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The Role of Vocabulary in Chinese English-Language Beginning Learners' Writing Development
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This dissertation, consisting of one systematic review and two empirical studies, aims to examine the relationship between English vocabulary knowledge and English writing quality with a sample of Chinese-speaking 8th and 9th graders. As the findings reveal, the vocabulary-writing relationship varies with dimensions of vocabulary knowledge. Specifically, vocabulary breadth consistently contributes to writing quality across grades whereas vocabulary depth displays a stronger predictive power for writing quality in the 9th grade. Additionally, after-class English literacy experiences exert indirect effects on the 9th graders’ writing quality through overall vocabulary knowledge. The systematic review of the current literature synthesizes the role of English vocabulary in English language learners’ (ELLs) writing development. Though, overall, vocabulary breadth has a more prominent role than vocabulary depth in ELLs’ writing quality, productive vocabulary depth may still significantly predict their writing performance. Learning contexts, students’ English proficiency, scoring rubrics, and vocabulary measures are possible factors mediating the vocabulary-writing relationship. The first empirical study looks into the relationship between vocabulary breadth, vocabulary depth, and writing abilities with the 8th and 9th graders. Measures include tests of vocabulary size, word association, and morphological awareness, and English writing samples. Standard multiple regression analyses show that vocabulary breadth makes a bigger contribution to writing performance across grades. However, some aspect of vocabulary depth is only related to the 9th graders’ writing performance, suggesting a growing impact of vocabulary depth on writing development. Using the same sample of students, the second empirical study investigates: (1) the relative contribution of vocabulary knowledge, grammatical knowledge, and idea-generating ability to writing quality; (2) the impact of individual motivation and after-class English literacy experiences on writing quality. In addition to the measures utilized in the first empirical study, this study also utilizes a background questionnaire and tests of grammar and idea-generating ability. Path analyses identify overall vocabulary knowledge as the most prominent predictor of the students’ writing quality. Furthermore, the 9th graders’ after-class literacy activities have a significant, yet indirect relationship with writing through vocabulary. Therefore, it is likely that the contribution from the literacy activities to ELLs’ early writing development may be mediated by their language proficiency levels.
Wu, Shuang (2016). The Role of Vocabulary in Chinese English-Language Beginning Learners' Writing Development. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from