The Effect of Lexical Collocational Density on the Iranian EFL Learners’ Reading Comprehension

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Zand Institute of Higher Education

2 Shiraz University


The present study aims at investigating the effect of different levels of lexical collocational density on EFL learners’ reading comprehension. Eighty sophomore students with different levels of proficiency studying at  Zand Institute of Higher Education in Shiraz, Iran were chosen from among eighty five learners based on their score distribution on a reduced TOEFL test constructed by Educational Testing Service (ETS, 1998). Forty participants were randomly assigned to the control group, while the other forty made the experimental group. Another instrument used in this study was a lexical collocation test containing two texts (as pre- and post-tests): A high and a low lexical collocational density tests designed by the researchers. A few paired/independent sample t-tests, and a two-way repeated measure were used to answer the five research questions. Results indicated that texts with high lexical collocational density influenced learners’ comprehension positively. Although the instruction of lexical collocation did not have any effects on answering the vocabulary items significantly, teaching lexical collocations affected learners’ reading skills positively. Finally, different proficiency levels of the participants did not affect their performance on lexical collocation test with different lexical collocational density significantly.


Akbari, R. & Mirhassani, A. (2000). Study skills. Tehran.: SAMT.

Aitchison, J. (1987) Words in the mind: An introduction to the mental lexicon. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Bonk, W. J. (2000). Testing ESL learners’ knowledge of collocations. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 442309)

Čeh, Z. (2005). Crucial combinations. English Teaching Professional, 37, 29-31.

Celce-Murcia, M. (2001). Teaching English as a second or foreign language. (3rd ed.). Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Chen, M. (2008). A Study of the English Collocation Competence of College Students in Taiwan. Unpublished MA Thesis, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology.

Ehrlich, M., Remond, M. and Tardieu, H. (1999). Processing of anaphoric devices in young skilled and less skilled comprehenders: Differences in metacognitive monitoring. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 11 (1), 29-63.

Gorjani, B. (1996). The role of lexical collocations as a textual structure and its effect on cognitive processing in reading comprehension. Unpublished MA Thesis. Tabriz: The University of Tabriz.

Halliday, M. A. (1975). Explorations in the functions of language. London: Edward Arnold.

Halliday, M. A. K. and Hasan. R. (1985). Language, context and text: A social semiotic perspective. London: Deakin University Press.

Halliday, M.A. and Hasan, R. (1976). Cohesion in English. London: Longman.

Hammer, J. (1991). The practice of English language teaching(2nd ed.). London: Longman.

Hill, J. (2000). Revising priorities: From grammatical failure to collocational success. In

Lewis, M. (Ed.). Teaching Collocation Further developments in the lexical approach, pp.47-69. Croatia: Heinle.

Howarth, P. A. (1996). Phraseology in English academic writing: Lexicographica Series Maior, 75. Tubingen: Max Niemeyer.

Huang, L. (2001). Knowledge of English collocations: An analysis of Taiwanese EFL Learners. In Luke, C.& Rubrecht, B.  (Eds.). Texas papers in foreign language education:

Selected proceedings from the Texas Foreign Language Education Conference, 2001.

Volume 6. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED465288)

Keshavarz, M. H. & Salimi, H. (2007). Collocational competence and cloze test performance: a study of Iranian EFL learners. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 17(1), 81-92.

Lauder, A. (n.d.). Collocation, Semantic Preference and Translation: Semantic Preference as a Reference Source for Translation. Retrieved 12 January 2013 from

Lewis, M. (1993). The lexical approach: The state of ELT and the way forward. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

Lewis, M. (1997). Implementing the lexical approach: Putting theory into practice. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

Lewis, M. (2000). Language in the lexical approach. In Lewis, M. (Ed.). Teaching collocation:

Further developments in the lexical approach, pp.126–154. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

Lin, Y. P. (2001). The Effects of collocation instruction on English vocabulary development of senior high students in Taiwan. Unpublished master’s thesis, National Kaohsiung Normal University, Taiwan, R.O.C.

Lotfipour, K. (1997). Lexical cohesion and translation equivalence. META, 45, 185-192.

Mahmoud, A. (2005). Collocation errors made by Arab learners of English. Asian EFL Journal. August 2005, Article2.

Martyńska, M. (2004). Do English language learners know collocations? Investigationes Linguisticae, XI.

McCarthy, M. (1990). Vocabulary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McClure, M. and Steffensen, M. (1985). A study in the use of conjunctions across grades and ethnic groups. Research in the Teaching of English 19 (3), 217-36.

Nattinger, J.R. & DeCarrico, J.S. (1992). Lexical phrases and language teaching. Oxford University Press.

Nesselhauf, N. (2003). The use of collocations by advanced learners of English and some implications for teaching. Applied Linguistics, 24 (2), 223–242.

Pouralvar, K. (2007). The effect of lexical collocational density of texts on readability. ILI Language Teaching Journal , 3 (2), 159-164.

Rahimi, A. (2005). The Role of systematic exposure to lexical collocations in learning English vocabulary by Iranian students. Unpublished M.A. Thesis. Shiraz Islamic Azad University.

Schmitt, N. (2000). Key concepts in ELT: Lexical chunks. ELT Journal, 54(4), 400–401.

Sinclair, J. (1991). Corpus, concordance, and collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Smadja, F. (1993). Retrieving collocations from text. ComputationalLinguistics, 19 (1), 143–177.

Tang, Y. T. (2004). A Study of the collocation errors in the oral and written production of the college students in Taiwan. Unpublished master’s thesis, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan, R.O.C.

Tseng, F. P. (2002). A Study of the effects of collocation instruction on the collocational competence of senior high school students in Taiwan. Unpublished master’s thesis, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan, R.O.C.

Van Dijk, T. A. (1977). Semantic macro-structures and knowledge frames in discourse comprehension. In Just, M.A.  and Carpenter, P.A.: Cognitive processes in comprehension. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Van Dijk, T.A. and Kintsch, W. (1983). Strategies of discourse comprehension. New York: Academic Press.

Wang, C. J. (2001). A study of the English collocational competence of English majors in Taiwan. Unpublished master’s thesis, Fu-Jen Catholic University, Taiwan, R.O.C.

Zhang, X. (1993). English collocations and their effect on the writing of native and non-native college freshmen. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Pennsylvania, USA: Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Zughoul R. & Hussein, A. (2001). Collocational competence of Arabic speaking learners of English: A study in lexical semantics. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED479650).