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THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MORPHOLOGICAL AWARENESS AND ENGLISH VOCABULARY (qualitative)



CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
1.1              Background of the Study
Vocabulary as one of language elements which functions not only to support the use of the other elements of language (pronunciation, spelling, and grammar) but also to facilitate the use of the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). Rivers in Nunan (1991) has argued that the acquisition of an adequate vocabulary is essential for successful second language learners because without an extensive vocabulary, they will unable to use the structures and functions they may have learned for comprehensible communication. Harmer (1991) also states that an ability to manipulate grammatical structure does not have any potential for expressing meaning unless words are used.
Learning vocabulary is one important matter in learning language but it is not a simple work to do. The bad score on vocabulary found in the students’ achievement does not mean that there are no efforts to solve the problem. Both teachers and students have tried to apply various methods and techniques in teaching and learning vocabulary. However, there are many factors assumed to give influence in teaching and learning process such as students’ characteristics, materials, teachers’ character, etc.
As such, vocabulary learning and teaching is a central activity in the classroom. One way in which vocabulary learning can be fostered is through the use of learning strategies. These strategies are consciously or unconsciously learned techniques for processing information in order to enhance learning, comprehension and retention (O’Malley and Chamot, 1990). One potential vocabulary learning strategy is the use of morphological awareness to learn novel vocabulary.
Morphological awareness is defined as the ability to use the knowledge of word formation rules and the pairings between sounds and meanings (Kuo & Anderson, 2006: 161-180). With morphological awareness, learners are able to learn morphemes and morphemic boundaries by disassembling complex words into meaningful parts (e.g. childhoods = child + -hood + -s), learning the meanings of roots, affixes (child= baby, -hood= the state of being, -s= to indicate plural nouns), and reassembling the meaningful parts into new meanings (motherhood, fatherhood, brotherhood). The practice of this dissembling- reassembling method is called morphological analysis.
There is increasing interest in morphological awareness as a crucial dimension of vocabulary knowledge, especially in reading. In the first place, morphemes have semantic, phonological and syntactic properties (e.g. –s in the verb rides indicates that the action doer is only one person who does the action in the present time) (Singson, Mahony and Mann, 2000: 219- 252) that express the role of a given word in the reading context.
Another thing, words are organized in the mental lexicon according to their phonological properties with morphological knowledge as a framework for storing words (Sandra, 1994: 227-269). Moreover, morphological awareness makes the learner more aware of the writing system. With morphological knowledge, learners can perceive spelling and phonological irregularities (e.g. sign- signature) (Kuo and Anderson, 2006: 161-180).
The relationship between morphological awareness and reading may be reciprocal or directional. In the case the relationship being reciprocal, both reading and morphological awareness can contribute to the development of one another. In directional term, morphological awareness leads to reading proficiency, but not the other way around.
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