The case of Applied Linguistics - Pre-university, undergraduate and postgraduate vocabulary

Vocabulary and English for Specific Purposes Research - Averil Coxhead 2018

The case of Applied Linguistics
Pre-university, undergraduate and postgraduate vocabulary

Several studies have investigated the lexis of Applied Linguistics, beginning with Chung and Nation’s (2003) use of a scale to identify technical vocabulary in a textbook (see Chapter 2). Chung and Nation (2003) found just over 5,000 types of the 93,445 word corpus were technical, or about 20% of the Applied Linguistics textbook, and that just over 40% of this vocabulary was present in the first 2000 words of West’s GSL (1953), 17.4% was also in Coxhead’s AWL (2000), 16.3% was technical and 24.5% were low frequency words. In other words, this technical vocabulary could be found in many different frequency levels in English. Figure 6.1 shows a portion of the Applied Linguistics textbook (Ellis, 1999) from Chung and Nation (2003), where words in normal type are high frequency words, AWL words are bolded (e.g. interaction and input), words in italics are low frequency (pedagogy and interpersonal) and words which are underlined are technical.

The sample in Figure 6.1 illustrates the 20% or one in five estimate of technical vocabulary from Chung and Nation (2003). It also shows the repetition of key technical words in context, and how this text contains technical vocabulary in both education and research. This study took place before Nation’s (2006) BNC frequency lists and any of the newer academic and general word lists which have appeared since 2014, so a further study could perhaps map these newer lists to the data from the Chung and Nation (2003) research.

Figure 6.1 A sample of the Applied Linguistics text showing the various kinds of words (Ellis, 1999, p. 1)

Two other studies which focus on Applied Linguistics are Vongpumivitch et al. (2009) and Khani and Tazik (2013). Both studies developed corpora of research articles in order to analyse the presence of AWL in the corpus, and to identify words outside that word list which could be candidates for a specialised word list. These studies both found over 11% of the Applied Linguistics texts could be found in the AWL, in contrast to Chung and Nation’s finding of 6.9% over the Applied Linguistics textbook. Vongpumivitch et al. (2009) developed a corpus of 200 research articles from five journals, and identified 128 non-AWL words which include items that relate to this specialised area of education (for example, metalinguistic, morphology/morphological and phonological), and also to research (for example, ANOVA, correlated/correlation(s) and longitudinal). Khani and Tazik (2013) also drew on academic journal articles for their research, this time downloading 240 articles in total from 12 journals, making a total corpus of 1,553,450 running words. They identified 773 types which cover 12.48% of their corpus. A total of 15 AWL words are in the top-20 words in their list, for instance, research, text, data and task. The five non-AWL words in the top 20 are discourse, classroom, linguistic, corpus and proficiency. These studies all illustrate the relationship between vocabulary in Applied Linguistics, research and language education. They also illustrate the broad variety of lexis which occurs in this area of Humanities and Arts.