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From Distributions to Labels: A Lexical Proficiency Analysis using Learner Corpora

Conference paper
Authors David Alfter
Yuri Bizzoni
Anders Agebjörn
Elena Volodina
Ildikó Pilán
Published in Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings
ISBN 978-91-7685-633-8
ISSN 1650-3686
Publisher Linköping University Electronic Press
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Swedish
Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Language en
Keywords Lexical complexity, Common European Framework of Reference, Mapping, Semantic space
Subject categories Computational linguistics, Swedish language


In this work we look at how information from second language learner essay corpora can be used for the evaluation of unseen learner essays. Using a corpus of learner essays which have been graded by well-trained human assessors using the CEFR scale, we extract a list of word distributions over CEFR levels. For the analysis of unseen essays, we want to map each word to a so-called target CEFR level using this word list. However, the task of mapping from a distribution to a single label is not trivial. We are also investigating how we can evaluate the mapping from distribution to label. We show that the distributional profile of words from the essays, informed with the essays’ levels, consistently overlaps with our frequency-based method, in the sense that words holding the same level of proficiency as predicted by our mapping tend to cluster together in a semantic space. In the absence of a gold standard, this information can be useful to see how often a word is associated with the same level in two different models. Also, in this case we have a similarity measure that can show which words are more central to a given level and which words are more peripheral.

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