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Incidental acquisition of new words during reading in L2: Inference of meaning and its integration in the L2 mental lexicon*

  • DENISA BORDAG (a1), AMIT KIRSCHENBAUM (a1), ERWIN TSCHIRNER (a1) and ANDREAS OPITZ (a1)

Abstract

A novel combination of several experimental and non-experimental paradigms was applied to explore initial stages of incidental vocabulary acquisition (IVA) during reading in German as a second language (L2). The results show that syntactic complexity of the context positively affects incidental acquisition of new words, triggering the learner's shift of attention from the text level to the word level. A subsequent semantic priming task revealed that the new words establish associations with semantically related representations in the L2 mental lexicon after just three previous occurrences and without any consolidation period. The semantic inhibition effect for the new words (contrary to semantic facilitation for known L2 words), however, indicates that the memory traces of the new semantic representation are still very weak and that their retrieval is probably hindered by stronger semantically related representations that have much lower activation thresholds and higher potential for being selected.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Denisa Bordag, Herder-Institut, University of Leipzig, Beethovenstr. 15, 04107 Leipzig, Germany denisav@uni-leipzig.de

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We would like to thank Thomas Pechmann and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the earlier version of the manuscript, as well as Kornelia Bochniak, Marcel Fuchs and Tabea Verma for running the experiments. The research was a part of a project grant provided to Denisa Bordag (BO-3615/2-1) by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation).

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Incidental acquisition of new words during reading in L2: Inference of meaning and its integration in the L2 mental lexicon*

  • DENISA BORDAG (a1), AMIT KIRSCHENBAUM (a1), ERWIN TSCHIRNER (a1) and ANDREAS OPITZ (a1)

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