Bilingual novel word learning in sentence contexts

Justin Gerald Lauro, University of Texas at El Paso


According to the Instance-based framework of adult vocabulary learning, each time a learner encounters a new word in context, an episodic memory trace, containing the word itself and the surrounding context, is formed. Previous research has demonstrated an advantage in memory for words encountered in a variety of semantic contexts. This advantage occurs because distinctive contexts generate more distinctive memory traces. While research has demonstrated that a variety of contextual characteristics are encoded (e.g. semantic context, modality, and language), it is unknown whether varying the language context in which a word is encountered has a similar benefit on memory for new words. Across two experiments, highly proficient Spanish-English bilinguals studied rare cognates in sentences in both languages. At test, they were asked to generate meanings and recognize semantically related and unrelated word pairs containing studied words. In Experiment 1, participants studied words and were tested visually. In Experiment 2, participants studied words and were tested auditorily. Across both experiments, an advantage in generating meanings of words learned in different semantic contexts was observed in both the L1 and L2. However, no additive effects of language variation of encounters with words at study were directly observed. This is the first study to explicitly test the context variability hypothesis in bilinguals’ L2, as well as in the auditory modality. The results are discussed within an instance-based theoretical perspective, drawing from literature on bilingual conceptual access.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Lauro, Justin Gerald, "Bilingual novel word learning in sentence contexts" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10619698.