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Access Type

Open Access

Degree Program

Hispanic Literatures & Linguistics

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded

January 2008

Month Degree Awarded



Hispanic Linguistics, Foreign Language Education, Foreign Language Learning, Spanish, Applied Linguistics


Past theorists have shown through their work the versatility and advantages of utilizing pre-established schemata to form a novice’s interaction with and comprehension of a text. Schemata have shown to contribute to comprehension by means of four purposes: to disambiguate, to elaborate, to filter, and to compensate (Lee & VanPatten 1999). Furthermore, we see that these schemata, or formerly attained background knowledge, are integral parts of Coady’s ESL psycholinguistic reading model (1979) , as well as Carrel’s schema theory (1984).

Previous studies done by Jimenez (2000) and that of Valdés (2001) with ESL/LEP students show that motivation for learning a second language is partly derived from the social environment in which students are participants. Valdés’ study in particular supports a Funds of Knowledge Approach (Moll et. al. 1994), which stresses the need for increased attention on the social environment of the student.

The present study focuses on novel L2 lexical item decoding. Students will be given a “pre-study” questionnaire in order to ascertain knowledge of and ability level of Spanish. Novices will encounter the lexical items in two different short texts. One will activate a known “social schema”, while the other will be a text for which students will not have a background structure. There will be the same amount of novel lexical items in both texts, and each text will be of the same level. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to investigate whether, and how, students interpret the meanings of novel lexical items when they are presented in a “socially tailored” text.

This new “socio-schematic approach” to L2 lexical item decoding can contribute to the stages of Reading Skill and Acquisition outlined by ACTFL. By applying this “socio-schematic approach”, implications for foreign language learning can be linked to the stages of ACTFL.

First Advisor

Rosemary Weston-Gil