Assessing the quality of vocabulary knowledge of learners of English as a second language through word associations
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Read (1993) presented a test format that assesses the quality of vocabulary knowledge by means of word association. The present study examined the development of the vocabulary knowledge of two groups of 'beginning' and 'intermediate' learners of English as a second language by means of two revised versions of this test format: the word-associates test and the productive word-associates test. Four aspects in particular were studied. First, the tests of the study clearly showed that the more proficient learners had acquired much more qualitatively developed vocabulary knowledge. Second, the study linked qualitative aspects of word knowledge to quantitative aspects, by distinguishing 3 frequency ranges. There was a clear relation between frequency and quality of knowledge: The more frequent a word, the better the knowledge of the tested aspect. Third, the productive vocabulary knowledge of both groups was smaller than their receptive knowledge, with less proficient learners exhibiting a much greater gap at the frequency level targeted in the tests. Fourth, the more proficient learners had acquired a greater amount of paradigmatic and syntagmatic knowledge than they did analytic knowledge.