Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Deng, Qizhen and Trainin, Guy, "The Effect of Morphological Strategies Training for English Language Learners" (2014). Research and Evaluation in Literacy, Paper 28.


Native speakers have a vocabulary size of about 50,000 when they enter college, but English as a second language learners (ELLs) have a size between 3500 and 4500 word families to take TOEFL exam (Chujo & Oghigian, 2009). It is not difficult to conclude that, when students enter college, the vocabulary size of native speakers is about 12 times of that for ELLs. Of the recently developed Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000), more than 82% of the entries are of Greek or Latin origin, indicating that the knowledge of morphemic structures, such as prefixes, suffixes, and word stems, positively affects vocabulary learning (Tong, Deacon, Kirby, Cain, & Parrila, 2011). This is especially true for college-level vocabulary as most college textbooks are filled with technical terms, jargons, and new disciplinary concepts (Francis & Simpson, 2009) . Morphological awareness refers to the conscious awareness of the morphemic structures of words and abilities to reflect on and manipulate the structures (Carlisle, McBride-Chang, Nagy, & Nunes, 2011). Morphological awareness influences lexical processing in the sense that students with better morphological awareness are more likely to retrieval their prior knowledge of the componential morphemes in their memory storage, and hence make connection between the morphological knowledge and the meaning of the new word to construct a schema for the new word, which enables the learners to achieve a deeper level of processing and store the new word in sematic memory (Goodwin & Ahn, 2010). There is evidence, however, that college students do not always apply morphological strategies. In fact, many students have little knowledge about morphological strategies, especially ELLs (Francis & Simpson, 2009; Nation, 2001). Up to date, it is not known how well ELL college students are equipped with morphological strategies and knowledge that enable them to learn vocabulary more effectively.