Changing the bases for academic word lists

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper evaluates resources on which to base an academic wordlist on frequency and range criteria. The aims of the study are: to establish a robust approach to academic wordlist development and to create a frequency-based list of the words that EAP learners need for listening to university lectures.
The widely-used Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000), a list of 570 word families deemed typical of written academic language, is rejected on the grounds that: the General Service List, on which it is established, is outdated; a smaller wordlist is needed for spoken language data. Testing of alternative resources shows that Nation’s BNC frequency lists are the best replacement for the GSL, for building academic word lists. 91.3% of the tokens in a corpus of academic lecture transcripts (the BASE corpus) are accounted for by the first 2000 word families in the BNC lists. 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 in preparing learners for listening to lectures, and sample concordancing activities are suggested. The importance of highly frequent items in the word list is stressed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnglish for Academic Purposes: Approaches and Implications
EditorsPaul Thompson, Giuliana Diani
Place of PublicationNewcastle
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)978-1-4438-7439-7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • EAP
  • word list
  • GSL
  • listening to lectures
  • BNC frequency lists
  • vocabulary studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics


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