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Knowledge-based Vocabulary Lists

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It is widely acknowledged that vocabulary is a key component of language proficiency, and much research suggests that it is the essential component, particularly for the four language skills. This is particularly true in English as a Second Language (ESL) contexts, as second language learners typically have not had sufficient language exposure to acquire a wide English vocabulary, and this lexical deficiency causes problems in all of their L2 language usage. This puts a premium on teaching vocabulary, and measuring it in language tests. The problem is that there are hundreds of thousands of English words, and it is possible to teach and test only a tiny fraction of these. What principle can inform which words to focus upon? The solution to this problem for the last century has been frequency of occurrence. Frequency has been useful in identifying perhaps the 10,000 most useful words to teach and test, but has several disadvantages. The main ones are that frequency lists purport to identify words according to how often they occur in real life, but this will only be imperfectly represented by any corpus. Moreover, just because words occur in a certain frequency in a corpus, this does not mean that L2 learners learn them in this order. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to indicate that they do not, primarily because L2 classroom discourse, textbooks, and materials do not mirror real-world frequency very closely.

This book is the first to propose a solution by developing rank lists of English vocabulary based not on crude-at-best frequency data, but on the actual likelihood of L2 learners knowing the words. Knowledge-based Vocabulary Lists outlines the underlying research methodology and also includes the actual knowledge-based lists (one for each group of language learners studied: Spanish as L1, Chinese as L1, German as L1). These lists are useful resources for all practitioners of English Language Teaching (ELT). Teachers are able to consult it in their teaching, helping them to sequence their vocabulary teaching. Likewise, ELT materials developers and syllabus designers will find the lists invaluable in designing materials and curricula which better mirror English learners actual vocabulary learning trajectories. Tester developers will be better able to design vocabulary tests which match leaners actual lexical knowledge, as opposed to their theoretical knowledge based on frequency results. Finally, second language and corpus researchers will benefit from becoming familiar with the cutting-edge methodology employed in the KVL project.

Published: Nov 1, 2021

Series


Section Chapter Authors
Chapter 1
The Need for the Knowledge-based Vocabulary List (KVL) Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 2
Methodology – Creating a List of Lemmas to Test Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 3
Developing the Vocabulary Test Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 4
Piloting the Internet-based Test Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 5
Developing the Item Translations for Spanish, Chinese, and German Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 6
Developing the Vocabulary Challenge Web Platform and Data Management Systems Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 7
Data Collection Phase Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 8
Analysis and Ranking of Lemmas (Including Comparison of the Spanish, German, and Chinese Results) Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 9
Comparison of the KVL with Frequency Lists Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 10
Individual Differences and Vocabulary Knowledge? Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 11
Further Research Directions Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel
Chapter 12
Using the KVL Lists Norbert Schmitt, Karen Dunn, Barry O'Sullivan, Laurence Anthony, Benjamin Kremmel