The impact of frequency and register on cognate facilitation: Comparing Romanian and Vietnamese speakers on the Vocabulary Levels Test

Maria Claudia Petrescu, Rena Helms-Park, Vedran Dronjic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Cognate Facilitation Hypothesis proposes that L2 learners register phonetic/orthographic similarities between L1 and L2 lexical items, ascribing L1 meanings to L2 counterparts. This study's purpose was to examine how cognate facilitation varies in degree between frequency and registers (academic versus general). Data were collected from L1 speakers of Romanian or Vietnamese via Schmitt's (2000) Vocabulary Levels Test (VLT), at the 10,000 and Academic levels together with a newly designed VLT comprising extremely low-frequency words. The Romanian group outperformed the Vietnamese one on the cognate-rich Academic level only on account of cognates, but the effect size was moderate and due to dispersion. On the 10,000 level, the Romanian group outperformed the Vietnamese one and once again cognate facilitation was evident only in the Romanian group. However, this time the effect size was large. The same was true in our low-frequency section. Our findings underline the special advantage that cognates bestow on L2 learners in low-frequency bands. For testing, we recommend that performance on cognates and non-cognates be considered separately rather than holistically. The findings also highlight the probability that, in highly specialized disciplines, speakers' language backgrounds would impact the ease or difficulty of acquiring discipline-specific terminology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-25
Number of pages11
JournalEnglish for Specific Purposes
Volume47
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

Keywords

  • Cognate facilitation
  • Lexical knowledge
  • Romanian-English bilingualism
  • Vietnamese-English bilingualism
  • Vocabulary levels test
  • Word frequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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