Lexical coverage in ELF

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201803141449
Title: Lexical coverage in ELF
Author: Stevenage, Christine
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern Languages
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: The aim of this study was to determine how much vocabulary is needed to understand English in contexts where it is spoken internationally as a lingua franca (ELF). This information is critical to inform vocabulary size targets for second language (L2) learners of English. The current research consensus, based on native-English-speaker data, is that 6,000–7,000 word families plus proper nouns are needed. However, since English has become a global lingua franca, native speakers of English have become a minority: in fact, today, there are around two billion speakers of English worldwide, of which less than a quarter are native speakers. This means that non-native speakers of English are more likely to interact with other non-native speakers than with native speakers. Thus, using findings based on solely native-speaker data may not provide the most accurate information needed to inform vocabulary size targets for L2 learners of English. Indeed, this information needs to be supplemented with data from competent non-native speakers of English who can represent a legitimate model for L2 learners of English. This study uses the largest freely available corpus of general, spoken ELF in Europe: the one million-word Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (VOICE). The word family was used as a lexical counting unit, and the lexical coverage of VOICE was calculated for various thresholds of the most frequent word families in the corpus. A comparative analysis was carried out to determine the lexical coverage of VOICE provided by frequency ranked word lists based on data from the British National Corpus of English and the Contemporary Corpus of American English. The main findings of this study indicate that fewer than 3,000–4,000 word families plus proper nouns can provide the lexical resources needed to understand English in international contexts where it is spoken as a lingua franca. This is approximately half the number of word families (i.e. 6,000–7,000 word families plus proper nouns) which scholars have claimed are needed to understand spoken English. The findings of this study represent a substantial saving in vocabulary size targets for L2 learners of English who wish to be functional in understanding English spoken as an international lingua franca.
URI: URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201803141449
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/233414
Date: 2018
Subject: English as a Lingua Franca (ELF)
Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (VOICE)
Vocabulary
Lexical Coverage
Learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL)
Discipline: englantilainen filologia
English Philology
Engelsk filologi


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