First-year university students’ receptive and productive use of academic vocabulary

Déogratias Nizonkiza

Abstract


The present study explores academic vocabulary knowledge, operationalised through the Academic Word List, among first-year higher education students. Both receptive and productive knowledge and the proportion between the two are examined. Results show that while receptive knowledge is readily acquired by first-year students, productive knowledge lags behind and remains problematic. This entails that receptive knowledge is much larger than productive knowledge, which confirms earlier indications that receptive vocabulary knowledge is larger than productive knowledge for both academic vocabulary (Zhou 2010) and general vocabulary (cf. Laufer 1998, Webb 2008, among others). Furthermore, results reveal that the ratio between receptive and productive knowledge is slightly above 50%, which lends empirical support to previous findings that the ratio between the two aspects of vocabulary knowledge can be anywhere between 50% and 80% (Milton 2009). This finding is extended here to academic vocabulary; complementing Zhou’s (2010) study that investigated the relationship between the two aspects of vocabulary knowledge without examining the ratio between them. On the basis of these results, approaches that could potentially contribute to fostering productive knowledge growth are discussed. Avenues worth exploring to gain further insight into the relationship between receptive and productive knowledge are also suggested.


Keywords


academic vocabulary, receptive knowledge, productive knowledge, collocations, vocabulary dimensions

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5774/45-0-215

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ISSN 2223-9936 (online); ISSN 1027-3417 (print)

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