (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton and Johnston, 2008; Treiman and Casar, 1996). In another view, “vocabulary size” refers to the number of words of which some aspect of meaning is known to the learners (Badriya Al Farsi, 2008). 2.4 The role of morphemes to vocabulary size “Morphemes” include affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and roots or stems. Knowing some common “affixes” and “roots” can help students learn the meaning of many new words. For example, if students learn just the four most common prefixes in English (un-, re-, in-, dis-), they will have important clues about the meaning of about two thirds of all English words that have prefixes (Nation, 2001). Schmitt and Meara (1997) mentioned that explicit training is required for learners to expand their knowledge of morphology, as EFL learners who know a base form (e.g., simple) do not necessarily acquire other forms of the word (e.g., simplify). Observations indicates that for the majority of poor readers the basic source of their difficulty is failure to develop accurate and efficient (i.e., automatic) word recognition skills (Stanovich, 1986, 1992). Poor decoding skills may, in turn, place comprehension processes at risk, due in part to the fact that poor readers devote so much attention to the decoding task that there are not enough cognitive resources left for construction of meaning (Näslund, & Samuels, 1992; Stanovich, 1986, 1992). Kuo and Anderson (2006) suggest that a learner who understands how words are formed, by combining prefixes, suffixes, and roots, tends to have larger vocabulary repertoire. When encountering morphologically complex words in the text, students apply their morphological knowledge to break down the complex words into meaningful morphemes as a way to better understand the word meaning (Wagner, Muse, & Tannenbaum, 2006). Anglin (1993) identifies five different morphological word types in English. The five types are root words (e.g., short, closet), inflected words (e.g., smoking, reports), 16 derived words (e.g., shortish, treelet), literal compounds (e.g.,sunburn, birthday), and opaque, idiomatic compounds or lexical idioms, which are then called simply ‘idioms’ (e.g., mouse tail, “a plant of the crowfoot family”; pink lady, “a cocktail”). Investigating instructional approaches to the use of morpheme or root word families in teaching vocabulary for ESL learners show that the learners can develop their vocabulary better when vocabulary is taught by morphological analyses rather than through more traditional class instruction methods (Long & Rule, 2004). 2.4 Review of the related literature In a study on examining the relationship between “morphological awareness” and vocabulary knowledge of Iranian high school students conducted by Omid Tabatabaei and Masumeh Yakhabi (2011) , four of the morphological word types (root words, inflected words, derived words and literal compounds) were used to investigate the two types of morphological awareness: The Morpheme Identification Awareness that is defined as the ability to distinguish different meanings across homophones and Morphological Structure Awareness that is defined as the ability of learners to make use of linguistic knowledge to derive new meaning (Chang, Wagner, Muse & Chow, 2005). In fact, in this study, the Morpheme Identification task examines the participants’ knowledge of root words and use of morphemes to guess meaning, whereas the Morphological Structure task assesses the ability to create literal compounds, inflected, and derived words. One interest here is the knowledge required to complete these Morpheme Identification and Morphological Structure Awareness tasks relate to L2 vocabulary knowledge. Chang et al., (2005) believe this is important because it demonstrates that there are two different aspects of morphological awareness and that both of these might be important in fostering vocabulary acquisition. Although only a few studies (Morin, 2003; Chang et al., 2005; and Schiff & Calif, 2007) have examined the role of morphological awareness in L2 vocabulary 17 development, the findings suggest that different aspects of morphological awareness may be useful for vocabulary building. Prince (2007) reports a study done by Lesaux (in press) which indicates that a learner understands how words are formed by combining prefixes, suffixes, and roots to have larger vocabularies and better reading comprehension. There is another study launched by Wysocki and Jenkins (1987). They found that the students’ ability to learn new words originates from forming new words by using previously acquired roots. Mochizuki and Aizawa (2000); Schmitt and Meara (1997) suggested that knowledge of morphology can contribute to expanding and elaborating learners' vocabulary knowledge. In one of the other studies, high school and college students were asked to interpret specially created complex words (Kaye, Sternberg, & Fonseca, 1987). The test words were formed from well-known prefixes and frequent base words, but the resulting words were novel combinations, such as submove and compone. Multiple-choice answers offered definitions based on the various combinations of affixes and base meanings. Even the college students had trouble picking the correct definitions and their answers did not show a consistent