Helping students use wordsprecisely and powerfullyJeanne GodfreyJeanne Godfrey 9/3/2013 www.jeannegodfrey.com 1
Problems students haveLack of /only partial familiarity with core academic vocabulary.Inability to control and clearly communicate their ideas.Lack of confidence in developing their own written voice.Tutors giving help with technical language but expecting the students to be familiarwith sub-technical lexis. Core vocabulary is therefore less marked and given lessattention by students also.Dictionaries – they need to know which word they want to look up and dictionariesdon’t give adequate contextualisation within real academic writing.Thesauruses – again, they need to know which word you want to look up,compounded by the fact that synonyms are grouped and that there is no indication ofdifferences in meaning and context, nuance, connotation or register.‘Confusable words’ and ‘key words’ books - again, they need to know which wordyou want to look up and that they have got a word wrong.EAP Vocabulary course books – excellent but only one or two are ordered via functionand by definition they are (large) course books.Jeanne Godfrey 9/3/2013 www.jeannegodfrey.com 2
Key points on mental lexicon and vocabulary acquisitionHow many words do L2 students need to know?NNSs: Rundell - about 7,500 words above basic 2 -3,000 threshold level to understand92 – 93% of a serious text.Nation - 8,000 words = 97 - 98% coverage of serious newspapers. 9,000 are neededfor 98% coverage.Size of lexicon needed for native-speaker performance – about 17,000 -20,000 word families.Nation and Newton. Goulden, Nation and Read.Do students learn vocabulary through incidental reading, focussed teaching, readingstrategies and guessing?Incidental reading is good but focussed teaching is more important than reading strategies(Dalton et al., Haynes and Barber, Laufer).Trying to guess words definitely doesn’t work (Bensonan and Laufer 1984, Laufer 1997).Importance of learning phrases rather than isolated words? High.(Nattinger and De Carrico, Kilgarrif, Moon, Howarth, Osbourne, Nesselhauf and others.)Core academic vocabulary versus discipline-specific? Both are important.(Durrant et al., Corson, Coxhead, Hyland and Guinda 2012)Need for practice and precision? Definitely. Established pedagogy.Jeanne Godfrey 9/3/2013 www.jeannegodfrey.com 3
Key aims and messages of The Student Phrase BookAims:to be an accessible self-reference and learning tool that can be used alongside apiece of work or separately;to give students a ‘way in’ to core academic vocabulary via writing functions;to help students use words and phrases precisely in their writing;to raise awareness of common errors and provide practice in error correction;to raise awareness of the rhetorical, ‘critical thinking’, and other key writingfunctions and to become familiar with academic writing and its conventionsgenerally .Messages:academic writing should be uncomplicated, clear and precise and controlled by thestudent to communicate ideas effectively;the ability to write well is not achieved merely by using ‘good’ words and phrases,but by understanding their purpose and using them purposefully;successful and powerful writing is mainly a product of sound research, thinking andideas combined with the ability to communicate these to the reader.Jeanne Godfrey 9/3/2013 www.jeannegodfrey.com 4
Limitations of The Student Phrase BookCovers core academic vocabulary rather than subject-specific lexis.Can’t cover all the words every student will need.Presents synforms together.Uses only the standard essay and report formats and to a lesser extent original researchand experiment, rather than the different genres and sub-genres that exist.Does not talk to students explicitly about how to learn and develop their vocabulary.Does not cover in detail the complexities of how to use language to control thedevelopment of their ideas - such aspects need to be contextualised within their specificsubject areas, using longer sections of authentic disciplinary texts.Jeanne Godfrey 9/3/2013 www.jeannegodfrey.com 5
