The first major distinction that must be made when evaluating word knowledge is whether the knowledge is productive (also called active) or receptive (also called passive) and even within those opposing categories, there is often no clear distinction.
Nation (2001) distinguishes between receptive and productive vocabulary knowledge: “Essentially, receptive vocabulary use involves perceiving the form of a word while listening or reading and retrieving meaning. Productive vocabulary use involves wanting to express a meaning through speaking or writing and retrieving and producing the appropriate spoken or written word form” (p.27).
Nation (1990) also said, “If productive learning is important, then the development of the quality of learning … is important. Intensive practice in using vocabulary in speech and/or writing is therefore a useful activity” (p. 5).
Three studies have compared receptive and productive learning of word pairs (Griffin & Harley 1996, Stoddard 1929, Waring 1997). In all of the studies, gains in knowledge were measured with translation tests that mirrored the learning tasks. In the receptive tests, the participants were given the L2 forms of the target words and had to supply their L1 meanings. In the productive tests, the subjects were given the L1 meanings and had to write their L2 forms. The results in all three studies showed that subjects who learned receptively had significantly higher scores on the receptive test while subjects who learned productively had greater gains on the productive test. The results indicate that the direction of learning, L2 to L1 (receptive) or L1 to L2 (productive), may determine the type and amount of knowledge gained. When the learning task did not match the test, the subjects who learned productively had significantly higher scores on the receptive measure than the subjects who learned receptively but were tested productively (Griffin & Harley 1996). This indicates that if only one type of learning task is used, a productive task may be more beneficial.
Stoddard (1929, as cited in Nation, 2001) compared receptive with productive vocabulary learning through equivalent test formats. Half of Stoddard’s 328 school-age participants learned 50 French-English word pairs receptively, and the other half learned the same items productively. Both groups took the same recall test with half of the items tested receptively (write the English translation of the French word) and half of the items tested productively (write the French translation of the English word). The results revealed that, first, receptive tests were easier than productive tests – total receptive mean scores of both groups were twice as high as productive ones. Second, there was a correlation between the type of test and the type of learning – those who learned receptively performed better on the receptive test while those who learned productively performed better on the productive test. Third, the effect of the type of test was greater than the effect of the type of learning although learners of both kinds of learning got similar scores; the receptive learners’ scores on the receptive test were much higher than the productive learners’ scores on the productive test.
Waring’s study (1997, as cited in Nation, 2001) came up with the same results even in a delayed vocabulary retention test. Waring (1997) also found that many learners were not equally skillful at both receptive and productive learning. Considering the previous studies, one may wonder if the advantage of receptive over productive mode remains when different aspects of word knowledge are focused on and when high frequency words are tested.
As Waring (1997) has pointed out, although there are numerous techniques for improving retrieval, recycling word cards can be one of the most effective to help students to obtain a large store of receptive vocabulary in the early phase of vocabulary acquisition. However, it is still not certain how much of this receptive knowledge can be turned into productive use in language contexts and authentic contexts. Accordingly, in order to consolidate long-term memory, learners should be encouraged to learn the target vocabulary items intensely and pursue more helpful productive learning strategies by undertaking meaningful tasks.
Quantitatively, Waring (1996) looked at the relative vocabulary size of some Japanese learners of English and found a differential between the two. He found that if a high frequency word was known receptively, there was good chance (64%) that it would be known productively. However, if a low frequency word was known receptively there was little chance (15%) it would be known productively. This means that we know far many more words receptively than productively, but that there is no linear relationship between the amounts known.
Further conclusions concerning receptive and productive vocabulary have been drawn from Stoddard’s (1929) and Waring’s (1997) experiments. They argue that receptive learning improves receptive retrieval while productive learning enhances productive use. Hence, Waring (1997) implies that it is better to offer corresponding training to those who need to use L2 productively in oral or written form.
Joe (1995, 1998) found that text-based tasks that entail the active production of the target words (i.e., tasks that induce generative processing) significantly enhances vocabulary learning, with greater levels of generative processing leading to greater vocabulary gains for unknown words.
In two studies (Laufer, 1998; Laufer & Paribakht, 1998, as cited in Nation, 2001) on vocabulary size, the learners’ performance on the receptive test was better than the productive test. The experiments show that it is not easy to move receptive vocabulary into productive use, especially for low frequency words. Laufer (1998) commented that, “If not ‘pushed’ to use them, they may never be activated and therefore remain in passive vocabulary only” (p. 267).
