How to build an efficient word list ? What are the limits of word frequency measures ? These issues are relevant to readability.
First, a word about the context : word lists are used to find difficulties and to try to improve the teaching material, whereas word frequency is used in psychological linguistics to measure cognitive processing. Thus, this topic deals with education science, psychological linguistics and corpus linguistics.
Coxhead’s Academic Word List
The academic word list by Averil Coxhead is a good example of this approach. He finds that students are not generally familiar with academic vocabulary, giving following examples : substitute, underlie, establish and inherent (p. 214). According to him, this kind of words are are “supportive” but not “central” (these adjectives could be good examples as well).
He starts from principles from corpus linguistics and states that “a register such as academic texts encompasses a variety of subregisters”, one has to balance the corpus.
Coxhead’s methodology is interesting. As one can see he probably read the works of Douglas Biber or John Sinclair, just to name a few. (AWL stands for Academic Word List.)
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