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ERIC Number: EJ805511
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Feb
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 19
ISSN: ISSN-1094-3501
Commentary: Response to McQuillan and Krashen (2008)
Cobb, Tom
Language Learning & Technology, v12 n1 p109-114 Feb 2008
In the author's piece "Computing the Demands of Vocabulary Acquisition from Reading" ("Language Learning & Technology," October, 2007), he argued that building an adequate functional L2 lexicon for reading from reading alone cannot be done by the majority of learners in the normal time frame of instructed L2 learning. An example of such a time frame would be the year or two of ESL preparation granted to foreign students on arrival in a North American university. A minimal functional lexicon is 3,000 word families, which provides about 90% known-word coverage of average texts. Lexicon building from reading alone will stall shortly after 2,000 families. This happens for the demonstrable reason that 3,000-level words (and other less frequent words) do not appear often enough in the amount of reading of natural texts that such learners are likely to accomplish. Research has shown that words need to appear minimally six times for learning to take place. As proof he offered three samples of natural text at what he proposed was the outer limit of such an amount, namely any of the journalism, academic, or literary sub-corpora of the Brown corpus. Each of these amounts to about 175,000 words, of which 10% are words beyond the 2,000-most-frequent level (minus proper nouns). Through elementary corpus analysis, he showed that a learner who managed to read any one of these collections would meet no more than half of the third thousand word families six times apiece. A similar analysis of the collected works of a major author (300,000+ words) and another of an entire set of graded readers (375,000+ words) pointed to the same conclusion: reading these texts in their entirety cannot provide enough repeated exposures to enough 3,000-level vocabulary to support the acquisition of a minimal functional lexicon. In this article, the author presents his response to Jeff McQuillan and Stephen Krashen's problem with the claim that L2 learners would have trouble reading 175,000 words of fairly difficult natural text in a year or two. (Contains 1 table.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: North America