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Academic Vocabulary What is it and how can it be incorporated into a language teaching program? Diane Schmitt TESOL Dallas March 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Academic Vocabulary What is it and how can it be incorporated into a language teaching program? Diane Schmitt TESOL Dallas March 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Academic Vocabulary What is it and how can it be incorporated into a language teaching program? Diane Schmitt TESOL Dallas March 2013

2 Vocabulary has traditionally been divided into four main types: General Academic Technical Low Frequency (Nation, 2001)

3 General Vocabulary the 2000 most frequent words of English provide 80% coverage of most texts arrive, discuss, follower, impossible, leader, message, repeat, story

4 Academic Vocabulary a list of 570 frequently occurring words in academic texts provides approximately 8-12% coverage of academic texts attribute, category, environment, function, internal, monitor, perspective, widespread

5 Technical Vocabulary words that occur with very high or moderate frequency level within a limited range of texts provides 5% coverage of most texts audit, capital, distribution, metrics, principal agent, shareholder, supply

6 Low Frequency Vocabulary words at the 2, ,000 frequency level and beyond provides 5% coverage of most texts abject, credentials, genealogy, geomorphic, incarcerate, palpitate, rupture

7 Relevance for teaching EAP Teach the most frequent 2000 words Teach the AWL/sub-technical vocabulary, if students are going on to academic study Teach the technical words of a subject after the first two sets of words have been learned Or learners can/will learn technical words once they begin their subject studies or enter their field of work Teach strategies for low-frequency words

8 Allan, S. (1999). News Culture. Open University Press. Frequency List FamiliesTypesTokensPercent % % Sub-total73.66% AWL % Off-List? % Total %

9 EAP Textbooks – OUP

10 EAP Textbooks - Pearson

11 Its more complicated than that! Challenges to the AWL Alternative Definitions of Academic Vocabulary Mutual Exclusivity of Vocabulary Categories Lexical Validity

12 Challenges to the AWL (Hyland and Tse, 2007) One word list cannot serve students of different disciplines equally well Disciplines have their own preferred patterns of use for words – meaning sense, form, lexical and grammatical patterning Homographs and word families distort the usefulness of the AWL and create an extra learning burden for no discernable gain Vocabulary is not always acquired in the teaching sequence proposed by Nation

13 Critiques of the AWL [General academic word lists fail] to engage with current conceptions of literacy and EAP, ignore important differences in the collocational and semantic behavior of words, and do not correspond with the ways language is actually used in academic writing. [They] …could seriously mislead students. (Hyland and Tse, 2007: )

14 Discipline specific behaviour of words Inflectional forms display distinctly different distributional profiles across disciplines (or sub- disciplines) (Ward, 2009) Different meaning senses will be differentially preferred across disciplines (Hyland and Tse, 2007) Collocational patterning differs from discipline to discipline. This affects word meaning. marketing strategy, learning strategy, coping strategy - Hyland and Tse, (2007) blueberry cell culture, cultures were grown - Martinez et al, (2009)

15 Discipline specific behaviour of words/or shared qualities (Granger and Paquot, 2010) VESPA Corpus developed at CECL University of Louvain, Belgium Disciplinary differences for the use of analyze Definitions of analyze from Hyland and Tse (2007) Hard Sciences – methods of determining the constituent parts or composition of a substance Social Sciences -consider something carefully

16 Discipline specific behaviour of words/or shared qualities (Granger and Paquot, 2010) VESPA Corpus developed at CECL University of Louvain, Belgium Disciplinary similarities for the use of analyze Core meaning – to examine data using specific methods or tools in order to make sense of it

17 Alternative definitions of academic vocabulary 1. Items which express notions shared by all or several specialised disciplines – factor, method 2. Items which have a specialised meaning in one or more disciplines – bug, solution 3. Items which are not used in general language but which have different meanings in several specialised disciplines - morphological 4. Items which are traditionally viewed as general language vocabulary but which have restricted meanings in certain specialised disciplines – genes are expressed 5. General language items which are used, in preference to other semantically equivalent items, to describe or comment on technical processes and functions – digestion takes place

18 Alternative definitions of academic vocabulary 6. Items which are used in specialised texts to perform specific rhetorical functions – explanation, pointed out (Baker, 1988) Words that have in common a focus on research, analysis and evaluation (Martin, 1976) Vocabulary that serves specific rhetorical and organisational functions in expert academic writing (Paquot, 2010)

19 Traditional vocabulary categories are not mutually exclusive The GSL/2000 most frequent words of English tend to have multiple meaning senses. Some of which are academic/sub- technical or technical in nature AWL vocabulary occurs outside of academic contexts Technicalness is a functional aspect of a word so words can only usefully be categorized in light of the context of use Frequency is relative and depends on the size and specificity of a domain. Sub-technical and technical vocabulary may be high frequency in a particular domain, but low frequency in a general corpus Disciplines are lexically idiosyncratic (Ward, 2009: 173)

