Mapping the mental lexicon of EFL learners

A network approach




productive vocabulary, lexicon organization, graph network theory, monolingual learners, bilingual learners


The present paper explores the lexical profiles of monolingual and bilingual learners acquiring English as a second and third language, respectively. Those profiles allow to get insights into learners’ lexical access and lexical organization in the new language. To shed more light in this issue, a lexical fluency task was used to gather data. Results showed lack of significant differences in all the measures taken, but some very interesting differences appear when graph theory metrics are applied. Thus, educational bilinguals show higher levels of lexical organization and stronger connections among the nodes. This can be indicative of a mental lexicon which is better organized, more compact, and more stable. Additionally, educational bilinguals’ networks display highest clustering coefficient and shortest path length. In semantic terms, this means that educational bilinguals can navigate their lexicon more efficiently and in a way that better resembles native lexical search. These findings open up new avenues for insightful studies concerning lexicon organization in different types of learners, with bilingualism being a relevant modulating factor. 


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