13 avril 2014

Academic Language, Codified

http://chronicle.com/img/photos/biz/linguafranca-45.pngBy . A new semester of classes started at German universities this week, which means I’ve spent the last few days asking fresh rounds of students about their language goals. The greatest number in any class want, above all, to improve their speaking skills. But a significant group has also mentioned vocabulary expansion. Given that most of the students are on course to complete master’s degrees in the natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering, which at the Technical University of Munich means most will need to both read and write academic texts in English, this has me mulling a creature called AWL. The Academic Word List was developed 15 years ago by Averil Coxhead, then a master’s student at Victoria University of Wellington, and contains about 3,000 words from 580 word families—groups of words that share a stem—which are not among the 2,000 most commonly used words in English but appear and reappear across a corpus of academic writing. More...

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