20 AWL in the BNC Lists

21 Four step rating scale for identifying technical words (Chung and Nation, 2004) Step 1 – Words such as function words that have no particular relationship with a field of study amount, common, early Step 2 – Words that have a meaning that is minimally related to a field of study superior, supports, protects Step 3 – Words that have a meaning closely related to the field of study, but which also occur in general language abdomen, cavity, muscles Step 4 – Words that have a meaning specific to a field and are not likely to be know in general language thorax, periostuem, viscera

22 Coverage of technical words in specialized texts (Chung and Nation, 2003) Vocabulary LevelAnatomy TextApplied Linguistics Text 1 st ,790 (53.3%)63,992 (68.5%) AWL16,554 (3.7%)6,422 (6.9%) Technical Words140,400 (31.2%)19,208 (20.6%) Low Frequency Words 53,256 (11.8%)3,803 (4.0%) Total Word Families450,000 (100%)93,445 (100%)

23 Coverage of technical words in specialized texts (Chung and Nation, 2003) Vocabulary LevelAnatomy TextApplied Linguistics Text 1 st ,790 (53.3%)63,992 (68.5%) AWL16,554 (3.7%)6,422 (6.9%) Technical Words140,400 (31.2%) (35.6%) (64.4%) 19,208 (20.6%) (88.4%) (11.6%) Low Frequency Words 53,256 (11.8%)3,803 (4.0%) Total Word Families450,000 (100%)93,445 (100%) GSL/AWL vocabulary

24 Development of ESP/EAP word lists 2000 word Engineering list – Ward, (1999) – corpus of engineering textbooks – foundation level students 1200 word Engineering list – Mudraya (2006) – corpus of basic engineering textbooks – university students 623 word Medical AWL – Wang et al (2008) – corpus of research articles – for learners and users of English for Medical Purposes 123 word Agricultural list – Martinez et al (2009) – corpus of research articles – experienced in discipline 970 word Academic Keyword List – Paquot (2010) – general academic word list

25 Issues with word lists for specific purposes Level of specificity Academic Study Science and Technology Discipline or Field - Engineering Subject – Mechanical engineering Occupational/Work Airline Industry Flight Pilots, Air Traffic Controllers

26 Issues with word lists for specific purposes Learners in academic study Level of existing knowledge of the field Foundation, upper undergraduate, graduate Immediate and long term goals Current level of language proficiency Acquisition patterns Do ESP learners follow the norms of general English learners? Our learners are clear examples of learners who acquire their English as they need it for their specific purpose…although they are usually unaware of even basic grammatical rules (Martinez et al, 2009 )

27 lexical validity (PTE Academic) the extent to which the vocabulary occurring in, and elicited by, the test is representative of the vocabulary that test takers will encounter and be expected to produce, in real- world academic contexts. According to Paul Nation, authentic academic English texts typically contain at least 4% of AWL words. The results show that, according to this criterion, the test is academic in quality, both in respect of the language that it presents to test takers, and the language which it elicits. OfPTEAcademic_2010.pdf

28 Is this text academic?

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30 Are these academic? A B CD

31 A sample essay prompt for students of media studies How does the media influence the immigration debate? (asylum, refugees, migrant workers)

32 A sample essay prompt for students of media studies How does the media influence the immigration debate? (asylum, refugees, migrant workers)

33 Purpose The purpose for which a text is used (rather than for which it was originally written) will determine whether or not a text is academic or not This will impact on which vocabulary words students will need to know (at least receptively)

34 Fiction News/TextbooksJournals Magazines EFL EAP Freshman Disciplinary ExamsWriting Comp Writing What do we mean when we say something is academic?

35 MSc in Human Resource Management

36 From Text Selection to Teaching and Learning

37 Relationship between vocabulary size and text coverage (Schmitt, Jiang & Grabe, 2011)

38 General guidance for independent use Nation (2006) analyzed nine written and spoken corpora. He used the 98% figure to calculate vocabulary size requirements: 6, ,000 word families for spoken discourse 8, ,000 word families for written discourse 95% coverage (Laufer and Ravenhorst-Kalovski,2004) 4, word families for written discourse Instructional Contexts

39 Vocabulary coverage for business texts (Hsu, 2011)

40 How much coverage do our categories provide? High frequency + AWL + technical often 95%- 98% coverage (Chung and Nation, 2003; Fraser 2005; Wang, Liang and Ge, 2008; Lessard-Clouston, 2010;)

41 Coverage of technical words in specialized texts (Chung and Nation, 2003) Vocabulary LevelAnatomy TextApplied Linguistics Text 1 st ,790 (53.3%)63,992 (68.5%) AWL16,554 (3.7%)6,422 (6.9%) Technical Words140,400 (31.2%) (35.6%) (64.4%) 19,208 (20.6%) (88.4%) (11.6%) Low Frequency Words 53,256 (11.8%)3,803 (4.0%) Total Word Families450,000 (100%)93,445 (100%) 88.2% coverage 96% coverage

