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Learning Words from Linguistic Expressions: Definition and Narrative

Rita Watson
Research in the Teaching of English
Vol. 21, No. 3 (Oct., 1987), pp. 298-317
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40171117
Page Count: 20
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Learning Words from Linguistic Expressions: Definition and Narrative
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Abstract

Two studies of the acquisition of word meaning are described. The first is an experimental study designed to test the acquisition of word meaning on the basis of word definitions, as could be expected to occur in classroom contexts. Children at 5;0, 7;0 and 10;0 years of age were read a narrative text in which nonsense words and their definitions were embedded, and then were tested for both immediate and delayed recall. The results suggest that even the youngest children (5;0 years of age) were able to remember aspects of definitional meanings they had heard only once. Main effects for age were significant and some memory of word meaning was evident in delayed recall for all three ages. The second study was designed to explore how a new, abstract word might actually be introduced to a group of preschool children and whether or not the children would remember it. Two preschool teachers were asked to introduce the word protozoa and its meaning to their classes, the only constraint being that linguistic expressions were to be the sole source of information to the children. One teacher chose an expository style of introduction, and one chose a narrative style. Memorability was found to vary markedly between the expository and narrative groups of children; those in the narrative group demonstrated superior recall of the new word and its meaning.

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