Exploring the Second Language Mental Lexicon With Word Association Tests

Xinyue ZHANG, Nannan LIU


Based on the theory of spreading activation model and word association test, the paper probes into the semantic structure of the L2 mental lexicon. A carefully designed word association test was conducted among 150 sophomores majoring in intensive English from Dalian University of Technology. This study investigates paradigmatic relation, syntagmatic relation and phonological relation produced by different subjects to different stimulus words. Compared with the association test taken by native English speakers, the following are main findings: (a) The semantic connections between the L2 mental lexicon are fewer than those between the L1 mental lexicon. (b) In the semantic structure of the L2 mental lexicon, paradigmatic link wins a predominant percentage over syntagmatic link. (c) The L2 learners produces phonological responses or null responses more than meaningful responses when coming across unfamiliar lexicon. Based on these findings, this paper suggests in the L2 learning, it is important to build the semantic structure of mental lexicon on the basis of experiential knowledge.


L2 mental lexicon; Word association test; Spreading activation model

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/%25x


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