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The Impact of Semantic Clustering on the Learning of Abstract Words
– It has been repeatedly argued among vocabulary researchers that semantically related words should not be taught simultaneously because they might interfere with each other.
It has been repeatedly argued among vocabulary researchers that semantically related words should not be taught simultaneously because they might interfere with each other. However, the types of relatedness that cause interference have rarely been examined carefully. In addition, past studies that have examined this issue disagree, with some providing results showing that semantic clustering does not cause interference and confusion. Reviewing the literature on working memory, a previous paper by the author indicated that psychologists have long seen visual stimulus as an important component of information processing. Researchers of vocabulary learning have also witnessed some evidence that learners do resort to visual imagery when trying to remember new words. Based on such psychological and applied linguistic research, previous research by the author revealed that visually related items may cause confusion despite the lack of semantic connection. Conversely, visually controlled, semantically related items do not seem to cause confusion. This paper presents the follow-up study, examining the learning of semantically related abstract words that do not have concrete visual images. No evidence to indicate any confusion in the learning of such items was obtained. This supports the working hypothesis that the impeding effect of semantic clustering repeatedly reported in the past could partly be due to the shared visual features of semantically similar words.
Suggested citationIshii, T. (2017). The Impact of Semantic Clustering on the Learning of Abstract Words. Vocabulary Learning and Instruction, 6(1), 21–31. http://dx.doi.org/10.7820/vli.v06.1.Ishii