Document Type: Research Paper
English Translation Department, Humanities Faculty, Hazrat-e-Masoumeh University, Qum, Iran
Despite the abundance of research investigating general and academic vocabularies and developing dozens of word lists, few studies have compared academic vocabulary with general service word lists such as conversation vocabulary. Many EAP researchers assume that university students need to know all the words in West’s (1953) General Service List (GSL) as a prerequisite to academic words (e.g., Coxhead’s, 2000) and teachers at language institutes recommend conversation students to learn words in Coxhead’s Academic Word List (AWL) as a follow-up to the GSL. The present study compared the academic and conversation vocabularies by exploring frequency and coverage of words in academic and conversation corpora. The GSL and AWL words were investigated in a conversation corpus and an academic corpus, each containing around 12 million running words. The analysis revealed that 1200 GSL word families were highly frequent in both corpora and 645 GSL word families were highly frequent in the conversation corpus but of low frequency in the academic texts. Also, a new academic word list of 700 word families was developed, which proved to be much more rigorous than Coxhead’s AWL. Further analysis indicated that the abovementioned 645 GSL words had a very low coverage of academic texts (0.7%), while they covered 4.05% of the conversation corpus. The new academic word list covered only 1.6% of the conversation corpus, whereas it had a high coverage of the academic texts (9.1%), much higher than that of the AWL (7.5%). The analysis of some other academic corpora revealed identical results.