Research that informed The Student Phrase BookWord selection criteria:core academic lexis used across disciplines in main writing functions ;mid to advanced level for both native and non-native English speakers ;rare words that are more common in academic texts and therefore unfamiliar tostudents;evidenced in my ‘error corpus’ and published material as often used imprecisely/incorrectly.My selection was checked against:West General Service List, Xue and Nation University Word List, Coxhead AcademicWord List and the Simpson-Vlach and Ellis Academic Formulas List;my written error corpus;top two tiers of high-frequency written words in the Longman Dictionary ofContemporary English 2009 and Macmillan Dictionary for Advanced Learners;all other relevant and major publications, e.g. Fowler 2004, Pythian 1990, Cobuild KeyWords for IELTS Book 2 Improvers and Book 3 Advanced , Swales and Feak;Concordancers - BNC , Wordsmith Tools 5.0, Lextutor 6.5 and Google.Jeanne Godfrey 9/3/2013 www.jeannegodfrey.com 6
Extract from my academic writing error corpus (raw data)V about/generally. The UK population is generally 60,000,000.V About/o.f Personal writing is more of your own feelings..V above/earlier. ..with the restriction mentioned earlier on.. (cf above)V Abundant side-effects ( too positive cf common)V academic. The target audience can be white collar, business people or academical.V Accompanies. The deforestation of the Amazon Basin escorts the concerns in various continents in the world.V According. Lupton (1998) the public is extremely interested in medical stories.V according to. … According to Inoue Yukiko he is concerned that…V According to me…V According to. Mites and Hermes it confirms that...V accordingly. According to this vs. accordinglyV Across. (over) the years there has beenV adapt/apply. Academic writing is a form of writing that students adapt to their work.V addicted. Being Internet addicted isn’t so badV addiction. An addiction for the InternetV addictive. Cannabis is habitual (addictive)…V addictive/addiction. The effect it might have if its addicted.V adequate collocation. - My language skills are somewhat (-) adequate. (cf quite)V Adopt/adapt. Academic writing is a form of writing that students adapt to their work.V advance. Advances vs advancementsV Advances vs advancementsV advantage/disadvantage. Disadvantages for species to have more than one blood group is that….V advantage. There are many advantages for students to embark (of embarking) on a course of studyV Affect/influence. Testing on animals has numerous consequences; it influences animals in several aspects.V affect/reflect. In the long term, deforestation does not reflect on only one part of the world.Jeanne Godfrey 9/3/2013 www.jeannegodfrey.com 7
The Student Phrase Book word coverageUniversity word list - Level 1 90% coverage - Level 11 8% coverage.Academic Word List – 51% coverage.This may seem low but AWL does seem to favour commercial subjects slightly1.I also excluded words that are not directly associated with key writing functionsand also vocabulary that is fairly basic and/or unproblematic for advanced NNSsand NS students.Examples of words from the AWL not included in The Phrase Book:aid/adult/administrative/attachment/automatic/area/civil/colleague/commodity/commission/consent/corporate/couple/contracted/culture/domestic/draft/drama/export/federal/file/funding.The Phrase Book mainly covers words that are in the 3,000 – 7,000th frequency range, e.g.analogy, analyse, arbitrary, comparable (Macmillan Dictionary project and Rundell) and alsosome extra words outside the 7,000th frequency range that are problematic for students inacademic writing, e.g. infer.Examples of rare words and words outside the 7,000th frequency range not included in TSPB:heuristic/inimical/prudent/nomenclature/perspicuity/promulgate/redact/reify.1. This is not because of bias in the AWL data – my apologies to Averil Coxhead for incorrectly making this connection in myoriginal presentation.Jeanne Godfrey 9/3/2013 www.jeannegodfrey.com 8
The Student Phrase Book: Vocabulary for Writing at University2013 Palgrave MacmillanBasic statistics28 writing function groups.1, 200 words or phrases highlighted in sentences.About 900 complete sentences from correct academic writing. These arenearly all adapted sentences from good/excellent student work and allcontain accurate reference details.Just over 500 of the 1,200 words are then defined and have keyinformation, including other main forms of the word, colligations andcollocations, common confusions with synonyms and synforms, and keygrammatical points.280 incorrect adapted student sentences from my error corpus withcorrected sentences given.Jeanne Godfrey 9/3/2013 www.jeannegodfrey.com 9
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