42 Vocabulary size targets If language teachers/materials teach and use… high frequency vocabulary: 2000 word families + academic vocabulary: 570 word families Coverage shortfall 6000 – word families listening 8000 – word families reading

43 Considering the role of mid-frequency vocabulary (Schmitt and Schmitt, 2012) Hi-frequencyLow frequency vocabulary vocabulary Mid-frequency 3,001 – 8,999 3,000 9,000 families families

44 Mid-frequency vocabulary Words at the frequency levels provides 98% coverage of most texts Subsumes the AWL and much technical vocabulary

45 Words work together Technical vocabulary is dependent for a full appreciation of its meaning on the meaning of the other terms in the cluster of which it is a member. (Godman and Payne, 1981:37 in Coxhead and Nation, 2001) Academic discourse contains large amounts of deliberate definition. Thus, it is important to ensure that learners recognize that definition is occurring and have mastery of the vocabulary used in the definitions.

46 What can learners do with any particular vocabulary size? 250 words or fewer – read graded readers 2-3,000 words - understand defining vocabulary of learner dictionaries 2-3,000 words – participate in daily conversation 3,000 – use TV and movies for teaching/learning 5,000 words – read authentic texts w/assistance 6-7,000 words – understand a wide range of oral discourse without assistance 8-9,000 words – understand a wide range of written discourse NOT total vocabulary size, but mastery of each of these frequency bands

47 Grading learning materials Control vocabulary at the lower levels to ensure that coverage levels for texts do not fall below 95% Seed materials at middle and upper levels with mid-frequency vocabulary to ensure that there are enough recurrences for learning to take place

48 Academic Learning Materials Sample for Writing with Sources

49 Writing from sources begins with reading Reading Constructs Reading for basic comprehension recall summarization text-based multiple choice questions Reading to learn – connecting new information with background knowledge recognition of text structure create a representation of content knowledge Reading to integrate link texts with regard to their individual text structure link content knowledge from a single text with that from one or more texts (Trites and McGroarty, Language Testing, 2005)

50 Sample Task - Lying Syllabus Goal: Students will write an essay where they are required to incorporate information from source texts Learning focus: Students are not blank slates. Raise students awareness that they do hold views on academic topics. Reading around a topic to gain new information and integrate it into existing knowledge/understanding base Oral reporting and summarizing Introduction and recycling of mid-frequency vocabulary Fluency practice

51 Source Texts All of the following had texts on the topic of lying ANA in-flight magazine Wingspan Would I lie to you American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry web pages Children and Lying Psychology Today The Truth about Lying: Has it gotten a bad rap Basic and Applied Social Psychology Liking and Lying

52 Activity One Speaking In small groups, invite students to share their views on the topic – Are people who lie morally flawed? Reading All students read the short article Would I lie to you Students should continue small group discussion with the following focus: How does the information from the reading affect the views you expressed earlier? Ask a group representative to report on how the article related to the views of members of their group. Were already held views reinforced or supported; were they refuted? How similar or different was the affect on individual group members?

53 Activity Two – Extensive Reading Reading and Speaking In small groups, invite students to share their views on the topic – Are people who lie morally flawed? Students read all three remaining readings on the topic of lying. Between each reading students orally (or in writing) reflect on their evolving views on the topic. Assign an essay on the topic Discuss the notion that lying is morally wrong in light of research findings.

54 Make a Text Chain - Lying Text Total families* Mid-freq Families** Percent2.6% 10.5% 21.2% 15.0% * Includes families from 1, ,000 ** 3,000 – 9,000 frequency levels

55 Make a Text Chain - Lying Text Total types Types recycled(15.3%) (14.6%) (53.6%)

56 Where do we go from here? Start by finding out how much vocabulary your students already know Include vocabulary assessment in your placement, mid-course and end of course assessments

57 Vocabulary Profile Test VLT- Schmitt, Schmitt & Clapham, (2001) Available at:

58 Where do we go from here? Set vocabulary targets separately from your textbooks – ensure these correspond to your students needs Be ambitious for your students 50 words per week X 40 weeks = 2000 words per year (Grabe, 2009)

59 Where do we go from here? Use frequency information to guide vocabulary choices for teaching Words needed to understand/do the text/activity can be glossed Remember AWL is not enough Supplement your textbooks to ensure that students get more exposure to the words you want to focus on at each level

60 Make use of vocabulary tools

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63 In sum… Whether or not a text is academic depends on its purpose Students will encounter a range of text types in their university studies Students need to be aware of the lexico- grammatical differences between text types Students need to develop a large vocabulary Word lists can help to focus teaching and fast track development in reading or writing

64 Thank you for your attention.


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