Yesterday I posted a bibliography on the problem of interference when learning semantically related words, which I have updated this morning. However, I know that not everyone will have access to all of those works and that not everyone will have the time to read them all. But, I have found one of the articles online for free at the website of one of the authors:
Finkbeiner, M. & Nicol, J. (2003). Semantic category effects in second language word learning. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 369-383.
The article can accessed by clicking HERE and scrolling down to the second to last entry.
Here are some notable quotes with emphasis added:
The present study addresses a long-standing assumption in the field of applied linguistics: that presenting new second language (L2) vocabulary in semantically grouped sets is an effective method of teaching (369).
Although many SLA theorists and practitioners endorse (implicitly or explic-
itly) the seemingly sensible position that teaching new L2 vocabulary in seman-
tically grouped sets is an effective method of teaching, there is actually very
little empirical evidence to support this position. The body of literature often
cited in support of presenting learners with semantically grouped words includes
(monolingual) memory studies (370).
In studies that record the number of learning trials needed to reach a predetermined learning criterion, it has been shown that participants take longer to learn new labels for sets of semantically related items than for sets of semantically dissimilar items (Higa, 1963; Kintsch & Kintsch, 1969; Nation, 2000; Tinkham, 1993, 1997; Underwood, Ekstrand, & Keppel, 1965; Waring, 1997) (371).
Overall, then, presenting semantically grouped L2 words to learners has a
deleterious effect on learning (376, from the discussion section after their experiment dealing with interference).
The implications that this study has for vocabulary instruction and curriculum
development are not trivial. As pointed out in the introductory section, several
authors in the teaching methodology literature have argued that vocabulary
should be taught in semantic groups. The results of the present study converge
with those of Tinkham (1993, 1997) and Waring (1997) to suggest that teaching
words in semantic sets creates competition between items, which in turn in-
creases difficulty during learning and during memory retrieval in language pro-
I will still have another of my own posts on this topic, so I hope that this article and the others in the previous post will be helpful in the meantime.