The Rest of the... Identifying Academically Important Multiword Units in Adolescent Texts

3:45 - 4:15pm
Presented at: Georgetown University Round Table (GURT) 2012

Research on vocabulary knowledge indicates that an individual’s lexicon is not only comprised of individual words, but also multiword units (MWUs) (Biber, Conrad & Cortes, 2004; Simpson Vlach & Ellis, 2010). MWUs are two or more words that have a statistical tendency to occur frequently together. To date, MWU research has been based only on adult language. There is no list of MWUs relevant to adolescents, and yet, academic language is an increasingly important area of educational research. The Common Core standards emphasize the importance of “understanding words and phrases, their relationships… particularly general academic and domain-specific words and phrases.” If students are to learn academically important phrases, an empirical approach to identifying them is needed. This paper reports on the methods used for identifying academically useful MWUs in a 20 million word corpus, and compares adolescent MWUs to those previously identified using adult language corpora.