Studies in Second Language Acquisition


Patterns of Vocabulary Development in Foreign-Language Learners1

Rolf Palmberga1

a1 Department of Teacher Education, Åbo Akademi


After an introductory discussion of the concepts of vocabulary knowledge continua and foreign-language learners' mental lexicons, the paper presents the results of a longitudinal pilot study whose aim was to make preliminary insights into vocabulary development as it takes place in an ordinary foreign-language classroom setting involving elementary-level Swedish-speaking learners of English. The results are discussed in terms of vocabulary growth in general, the learners' accessibility to words under time pressure, the relationship between “old,” well-known words and newly learned words, and finally, the stability of the learners' immediate access to words.


1 The introductory part of this paper is an abridged version of Palmberg (forthcoming), a paper presented at the Conference on Second/Foreign Language Learning in Katowice, Poland, on May 9–11, 1985. I am grateful to Gun-Britt Kull for assisting me in collecting the data, and to Andrew Cohen, Paul Meara, Paul Nation, Håkan Ringbom, and Sauli Takala for helpful comments and criticisms of earlier versions of this paper.