Academic Word List selection
Principles of selection used in developing the academic word list
The word families of the Academic Word List were selected according to several principles. In order of importance, these selection principles were:
- Range. The AWL families had to occur in the Arts, Commerce, Law and Science faculty sections of the Academic Corpus. The word families also had to occur in over half of the 28 subject areas of the Academic Corpus. Just over 94% of the words in the AWL occur in 20 or more subject areas. This principle ensures that the words in the AWL are useful for all learners, no matter what their area of study or what combination of subjects they take at tertiary level.
- Frequency. The AWL families had to occur over 100 times in the 3,500,000 word Academic Corpus in order to be considered for inclusion in the list. This principle ensures that the words will be met a reasonable number of times in academic texts.
- Uniformity of frequency. The AWL families had to occur a minimum of 10 times in each faculty of the Academic Corpus to be considered for inclusion in the list. This principle ensures that the vocabulary is useful for all learners.
Words excluded from the academic word list
- Words occurring in the first 2,000 words of English. The AWL assumes knowledge of West's General Service List (GSL) (1953) as the basic vocabulary any learner should have before starting to learn academic vocabulary.
- Narrow range words. Words which occurred in fewer than 4 faculty sections of the Academic Corpus or which occurred in fewer than 15 of the 28 subject areas of the Academic Corpus were excluded because they had narrow range. Technical or specialist words often have narrow range and were excluded on this basis
- Proper nouns. The names of places, people, countries, for example, New Zealand, Jim Bolger and Wellington were excluded from the list.
- Latin forms. Some of the most common Latin forms in the Academic Corpus were et al, etc, ie, and ibid.