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Analysing language learners’ lexical development through new online tools: towards empirically derived Learner Lexical Profiles in English and other languages

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Rebecca Ferguson
15 May 2017

Stephen Bax

This paper reports on a number of recent research projects in the School of Language and Applied Linguistics (LAL) at the Open University, with a focus on the use of a bespoke online lexicography tool developed to research in detail the lexical development of English second language learners. An example of recent work is the analysis, for a major international exam board, of 6000 student essays at different levels of English, which resulted in the identification of key differences in terms of lexical sophistication and other metrics, between learners at different levels of proficiency, with important implications for the test concerned.
The talk will introduce and describe the online analysis tool, demonstrating its use and features, as well as setting out and explaining the theoretical underpinning of the metrics by which it analyses texts. It will then offer some sample results and findings from a range of recent projects, which included contributions from colleagues Dr. Shrestha and Dr. Owen in the School of LAL, and also ongoing doctoral research also at the Open University by Dana Therova examining academic writing. It will then briefly consider the potential impact of these research projects beyond academia.
The talk will conclude by describing a major consortium bid in preparation, initiated by the School of Language and Applied Linguistics at Open University, which will build on this work with English lexis by addressing lexical development also in French, Spanish, German and Welsh as second languages.


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