Productive knowledge of collocations may predict academic literacy

Tobie Van Dyk, Henk Louw, Déogratias Nizonkiza, Kris Van de Poel

Abstract


The present study examines the relationship between productive knowledge of collocations and academic literacy among first year students at North-West University. Participants were administered a collocation test, the items of which were selected from Nation’s (2006) word frequency bands, i.e. the 2000-word, 3000-word, 5000-word bands; and the Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000). The scores from the collocation test were compared to those from the Test of Academic Literacy Levels (version administered in 2012). The results of this study indicate that, overall, knowledge of collocations is significantly correlated with academic literacy, which is also observed at each of the frequency bands from which the items were selected. These results support Nizonkiza’s (2014) findings that a significant correlation between mastery of collocations of words from the Academic Word List and academic literacy exists; which is extended here to words from other frequency bands. They also confirm previous findings that productive knowledge of collocations increases alongside overall proficiency (cf. Gitsaki, 1999; Bonk, 2001; Eyckmans et al., 2004; Boers et al., 2006; Nizonkiza, 2011; among others). This study therefore concludes that growth in productive knowledge of collocations may entail growth in academic literacy; suggesting that productive use of collocations is linked to academic literacy to a considerable extent. In light of these findings, teaching strategies aimed to assist first year students meet academic demands posed by higher education and avenues to explore for further research are discussed. Especially, we suggest adopting a productive oriented approach to teaching collocations, which we believe may prove useful.  

Keywords


collocations, productive knowledge, academic literacy, word frequency

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5785/32-2-601

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ISSN 2224-0012 (online); ISSN 0259-2312 (print)

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