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Learning vocabulary through generation with translation-ambiguous and semantically-ambiguous words

Rice, Caitlin (2020) Learning vocabulary through generation with translation-ambiguous and semantically-ambiguous words. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Learning a language involves learning both word forms and word meanings, as well as the ways in which these forms and meanings are connected (e.g., Rice & Tokowicz, 2019). Unfortunately for language learners, language is rife with both within-language semantic ambiguity and cross-language translation ambiguity. Ambiguity often leads to difficulty learning and processing new words (e.g., Degani & Tokowicz, 2010). In three experiments, I investigate whether strengthening meaning representations during learning via the generation of semantically-related material (i.e., the generation effect) may mitigate difficulties associated with learning translation-ambiguous and semantically-ambiguous words. In Experiment 1, native English speakers learned word pairs that were translation-ambiguous or unambiguous from German to English using a generation task (write a sentence containing a target word) or a control task (read an experimenter-generated sentence containing a target word). Results revealed that generation was more beneficial for ambiguous than unambiguous words, and furthermore that individual differences in WM and inhibitory control affected ambiguous and unambiguous words in different ways. In Experiment 2, native English speakers learned unknown English ambiguous and unambiguous words using the same generation or control tasks as in Experiment 1. Results revealed a complex interaction of ambiguity, generation, and inhibitory control during free recall. In Experiment 3, native English speakers learned the same words as in Experiment 2 with either generation or a control task, but additionally words were trained with either context sentences or definitions. Results revealed that ambiguity, generation, and working memory interact during free recall, and furthermore that meanings for words that were trained with definitions and generation were recalled significantly better than words trained with definitions but without generation, or words trained with context sentences with or without generation. Results are examined in light of the semantic settling dynamics account (Armstrong & Plaut, 2016) and the instance-based framework for word learning (Bolger, Balass, Landen, & Perfetti, 2008), and implications for models of translation ambiguity, semantic ambiguity, and generation effects are discussed.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rice, Caitlincar120@pitt.educar1200000-0002-2574-3201
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTokowicz, Natashatokowicz@pitt.edutokowicz
Committee MemberPerfetti, Charlesperfetti@pitt.eduperfetti
Committee MemberWarren, Tessatessa@pitt.edutessa
Committee MemberPlaut,
Date: 16 January 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 25 November 2019
Approval Date: 16 January 2020
Submission Date: 5 December 2019
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 200
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: vocabulary; vocabulary learning; word learning; L1; L2; second language; generation; generation effect; ambiguity; lexical ambiguity; semantic ambiguity
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2020 19:37
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2022 06:15

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