Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

World Languages

Major Professor

John I. Liontas, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Eleni H. Manolaraki, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sonia R. Wohlmuth, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sanghoon Park, Ph.D.


English L1 vocabulary, Latin L2, Latinate word parts, Morphological knowledge, Spanish L2


This study compared the possible effects of learning a language from the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family as a second language (L2), namely Latin and Spanish, on English academic and low-frequency vocabulary acquisition and metalinguistic knowledge of native English speaker (NES) undergraduates in their first language (L1), English.

The study sought to attain two objectives: first, it aimed to discover the effects of learning Latin and Spanish as L2s with respect to the vocabulary acquisition of NES undergraduates; second, it aimed to detect the effects these L2s in terms of metalinguistic awareness. In both cases, the focus was on the acquisition of the NES undergraduates’ L1 academic and low-frequency vocabulary.

A 36-item matching definition pre/post-test (P/PT) was compiled and piloted specifically for the purpose. It was administered twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the semester. The pre- and post-test results were compared for each L2 group to discover the progress the learners made, and their progress was compared to explore whether the groups differed in their achievements.

A metalinguistic awareness test (MAT) was compiled explicitly for this study and was administered at the end of the semester following the post-test. Responses were analyzed to detect whether either L2 group used their morphological knowledge in deciphering the meanings of the post-test items. Thereafter, the results were compared to explore whether there was a difference between the two L2 groups. Moreover, interviews were performed with volunteering L2 learners from both language groups prior to the post-test and MAT administration to substantiate the quantitative (P/PT) and qualitative (MAT) findings.

The outcome of the quantitative data analyses indicated that learning Spanish slightly, but not significantly, improved the academic and low-frequency vocabulary levels of the undergraduate native English speakers, whereas the effect of learning Latin was significant. Comparison of the two language groups’ performances showed that learning Latin is more beneficial than learning Spanish with respect to improving NES L2 learners’ academic and low-frequency English vocabulary.

The outcome of the qualitative data suggested that learning Latin as an L2 helped more than learning Spanish did with regards to the acquisition of academic and low-frequency English vocabulary. The learners’ opinions conveyed through both their statements in the MAT and their responses during the interviews supported this finding.

Furthermore, this study filled a gap in the second language acquisition field in that it explored the effects of learning an L2 on L1 academic and low-frequency vocabulary acquisition of the undergraduates by comparing the effects of two L2s from the same language family.