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2018, Cilt 8, Sayı 1, Sayfa(lar) 172-183
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DOI: 10.5961/jhes.2018.259
A Matter of Controversy: Teaching New L2 Words in Semantic Sets or Unrelated Sets
Mustafa SARIOĞLU
Bursa Technical University, School of Foreign Languages, Bursa, Turkey
Keywords: Interference theory, Semantic set (lexical set), Semantically unrelated set, Semantic clustering, L2 Vocabulary learning and teaching

The relevant literature reveals no consensus on whether new vocabulary items should be presented in semantic or semantically-unrelated sets in L2 classrooms. Actually, there is an excessive amount of research evidence on the interfering effect of teaching semantically-related words at the same time. However, the majority of these studies have been carried out under strictly-controlled laboratory conditions, so there is still need for more classroom research on this controversial issue. The present study aims to investigate the effects of presenting novel words in lexical sets versus semantically unrelated sets on students’ acquisition of these words in a real classroom setting. The participants, 44 Turkish EFL learners, were taught 12 English target words in either semantic or unrelated clusters. The vocabulary instruction was given through pictorial flashcards accompanied by several sentential contexts, which supplied the participants with several meaningful encounters with the target vocabulary items. The results indicated that both types of vocabulary instruction provided EFL learners with effective recognition and production of the target words immediately after the treatments as well as two weeks later. These findings revealed no statistically significant difference between clustering words in semantic sets and unrelated sets. Hence, the current study did not find out any interfering effect of teaching semantically related words simultaneously in a real classroom condition.

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