Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Applied Linguistics

Committee Chair

Emily Thrush

Committee Member

Teresa Dalle

Committee Member

Angela Thevenot

Committee Member

William Duffy


Reading authentic texts requires recognition of a large amount of vocabulary. Adequate comprehension of authentic English academic texts requires a minimum vocabulary size of the most frequent 5,000 general word families and 500 academic word families from the Academic Word List. English learners and particularly learners of English as a foreign language (EFL), however, are often found to lack this vocabulary size at all educational stages. As the EFL learners focused on in this study, high school and college-level Saudi EFL students have been found to have only a very small vocabulary. This study investigates whether Saudi EFL Preparatory Year Program (PYP) students have or do not have the minimum vocabulary size for reading English texts that they will read when they enroll in English-medium colleges. To carry out this investigation, data were collected from 100 PYP students by administering two vocabulary size tests. The results suggest that the majority of PYP students not only do not have the minimum vocabulary size needed to cope with reading English texts, but also do not even have a vocabulary size close to it. Only a small portion of students has a relatively large vocabulary size of between 4,000 and 4,600 word families. As an interesting finding worth noting, extensive viewing of L2 movies has been found to have a significant effect on L2 vocabulary learning. To investigate the extent to which PYP students are autonomous and strategic vocabulary learners, 5 more proficient and 5 less proficient students were interviewed. The interviews suggest the more proficient students are highly autonomous and more strategic vocabulary learners because they apply most of the 6 principles of vocabulary learning autonomy and use vocabulary learning strategies more appropriately and consistently. However, the more proficient students are not completely autonomous learners because they do not read or write in English extensively, a very important approach for learning a large number of vocabulary words. Although a considerable number of PYP students were able to substantially increase their L2 vocabulary size through only extensive watching of L2 movies, they could not reach the minimum vocabulary size for reading English texts.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.