"Erm you know that thing over there..." Towards a general service list of conversational British English for TESOL - A Pilot Study

Kevin Gerigk

LAEL, Lancaster University

This pilot study aims at the 500 most frequent words (K0.5 Level) in spoken British English. The overall aim of the project is the compilation of a novel General Service List of Spoken English based on the spoken British National Corpus 2014 (BNC2014). Linguists have been interested in vocabulary lists, especially in the field of language teaching, for almost 70 years now. Whilst intuition and experience have been replaced with corpus-driven methods, the majority of vocabulary lists is either based on written data or written and minimally spoken data (cf. O'Keeffe et al., 2007). This ignores the uniqueness of the spoken genre, which this piece of research will focus on to fill the gap. In this pilot study, I focused on the K0.5 Level of the spoken BNC2014 accessed via SketchEngine. I will argue in favour of the lemma as the lexical unit of interest, in contrast with word families (cf. Nation, 1990), to allow a more fine-grained analysis of important vocabulary. In terms of statistics, I use Average Reduced Frequency, following the example used in the recent compilation of the new General Service List (Brezina & Gablasova, 2015). The advantage of this statistic is that it takes into account both the frequency of an item and its distribution across the corpus, thus eliminating outliers. After retrieval, the data is sifted through manually to eliminate a closed category of lemmas, e.g. swear words, which have little pedagogical value. My presentation will focus mainly on the methodological side of the pilot study but will also be able to report findings on 1) coverage and distribution of core vocabulary 2) a description of core vocabulary items, and their implications for ELT.


Brezina, V., & Gablasova, D. (2015). Is there a core general vocabulary? Introducing the new general service list. Applied Linguistics, 36(1), 1-22.

Nation, P. (1990). Teaching & learning vocabulary. Newbury House Publishers.

O'Keeffe, A., McCarthy, M., & Carter, R. (2007). From corpus to classroom - Language use and language teaching. Cambridge University Press (CUP).

Week 12 2021/2022

Thursday 27th January 2022

Microsoft Teams - request a link via email