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Word Type Grouping in Secondary School Textbooks

TALC (Teaching and Language Corpora) Conference, Lissabon, 2008
Year of publication: 
Conference paper - peer reviewed

According to second language research (Saville-Troike 1984), vocabulary size is the single most determinant factor for second language students in order to be successful in a school setting. This has to do with the close relationship between reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge (Read 2000). The persistent gap between reading performance of first and second language students observed in many studies (Taube 2002) is thus intimately related to low vocabulary among second language students. According to some estimates, differences in vocabulary size between first and second language students at school start may amount to several thousand words and tend to increase over the school years (Verhoeven & Vermeer 1985). According to some researchers there is a yearly increase of approximately 3000 words in the vocabulary size of school children in general (Viberg 1993). This means that many second language students face the task of trying to close a gap in vocabulary size of thousands of words while at the same time trying to keep up with the extensive vocabulary growth of first language students.
But much could be done to make vocabulary instruction more systematic and efficient if we knew more about the vocabulary needs for successful learning in different subjects at school. Schoolbook texts constitute important data for finding answers to questions like What characterizes the vocabulary of schoolbook texts in general and in different subjects at different levels? and Which words present particular problems for students studying in their second language? To answer such and other questions related to school related vocabulary and second language learning we have compiled and analyzed a corpus of secondary school textbooks of one million words (OrdiL) with texts from eight different school subjects (Lindberg & Johansson Kokkinakis 2007). To identify and categorize various types of words in textbooks from a second language perspective, we propose a model based on earlier research by Coxhead & Nation (2001) and Hyland & Tse (2007) modified to account for all the word types of potential difficulty for second language secondary school students.

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