Word knowledge in academic literacy skills among collegiate ESL learners

Haomin Zhang, Winfred Wenhui Xuan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The study probed into the relationship between word knowledge and academic literacy skills in college-level English as a second language (ESL) learners. Morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge were included in the word knowledge measures. In addition, reading comprehension and academic writing were the outcome variables. Using the data from 118 ESL students in Hong Kong, we found that both morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge contributed to academic literacy skills. More important, direct and indirect effects of word knowledge on academic literacy skills were tested to provide insight into how two facets of word knowledge interact in shaping academic literacy acquisition. The results demonstrated that vocabulary knowledge mediated the relationship between morphological awareness and academic literacy skills. The study suggests that morphological sensitivity could enhance word meaning extraction and local meaning construction, which subsequently facilitates academic literacy skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-218
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Linguistics Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • academic literacy
  • lexical sophistication
  • mediation
  • morphological awareness
  • path analysis


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