VLI 6(1): Ishii (2017)

The Impact of Semantic Clustering on the Learning of Abstract Words
Tomoko Ishii
Meiji Gakuin University
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7820/vli.v06.1.Ishii
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Abstract
It has been repeatedly argued among vocabulary researchers that semantically
related words should not be taught simultaneously because they
might interfere with each other. However, the types of relatedness that
cause interference have rarely been examined carefully. In addition, past
studies that have examined this issue disagree, with some providing results
showing that semantic clustering does not cause interference and
confusion. Reviewing the literature on working memory, a previous paper
by the author indicated that psychologists have long seen visual stimulus
as an important component of information processing. Researchers
of vocabulary learning have also witnessed some evidence that learners
do resort to visual imagery when trying to remember new words. Based
on such psychological and applied linguistic research, previous research
by the author revealed that visually related items may cause confusion
despite the lack of semantic connection. Conversely, visually controlled,
semantically related items do not seem to cause confusion. This paper
presents the follow-up study, examining the learning of semantically related
abstract words that do not have concrete visual images. No evidence
to indicate any confusion in the learning of such items was obtained.
This supports the working hypothesis that the impeding effect of semantic
clustering repeatedly reported in the past could partly be due to the
shared visual features of semantically similar words.

Keywords
vocabulary, semantic clustering, interference, abstract
words, visual imagery.

Citation
Ishii, T. (2017). The impact of semantic clustering on the learning of abstract words. Vocabulary Learning and Instruction, 6 (1), 21–31. doi: 10.7820/vli.v06.1.Ishii