Chapter 4. Using priming to explore early word learning

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Current views of vocabulary learning imply that second language (L2) words initially inherit the meaning of their first language (L1) translation equivalents. We describe a series of experiments that test this idea by examining semantic priming from newly learned words. The aspects of meaning that these words automatically activate were probed by manipulating the nature of the prime-target relationship. Although there were clear semantic priming effects, not all types of semantic relationship supported priming. The effects of variations in study conditions lead us to suggest an episodic view of word learning in which newly learned words do not simply inherit L1 meanings, but rather are associated with the aspects of meaning that were active at the time they were learned. We discuss the implications for teaching vocabulary, especially through the use of translation equivalents.


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