Changing the bases for academic word lists: the Vocabulary for Academic Lecture Listening word list

Lecture Room 3 - Arts Building
Arts and Law
Tuesday 5th February 2013 (17:00-18:00)
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In this talk, I look at the vocabulary used in academic lectures and the receptive vocabulary knowledge that EAP learners may need for listening to university lectures. The Academic Word List (Coxhead 2000), a list of 570 word families deemed typical of written academic language, is evaluated as a basis for the investigation, but it is rejected on the grounds that 1) the General Service List, on which it is based, is outdated; 2) the AWL is based on written language, and a smaller wordlist is needed for spoken language data. Alternative wordlists are then evaluated.

Using Paul Nation’s BNC frequency lists instead of the GSL, I find that 91.3% of the tokens in a large corpus of academic lecture transcripts (the BASE corpus) are accounted for by the first 2000 word families. I then identify 205 items outside the 2000 with good frequency and range in academic lectures to create the ‘Vocabulary for Academic Lecture Listening’ wordlist. VALL is recommended for use with learners who are preparing for listening to lectures, and sample concordancing activities are suggested. The importance of highly frequent items in the word list is stressed. 

About the English Language Research seminars

  • Convener: Neil Millar

The ELR seminars are a long-running weekly research seminar series within the Department of English, English Language and Applied Linguistics Division. The seminars are aimed primarily at staff, postgraduate students, and academic visitors in the department, but everyone with an interest in language research is welcome! Seminars are usually held on Tuesdays during term time, starting at 4:15 and finishing around 5:30.