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Applied Linguistics Review

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Word knowledge in academic literacy skills among collegiate ESL learners

Haomin ZhangORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9439-1625 / Winfred Wenhui Xuan
  • Division of Language and Communication, Hong Kong Community College, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China
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Published Online: 2017-10-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0057


The study probed into the relationship between word knowledge and academic literacy skills in college-level English as a second language (ESL) learners. Morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge were included in the word knowledge measures. In addition, reading comprehension and academic writing were the outcome variables. Using the data from 118 ESL students in Hong Kong, we found that both morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge contributed to academic literacy skills. More important, direct and indirect effects of word knowledge on academic literacy skills were tested to provide insight into how two facets of word knowledge interact in shaping academic literacy acquisition. The results demonstrated that vocabulary knowledge mediated the relationship between morphological awareness and academic literacy skills. The study suggests that morphological sensitivity could enhance word meaning extraction and local meaning construction, which subsequently facilitates academic literacy skills.

Keywords: academic literacy; morphological awareness; lexical sophistication; mediation; path analysis


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-10-25

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0057.

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