Annotating Abstract Vocabulary Using Multimedia

Annotating Abstract Vocabulary Using Multimedia

Jing Xu (Iowa State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8499-7.ch002
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This chapter reports a research study that investigated the effectiveness of multimedia vocabulary annotations (MVAs) in facilitating acquisition of second language (L2) abstract vocabulary. Twenty-one collegiate L2 students read a hypermedia passage that contained marginal MVAs for eighteen unknown abstract words. Their knowledge of these words was assessed immediately after the reading activity and twelve days afterwards. The quantitative data from vocabulary assessments indicated that these students neither acquired more vocabulary knowledge nor retained this knowledge better by using MVAs than using traditional text-only annotations. The qualitative data collected from two questionnaires suggested that the participants had applied various strategies for assessing MVAs and they had encountered certain difficulties in understanding the visuals. The results are interpreted based on multimedia learning and visual perception theories. The implications of the results for designing multimedia L2 reading and listening materials are discussed.
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There is common consensus that L2 learners acquire a considerable amount of vocabulary knowledge through comprehension-focused reading and listening tasks (e.g., Horst, Cobb, & Meara, 1998; Krashen, 1989) and that providing them with accessible textual annotations in various formats (e.g., L1 or L2, single or multiple-choice, word-level or sentence-level) further enhances the likelihood of this incidental vocabulary acquisition (e.g., Hulstijn, Hollander, & Greidanus, 1996; Watanabe, 1997). With rapid advances and increased accessibility of computer technology in the last two decades, multimedia vocabulary annotations (MVAs) began to be incorporated in the design of computer-mediated L2 reading and listening materials. A large body of research has investigated the efficacy of such multi-modal annotations for L2 vocabulary acquisition. Generally, it was found that MVAs outperformed text-only annotations in promoting L2 vocabulary learning (Mohsen & Balakumar, 2011; Xu, 2010). A plausible and well-accepted interpretation of this finding is that vocabulary knowledge that is encoded in dual modes (both verbal and visual) in the mental lexicon is more efficiently retrieved than that encoded in a single mode (verbal only).

Nevertheless, the target words in the above-mentioned MVA studies were mainly highly concrete items that can be easily visualized and vividly remembered (de Groot & Keijzer, 2000; Mayer, 2009). As compared to concrete words, abstract words do not have specific real-world counterparts and are therefore less likely to arouse mental images (Paivio, 1969). According to Xu (2010), it remains an open question as to whether word concreteness has certain impact on the efficacy of MVAs. Stated another way, we are unclear whether MVAs would still show advantages over textual annotations if the words being annotated solely convey abstract ideas.

To fill this gap, the present study investigated MVAs’ effectiveness in facilitating L2 learners’ incidental acquisition of abstract vocabulary in a hypermedia reading activity. The specific research questions are stated as below:

  • 1.

    Does the mode of vocabulary annotations have an effect on incidental acquisition of L2 abstract vocabulary?

  • 2.

    How do L2 learners process multimedia information during reading and what are their opinions on MVAs’ helpfulness and effectiveness for vocabulary learning?

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