Knowledge acquisition from L2 specialist texts

  • Yasemín Kirkgöz

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research aims to investigate knowledge acquisition and concept formation in the domain of economics and business studies through a foreign language, English, from the very initial to the very final stage of development in the context of Higher Education in Turkey. It traces both the processes as well as the product of acquisition in order to provide a detailed picture of how knowledge acquisition occurs. It aims to explore ways in which the acquisition process can be facilitated and promoted while prospective students of the Department of Economics and Business Administration receive a language training programme, following the completion of which they will join their academic community which offers part of its courses through the English language. The study draws upon (some) theories of mental representation of knowledge, such as schema, frame and script. The concept of discourse community with its characteristics is investigated, enculturation of prospective students to acquire knowledge of their domain through L2 is explored, and the crucial role of the constructivist theory in relation to knowledge acquisition is highlighted. The present study was conducted through a process of enculturation taking place partly at the language centre of Çukurova University and partly at the target discourse community. The data utilised for initiating knowledge acquisition was obtained by establishing a corpus of economics and business texts, which the learners are expected to read during their academic courses utilising computerised technology. The method of think aloud protocols was used to analyse processes taking place in knowledge acquisition, while the product of what was acquired was investigated by means of written recall protocols. It has been discovered that knowledge acquisition operates on the basis of analogical and to a certain extent metaphorical reasoning. The evidence obtained from the think aloud protocols showed that neophytes were able to acquire fundamental concepts of their future domain by reaching the level of shared understanding with the members of their target community of the faculty. Diaries and questionnaire analyses demonstrated that enculturation facilitated learners' transition from the language centre into the target community. Analyses of the written recall protocols and examinations from the post-enculturation stage of the research showed that neophytes' academic performances in their target community were much higher than those of their non-enculturated counterparts. Processes learners go through and strategies they spontaneously make use of, especially while acquiring knowledge of a specific domain through L2 have so far remained unexplored research areas. The present research makes a potential contribution to the language and knowledge acquisition theories by examining closely and systematically the language and the strategies they employ in acquiring such knowledge. The research findings offer useful implications to English language teaching at language schools. Language teachers are provided with useful guidelines as to how they can provide prospective students of a particular academic community with an experience of acquiring fundamental concepts of their discipline before they become members of their target community.
Date of Award1999
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorChristina G Schaeffner (Supervisor)


  • knowledge acquisition
  • analogical reasoning
  • concept formation
  • concordances
  • constructivist theory
  • domain-specific knowledge
  • enculturation
  • frame theory
  • metaphorical reasoning
  • schema theory
  • target discourse community
  • think aloud protocols

Cite this