A Study on the Way in which Words Are Organized in Iranian EFL Learners’ Mental Lexicon

Sedigheh Sharifi, Masoud Khalili Sabet, Abdorreza Tahriri


Vocabulary learning in both L1 and L2 is considered important to master a language. Individuals need to learn the words in order to express ideas and to communicate. As a result, research into word knowledge is important as it provides useful information considering the way in which words are learned and organized in individuals’ mind; however different studies have been conducted in this regard, there is a long way to fully understand individuals’ mental lexicon. So, word association tests are used to examine the word knowledge, to study vocabulary learning process, and how it occurs in the language learners’ mind. Similarly, the aim of this paper is to investigate the way in which words are stored and organized in Iranian EFL learners’ mental lexicon through a word association test. To this end, a word association test was designed including eight prompt words from different word classes and was administered to 50 Iranian EFL learners. They were randomly selected and included 22 males and 28 females from Razi University and an institute in Kermanshah, Iran. After administering the test, to analyze the data, learners’ responses were classified and the frequency of each classification of word association was calculated and chi-square tests were run to compare responses. Results reveal that the participants displayed different patterns in their responses as syntagmatic and paradigmatic classification. Most of them made more syntagmatic responses than paradigmatic ones. As a result, it can be concluded that more participants make mental links with syntagmatic compared to others who make links with paradigmatic and there are significant differences between male and female learners in the use of syntagmatic and paradigmatic responses; on the other hand, it appears that there is no significant differences in learners’ word association regarding age. This study has useful implications for both EFL teachers and learners by helping them understand and improve the lexical acquisition process.


Word Association, Mental Lexicon, Syntagmatic and Paradigmatic Links

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.7n.6p.80


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