Lexical Availability of Basic and Advanced Semantic Categories in English L1 and English L2

Part of the Educational Linguistics book series (EDUL, volume 17)


The current investigation used lexical availability to assess the performance of Chilean university students, advanced English (L2) learners in comparison with English native speakers (L1) in basic (‘Body parts’, ‘Food and drink’), and advanced (‘Terrorism and crime’, ‘Health and medicine’) semantic categories. Three analyses were conducted looking at number of words produced, lexical availability values, and correlations between L1 and L2 speakers in all four semantic categories. The results of the first analysis showed that L1 outperformed L2 speakers and that basic categories were more productive than advanced categories regarding number of words produced. The second analysis showed no group effect, but a significant effect of semantic category, with basic showing higher lexical availability than advanced categories. The last analysis revealed strong correlations between L1 and L2 speakers in all semantic categories, with stronger correlations for basic than advanced categories. However, the most significant finding in this study is that both groups retrieved a greater number of words for basic semantic categories than for advanced semantic categories which seem to point to similar patterns in the organization of the available lexicons of L1 and L2 speakers.


Native Speaker Semantic Category Basic Category Mental Lexicon Word Production 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was partially supported by Proyecto Fondecyt 1050598 (2005). We would like to thank Linda Salter and Paul Salter for their collaboration in collecting the data from the English speakers. We would also like to thank Prof. Lilian Gómez who allowed us to take part of her teaching time in order to conduct the lexical availability test at the University of Concepción. Many thanks to the students from the Royal School Haslemere, and the students from the University of Concepcion, who participated in the study. Finally, we would also like to thank Mariya Bistrina for proofreading this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Lenguas. Facultad de EducaciónUniversidad Católica de la Santísima ConcepciónConcepciónChile

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