The definition of vocabulary
quite simple and broad definition of vocabulary is that they are the body of
words used in a particular language. Concisely, a word is defined as a single
distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or
sometimes alone) to form a sentence. There may be a common belief that
vocabulary knowledge consists of just meaning and word form. But the potential
knowledge that can be known about a word is rich and complex. (Schmitt, 2000,
p. 5). Knowing a word requires more than learning its meaning. According to
Schmitt (2000), a person must master the following list of the different kinds
of knowledge in order to know a word.
the meaning(s) of the word
the written form of the word
the spoken form of the word
the grammatical behavior of the word
the collocations of the word
the register of the word
the associations of the word
the frequency of the word
are the types of word knowledge, and to
be able to use a word in different language situations, most or all of them are
necessary (Schmitt, 2000, p. 5).
relatively large proportion of learners think that the meaning of a word is equivalent to its dictionary
definition, but when studied in more detail, it can be concluded that meaning
is more complex than just a dictionary definition. As Schmitt (2000) states, at
the most basic level, meaning consists of the relationship between a word and
its referent, which can be the person, thing, action, condition, or case it refers
to in the real or an imagined world. This relationship is not inherent; rather,
it is arbitrary until formalized by the people using the word (Schmitt, 2000,
dictionary meaning of a word is the basic meaning element, and in addition to
that, a word can have different meanings depending on the context (He, 2010). McCarthy
(1990) says that the vocabulary of English is not a free-for-all storehouse of
half a million items, all equally available to all users on all occasions.
Vocabulary choice depends on who is saying what, to whom, when, and why. The
relationship between the content of a message, its sender and receiver, its
situation and purpose, and how it is communicated, is called register (McCarthy, 1990, p. 61).
According to McCarthy, the features which restrict our selection of vocabulary
are well-captured in Halliday’s (1978) model of the components of situations in
which language is used, the three key components being field, tenor, and mode:
the subject-matter and purpose of a message (e.g. a travel agent’s brochure
selling holidays abroad)
the relationship between sender and receiver (e.g. boss to employee, friend to
the channel of communication (e.g. phone-call, written report, sign, or notice)
Another type of
word knowledge, the association,
means that words are related to others in a variety of ways and any word can be
a part of a certain word family. (He, 2010) The four main categories of
association are, coordination, superordination, synonymy and collocation.
words which cluster together on the same level of detail (e.g salt and pepper)
opposites also fall under this category as they are co-ordinates in a group
consisting of only two members (e.g left and right)
some words cover other words which are
subordinate to the upper ones (e.g insect and butterfly)
having the same or similar meanings are stored together (e.g starved and
words are usually stored together to collocate each other (e.g butterfly net)
grammatical behavior is the pattern
in which the word occurs. The main facets of lexis are morphology and word
class. Word class consists of four major parts and these are noun, verb,
adjective and adverb. On the other hand, morphology includes affixation (prefix
and suffix). Additionally, morphology is concerned with how these affixes are
attached to the basic forms of words (He, 2010).
form of a word is the
phonological or orthographic sound or appearance of a word that can be used to
describe or identify something.
There are two types of word form. These are the written form, which is the
spelling of a word, and the spoken form, which means the sound or
explained throughout this chapter, it is essential to master different kinds of
word knowledge in order to know a word to the fullest extent both for teachers
Nation (2001) states, “vocabulary learning strategies are a part of language
learning strategies which in turn are a part of general learning strategies”. According
to Schmitt (1997), vocabulary learning
strategies have not been discussed much and considered a class and the reason behind that was the lack of any comprehensive
list or taxonomy of strategies in this specific area. In order to address this
gap, Schmitt (1997) provides a very useful overview of the
rise in importance of strategy use in second language learning.
After compiling a list of strategies, Schmitt (1997) states that a number of
classification systems for learning strategies have been proposed.
The first one showing a
considerable promise in providing an
empirical basis for category assignment according
to Schmitt (1997) is a research by Stoffer (1995) which showed 53 items on her
vocabulary strategy survey clustered into nine groups:
Strategies involving authentic language use
2. Strategies involving creative activities
used for self-motivation
used to create mental linkages
involving physical action
used to overcome anxiety
used to organize words
However, Schmitt (1997) claims that, of the more
established systems, the one developed by Oxford (1990) seemed best able to
organize the wide variety of VLS. She divided strategies into four groups:
Social, Memory, Cognitive and Metacognitive.
Social Strategies (SOC): They use interaction with other people to improve language learning
Memory Strategies (MEM): Approaches that relate new material to existing knowledge fall under
Cognitive Strategies (COG): They exhibit
the common function of “manipulation or transformation of the target
language by the learner”
Metacognitive Strategies (MET): They involve a conscious overview of the learning
process and making decisions about planning, monitoring or evaluating the best
ways to study
However, though Oxford’s classification system was
satisfactory in general, it was still inadequate in categorizing vocabulary-specific
strategies in some aspect (Schmitt, 1997). Schmitt (1997) developed an
extensive taxonomy based on Oxford’s (1990) social, memory, cognitive, and
metacognitive categories, including the additional determination category which was created by him (Nation, 2001, p.
217). As Schmitt (1997) states, “there is no category in Oxford’s taxonomy
which sufficiently describes the kind of strategies used by an individual when
faced with discovering a new word’s meaning without recourse to another person’s
expertise. It was therefore necessary to create a new category
for these strategies: Determination Strategies (DET)”.
