The Effects of Top-down and Bottom-up Cognitive Processes in Chinese EFL Learners’ Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition

  •  Yao Fan    


This study analyzed the correlation between the incidental acquisition of vocabulary using different processing strategies during reading by 56 native Chinese-speaking students studying English at a university in China. Based on top-down and bottom-up cognitive processes, the study discussed the lexical processing strategies employed by the participants in analyzing unknown words. Based on introspective data collected during think-aloud and the subsequent vocabulary retention test results, the researcher explored the acquisition effects of different strategies. The results indicated that the bottom-up processing strategy showed better acquisition effects than the top-down strategy. Finally, the researcher discussed the reasons why Chinese college students performed better with the bottom-up cognitive approach in incidental vocabulary acquisition while reading, attempting to provide pedagogical implications for L2 vocabulary teaching in China.

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