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Frontiers of Information Technology & Electronic Engineering  2017 Vol.18 No.7 P.863-866

http://doi.org/10.1631/FITEE.1700418


Zipfian interpretation of textbook vocabulary lists: comments on Xiao et al.’s Corpus-based research on English word recognition rates in primary school and word selection strategy


Author(s):  Qiong Hu, Ming Yue

Affiliation(s):  Department of Linguistics, Zhejiang University, China

Corresponding email(s):   yueming@zju.edu.cn

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Qiong Hu, Ming Yue. Zipfian interpretation of textbook vocabulary lists: comments on Xiao et al.’s Corpus-based research on English word recognition rates in primary school and word selection strategy[J]. Frontiers of Information Technology & Electronic Engineering, 2017, 18(7): 863-866.

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Abstract: 
Now that the latest technology can process huge amounts of data that was previously unimaginable, scientists can challenge established beliefs and prac-tices in many information-related fields. Xiao et al. (2017) made such a challenge, focusing on the effectiveness of English textbooks popularly used in Chinese primary schools. They first assumed that pupils’ word recognition rate would equal the cov-erage rate of their textbook vocabulary lists. Then they used four reference corpora to calculate the latter, one of which was self-developed with an automatic web crawler. Finally, they concluded that textbook vocabulary lists were limited in timeliness, that the word recognition increment of the 6th graders was relatively small, and that word selection in textbook compilation should be adjusted. We would like to comment on their study from a Zipfian perspective as applied linguists in language acquisition.
While we agree that traditional word frequency lists should be regularly reevaluated with the help of the latest information technology, we hold the fol-lowing five points: (1) Sampling issues are important when constructing reference corpora; (2) Zipf’s law can provide evidential support for interpreting word frequencies and vocabulary list analysis; (3) Various practical constraints should be considered if vocabu-lary size in textbooks should be expanded; (4) The word twelfth should be kept in the list; (5) Joint attention should be given by scholars of various backgrounds for textbook compilation.

用齐夫定律解读教材词表--评Xiao et al. (2017)《基于语料库的小学英语认识率及教材选词策略研究》

概要:Xiao et al. (2017)在对比分析4个语料库的基础上,提出国内小学六年级学生的识词率增长不能令人满意的观点,建议人教版小学英语通用教材总词汇在原有726个的基础上再增加903个,并删除twelfth(序数词,第十二)这样的低频词。作为外语教师和语言学家,我们赞同他们应用先进信息技术对传统词表进行评估的做法,但认为这项工作:1.在构建参考语料库时需重视语料抽样的合理性;2.在解读词频时需重视齐夫定律(Zipf’s law,即英语词频与词秩成反比)的作用--识字率增长随词汇量增加而减缓的情况是合理的;3.在提出教材选词策略时,需考虑小学生认知特点和课业负担等现实因素限制,以及语言教育的总体目标,不能随便删除twelfth这样承载文化的词汇;4.学龄儿童全国通用外语教材编写是项复杂的系统工程,需要各领域专家共同关注。

关键词:齐夫定律(Zipf’s law);语料库;英语;教科书;词表

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Reference

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[3]Kilgarriff, A., 1995. BNC Database and Word Frequency Lists. http://www.kilgarriff.co.uk/bnc-readme.html

[4]Li, Q., He, S., 2010. Comparison between vocabulary in primary school textbooks and English Curriculum Standards: a case study on New Standard and PEP. Teach. Res. Prim. Mid. Schools, (11):8-10 (in Chinese).

[5]Ministry of Education of China, 2011. English Curriculum Standards for Compulsory Education. Beijing Normal University Press, Beijing (in Chinese).

[6]Nation, P., Waring, R., 1997. Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists. In: Schmitt, N., McCarthy, M. (Eds.), Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, p.6-19.

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[9]Zipf, G.K., 1936. The Psychobiology of Language: an Introduction to Dynamic Philology. Routledge, Abingdon, UK.

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