Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-13-2020


This dissertation reviews the results from an online survey created to identify and compare how second language (L2) learners and heritage language (HL) learners of Spanish, enrolled in beginning-level coursework at the college level, acquired and built vocabulary. A total of 451 participants completed the survey. The purpose of the online survey was to serve as a baseline for pedagogical purposes, since it provided information about participants’ language profiles and the way they build vocabulary based on sematic relatedness. Overall, the findings from the survey showed that HL and L2 learners differ in the way they build semantic neighborhoods and, in their meaning-making processes. HL participants produced a higher number of Spanish semantic associations for the provided Spanish categories, whereas L2 learners produced a higher number of English semantic associations for both the Spanish and English categories. Additionally, HL learners left more responses blank in both the Spanish and English categories. The findings support the idea that tailored vocabulary pedagogical practices and interventions will benefit and enhance students’ vocabulary development and learning in the Spanish language classroom.


Semantic Neighborhoods, Heritage Language, Meaning-Making Processes, Spanish Second Language, Vocabulary Learning.

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Linguistics

Level of Degree


Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Eva Rodríguez González

Second Committee Member

Holbrook Mahn

Third Committee Member

Jill Morford

Fourth Committee Member

Damián Vergara Wilson