Examining the Effect of Semantic Relatedness on the Acquisition of English Collocations

  • Michael Yi-chao JiangEmail author
  • Morris Siu-yung Jong
  • Chi-shing Tse
  • Ching-sing Chai


This study examines whether semantic relatedness facilitates or impedes the acquisition of English collocations by conducting two experiments respectively on Chinese undergraduates. Each experiment was composed of a reading session, a productive test, and a receptive test. Experiment 1 began with the reading session of 28 paired-up words and their collocations (in sentence context). Those words were counterbalanced between two randomly selected groups by cross-matching on semantic relatedness. Results of the productive test revealed that the participants scored significantly higher on test items that were semantically related than the randomly cross-paired counterparts. However, for the receptive test, the participants performed significantly better on semantically unrelated items. Experiment 2 was similar to Experiment 1 except that the word pairs selected were only semantically related and did not have any shared morphemes. Experiment 2 also revealed consistent results. The results of the two experiments consistently illustrate that semantic relatedness may exert a facilitatory effect on language output but an inhibitory effect on the process of language input.


Semantic relatedness English collocations Acquisition Inhibitory effect Facilitatory effect 



Our special thanks go to Prof. Li Yang and Prof. Zhang Juan for their help in data collection.


The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Curriculum and InstructionThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong Kong S.A.R.China
  2. 2.Department of Educational PsychologyThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong Kong S.A.R.China

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