strategy; sometimes they opted for a definition of the affix, and other times chose the definition of the base word. In other words, being asked to select definitions of many unfamiliar complex words seemed to be too formidable a task, even though the word parts were familiar. Thus, in contrast to studies of younger students, these participants did not routinely use the strategy of defining the word parts in order to decipher an unfamiliar word. Although these participants were older, the words on which they were tested were unfamiliar, more numerous, and apparently, more challenging. Another piece of research is from Badriya Al Farsi (2008). His subject was Omani EFL university students. The aim of the study was to assess morphological awareness as a learning strategy for promoting learners’ vocabulary size. It first examined earlier research that looked at the role of morphological awareness in vocabulary 18 development. Of particular interest was the relationship between morphological awareness and vocabulary size, as well as how it was related to the learners’ ability to deal with morphological complex words. The study then investigated the relationship between English as foreign language learners’ morphological awareness and their vocabulary size. It assessed the relationship between their vocabulary size and overall morphological awareness and in particular their ability to deal with morphologically complex words in L2 learning. Within the study, morphological awareness was measured using the Morphological Awareness Test adapted from McBride- Change et al.(2005); the test assessed both analytic and synthetic aspects of morphological knowledge. Analytic referred to breaking down complex words into smaller meanings and synthetic involved reassembling smaller meanings to make up new words. Vocabulary size was measured using a modified version of the Vocabulary Levels Test (Nation, 2001). The test was modified so that there were complex words and simple words, the complex versus simplex contrast allowing a means to assess the effect of morphological knowledge on vocabulary development. Participants in the study were 54 Omani EFL learners enrolled in an English Intensive Program at the Ibri College of Applied Sciences, Oman. All the participants completed both tests. Descriptive statistics, reliability measures and correlation coefficients were calculated and reported. The results indicated that, the students’ overall morphological awareness and vocabulary size were limited, and that a relationship between the two constructs could not be established, owing to the appearance of floor effect in test scores and task difficulty. Last but not least is the study examining the relationship between English vocabulary size and morphological awareness of Saudi female students at King Saudi University. The participants in this study were 89 students divided into two sections: section one (40 students) and section two (49 students). The students were finishing a two-year EFL program, which prepared them for a three-year Arabic–English/English–Arabic 19 translation program. Two types of tests were used: the Vocabulary Size Test and the Morphological Awareness Test. The Vocabulary Size Test was used to estimate the vocabulary size of the students, which could range from 1,000 to 14,000 wordfamilies. The results showed that the vocabulary size in both sections of students was over 4,000 word-families. The Morphological Awareness Test included two subtests: the Morphological Structure Test and the Morpheme Identification Test. They were used to estimate the level of morphological awareness. The findings showed that the students’ overall morphological awareness level was relatively low. To answer the research question concerning the relationship between English vocabulary size and morphological awareness, co-relational analyses were done to test for a relationship between vocabulary size and morphological awareness scores on the two tests in the two sections of classes. The results of the correlation tests indicated that there was no relationship between the two variables in both sections. Possible reasons for the lack of correlation between the two variables were discussed and implications for teaching vocabulary were considered. 2.5 Summary and indications In conclusion, the definition of morphology, morphemes, morphological awareness, vocabulary, vocabulary size, and the relationship between morphological awareness and vocabulary size are mentioned and discussed in this section. Moreover, there are some previous studies related to the topic concerned as reliable evidence to support the present study. Although the perspectives are various amongst the studies, it is obvious that there is the common point in them, that is the more morphological awareness the learners have, the more amount of vocabulary they can get. From the results of the survey, it can be said that students’ large amount of vocabulary helps them get achievements in four important skills of English. Moreover, candidates who have morphology knowledge and want to challenge themselves with the reading section of TOEFL can get some benefits. This is because there are some questions on getting the meanings of words through word formation. Besides, analyzing word 20
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