The impact of syntactic category on L2 ambiguous word acquisition: evidence from English pseudowords


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In the present study, we reported two experiments that examined how syntactic category information affects the acquisition of ambiguous words in second language (L2). Chinese-English bilinguals were instructed to learn a set of English pseudowords to simulate ambiguous words’ learning process. Each ambiguous pseudoword was paired with two unrelated Chinese meanings, which either belonged to the same syntactic category (i.e., both were nouns or both were verbs) or belonged to different syntactic categories (i.e., one was a noun and the other one was a verb or vice versa). The results from translation recognition and L2-L1 production tasks showed that ambiguous words with two noun meanings were easier to learn than ambiguous words with one noun meaning and one verb meaning (Experiment 1). Ambiguous words with one verb meaning and one noun meaning were easier to learn than those with two verb meanings (Experiment 2). These results suggest that the syntactic categorical structure of an L2 ambiguous word impacts the whole word’s learning efficiency, and noun meanings facilitate the learning performance of L2 ambiguous words.
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Key words
Second language,Ambiguous word,Syntactic category,Word learning,Noun,Verb
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