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Cross disciplinary and discipline specific words in Swedish secondary school textbooks.

Conference paper
Authors Sofie Johansson Kokkinakis
Inger Lindberg
Published in 19th Annual Conference of the European Second Language Association, Cork, Ireland
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Swedish
Language en
Keywords secondary school textbooks, second language research, vocabulary
Subject categories Language Technology (Computational Linguistics), Bilingualism, Swedish language

Abstract

According to second language research (Saville-Troike 1984, Viberg 1993), vocabulary size is the single most determinant factor for second language students’ school success. This has to do with the close relationship between reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge (Read 2000). There are thus strong reasons to believe that the persistent gap between reading performance of first and second language students observed in many studies (Pisa 2005, Taube 2002) is intimately related to low vocabulary among second language students. 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 (Verhoeven & Vermeer 1985) 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 school subjects. Text books constitute important data for finding answers to questions like “What characterizes the vocabulary of school related language in general and in specific subjects in particular?” 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 potential difficulties for second language students. We propose a model with four subgroups mainly based on frequency and range in the OrdiL corpus and in an equally sized reference corpus of easy-to-read texts (Mühlenbock, 2008) as a point of comparison. In this presentation we will discuss the OrdiL classification of words in relation to L2 learners’ potential vocabulary limitations reported on in previous research on second language vocabulary (Nation 2001, Golden & Hvenekilde 1983, Gimbel 1995).

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