(2001) proposes a new taxonomy in which he divides vocabulary learning
strategies into three general classes: planning, sources and processes.
are four types of strategies in this category (choosing words, choosing the
aspects of word knowledge, choosing strategies, planning repetition) and they involve
deciding on where to focus attention, how to focus the attention, and how often
to give attention to the item (Nation, 2001). Learners should know their
vocabulary goals and choose what vocabulary to focus on concerning these goals
(He, 2010). Learners also must be able to choose the most appropriate strategy
for what vocabulary to focus on and decide how to pursue the strategy and when
to switch to another strategy (Nation, 2001).
are four types of strategies in this category as well and these are: analysing
the word, using context, consulting a reference source in L1 or L2, using
parallels in L1 and L2. As Nation (2001) states, in order to cope with new
vocabulary when it occurs and to learn unfamiliar vocabulary, learners have to
be able to get information about the vocabulary. A convenient strategy here can
be analysing the word parts since familiarizing with the stems and affixes can
be useful for checking guesses from context, strengthening form and meaning
connections and seeing connections between related words (He, 2010)
are three types of streategies in this category (noticing, retrieving,
generating) which involve ways of making vocabulary knowledge be remembered and
be available for use (Nation, 2001).
Affecting Vocabulary Learning Strategy Use
1. The Most
and the Least Common Vocabulary Learning Strategies
researchers tried to identify the most and the least common vocabulary learning
strategies which are used by different groups of language learners in different
(1997) conducted a survey in Japan. All subjects spoke Japanese as an L1 and
had taken or were taking EFL classes. The surveys were applied to four
different groups which were junior high school students, high school students, university students, and adult
learners. According to the results, the most used strategies were using
bilingual dictionaries, guessing from textual context and asking classmates for
meaning to discover the meaning of a new word. The most common strategies for
consolidating the meaning of once it has been encountered were verbal
repetition, written repetition and studying the spelling. The least common
strategy was checking for L1 cognate of a word.
Behbahani (2016) states that another research was conducted by Riankamol (2008) to
investigate the vocabulary learning strategies used by English gifted students
of Udomuska School. Based on Schmitt’s taxonomy, a 25-item questionnaire
adopted for the purpose of the study. According to the results, the most common
VLSs used by high proficient students at that school are metacognitive
strategies. The least common strategy is “I learn words by listening to
vocabulary CDs” (Behbahani, 2016).
Asgari and Bin Mostapha (2011) investigated the
vocabulary learning strategies adopted by TESL students at University Puta
Malaysia. According to the results of an open-ended interview carried out with
10 students, it was concluded that the most common vocabulary learning
strategies used by those students are learning through reading, using
monolingual dictionary, using various English language media and use of the
words in daily conversation (Behbahani, 2016).
Amirian and Heshmatifar (2013) examined the most and
least common strategies among Iranian EFL learners at Hakim Sabzevari
University, Iran. They also used a questionnaire based on Schmitt’s taxonomy.
According to the results, the most common VLSs are determination strategies,
while the least common strategies are social strategies (Behbahani, 2016)
One of the most important and discussed topics in
language learning is gender. Therefore, a
large number of studies were conducted by many researchers concerning
the effect of gender on the preference of vocabulary language strategies. Like
many other areas in language learning, the results regarding gender are
controversial in vocabulary learning strategy studies.
(2007) examined the role of different learner variables in vocabulary learning
strategy preferences at Rajabhat University. She found that gender has a
significant role in choosing VLSs (Behbahani, 2016).
Khatib, and Rezaei (2011) explored the role of gender in vocabulary learning
strategy choices among 146 undergraduate EFL students after evaluating their
level of proficiency, at the University of Vali-e Asr, in Rafsanjaan, Iran.
According to the results, there was no significant effect of gender on the
choice of vocabulary learning strategies (Behbahani, 2016).
Kalajahi, and Pourshahian (2012) investigated the effects of gender on the
preference of vocabulary learning strategies among Turkish EFL learners.
According to the results, gender is highly correlated with vocabulary learning
strategy use. Female respondents’ frequency of vocabulary strategy use was
slightly higher than males in metacognitive and psycholinguistic vocabulary
learning strategies (Behbahani, 2016).
of proficiency is another factor whic has been investigated by many researchers
to find out if it has any significant effect on learners’ vocabulary learning
and Karami (2012) examined the relationship between proficiency levels of
Iranian EFL learners and their preferences of vocabulary learning strategies.
They applied a questionnaire to three different groups of learners with three
different proficiency levels (elementary, intermediate, and advanced). The
results revealed that there is a high correlation between the students’
proficiency levels and their choice of vocabulary learning strategies. Advanced
learners were using most common vocabulary learning strategies noticeably more
than intermediate and elementary level learners (Behbahani, 2016).
(2013) investigated the effects of different learners’ variables, such as
motivation, family background, and proficiency level, on the use of vocabulary
learning strategies. The study was conducted on 450 first grade students at
Fooyin University. According to the results, proficient learners were better
vocabulary learning strategy users. They watched English TV programs, listened
to radio in medium of English, read English newspapers, and playing computer
games in English more than less proficient learners (Behbahani, 2016).
and Jafari (2013) conducted a study to find out whether there were differences
in the selection of vocabulary learning strategies among Iranian EFL learners
with different levels of proficiency. They applied a questionnaire regarding the
aim of the study to 102 participants. The results revealed that there were
significant differences among frequency of learners’ choice for using
vocabulary learning strategies in different levels of proficiency statistically
Khezrlu and Sadeghi
(2013) examined learner’s variables like proficiency with a study named: self-regulated
vocabulary strategy use. Their experimental groups experienced learning new
vocabulary items in the form of printed textual definition with pictures,
glosses provided in L1, and glosses presented in L2. Finally, they were asked
to fill in a self-regulated capacity vocabulary learning strategy
questionnaire. According to the results, learners’ variables were influential
on final results but not for proficiency level. There was a weak correlation
between learners’ level of proficiency and their use of vocabulary learning
strategies (Behbahani, 2016).