Laufer (2003) compared the effects of reading alone to productive word-focused tasks such as writing original sentences using target words, and completing sentences using target words on overall vocabulary gains. The results indicated that there was a greater increase in vocabulary size through word-focused tasks than through reading alone, and that the vocabulary items learned through productive word-focused tasks were retained longer than learning from reading, even with using the dictionary.
Another issue which has divided researchers about the receptive and productive notion is that there is “no consensus as to whether this distinction is dichotomous or whether it constitutes a continuum” (Laufer & Goldstein, 2004, p.405). For some, like Melka Teichroew (1982), receptive and productive knowledge are placed on a continuum. According to this theory, receptive knowledge gradually moves towards productive mastery as a result of the learner learning more about the lexical items. This gradual cline from passive to active has been widely accepted by Faerch et al. (1984), Tréville (1988) and Palmberg (1987; cited in Meara 1997), but the threshold at which receptive knowledge becomes productive is not clear (Laufer & Goldstein 2004; Schmitt 2010). For Meara (1997), on the other hand, the two types of knowledge represent different types of associational knowledge and therefore cannot be a continuum. He proposes a lexical organization in which productively-known words are connected to a productive item, whereas receptively-known words are not connected to any words in the lexicon. There is no natural progression from a receptive to a productive state in this view and it has links with connectionism and “measurement of the strength of productive mastery would presumably require determining the relative number of links to other member in the lexicon” (Schmitt 2010, p.82).
In most models of L2 vocabulary development, it is assumed that the act of learning a word usually pro
gresses from receptive to productive knowledge (e.g., Meara, 1996; Nation, 1990). Acquiring productive knowledge of a word is a more complex task than acquiring a receptive or passive knowledge of it (e.g., Laufer, 1998). In a quantitative, longitudinal study on L2 vocabulary acquisition, Laufer (1998) observed that learners’ passive vocabulary developed to a higher extent than did their active use of new words.
Keating (2008) found that completing a sentence writing exercise after reading led to better retention of meaning and form than completing a blank filling exercise after reading. However, the sentence writing condition scored slightly lower on the delayed form retention post-test than the blank filling condition. In contrast to the findings in Laufer’s and Keating’s studies, Folse (2006) found no significantly different results between the single blank filling and sentence-making conditions.
Similarly, Eringa (1974) and Holden (1890) looked at productive vocabulary size, while others such as Groot and Hoekstra (1981); Seashore and Eckerson (1940); Meara and Jones (1990) tested aspects of receptive vocabulary.
In order to be able to describe aspects of a learner’s lexical competence along the receptive-productive dimension, test batteries must naturally include both productive and receptive tasks focusing on the same lexical items. Melka (1997) argues that it may be extremely difficult to find tasks that are adequately suited for testing both reception and production. Takala (1985) used translation from L1 to L2 and from L2 to L1 to measure differences in the size of learners’ productive and receptive vocabulary. Bahrick and Phelps (1987) also combined tasks (e.g., a translation task fromL1 to L2) with a recognition task (selection of the correct translation from a list) or a recognition task (selection of the correct definition) combined with production of a sentence containing the test item.
In line with these researches, as stated above, the present study investigates the effects of reading comprehension on three dimensions of vocabulary knowledge namely form recognition, meaning recognition and production.
This chapter consists of five major sections. The first section describes the design of the current study, followed by a section delineating the method of the present study: the participants, instruments, procedures, and finally data analysis.
3.1. Design of the study
This study employs on experimental design with pre-test, post-test and delayed post-test in which the collected data were analyzed quantitatively. There was one independent variable (reading comprehension) and one dependent variable namely the dimensions of vocabulary knowledge with three subcategories of form recognition, meaning recognition and production.
The participants who took part in present study were a total of forty (N=40) Iranian male learners of English as a foreign language (EFL), ranging in age from 18-20 years old. All of them had studied English for an average of five years and they were at an intermediate level. These students were selected randomly from among the students of five classes in an English institute in Shiraz.
A number of instruments, including different tests and materials were utilized in the present study.
220.127.116.11. Testing instruments
The following instruments were used in the current study.
1. A reading comprehension test as a homogeneity test to ascertain that all of the students are homogeneous and in the same level.
2. A vocabulary test as a pre-test to ascertain which target words the learners do not know.
3. A form recognition test in which Persian definitions of target words were provided to learners. The learners were then asked to choose the target words among options.
4. A meaning