I posted figures on the percentage of words in English borrowed from major sources, with the percentage changing depending on the size of the frequency list. I got only a tiny response. I thought that teachers would be interested in that based on the questions I used to get from students about “how many words….?” etc.
So here is another one, this one from I.S.P. Nation’s Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, a bit of a doorstop but interesting. The last time I sent a table out, it got screwed up, so forgive the spread out format of this as I try to make it make sense.
The most frequent 2000 words in English (one assumes a similar breakdown for any other language), from the General Service List, allow text coverage in the following percentages depending on type of text. I can’t make it come out right on this blog, so I’ll do it narrative style.
The first 1000 most frequent words cover 84.3% of conversational text, 82.3% of fiction, 75.6% of newspaper text, and 73.5% of academic text.
The second 1000 most frequent words cover 6% of conversation, 5.1% of ficton, 4.7% of newspaper, and 4.6% of academic texts.
The academic vocabulary covers 1.9% of conversation, 1.7% of fiction, 3.9% of newspapers, and 8.5% of academic.
Other covers 7.8% of conversation, 10.9% of fiction, 15.7% of newspapers, and 13.3% of academic texts
“Academic” comes from The Academic Word List (Coxhead, 1998). “Other” refers to items like names of trees, technical terms, etc. “Academic” words would be â€˜sustained’, â€˜policy’, etc. Besides The Academic Word List, there is also University Word List (Xue and Nation, 1984).
Bear in mind there are â€˜most frequent’ words that occur many times, like â€˜the’, and others that occur just barely over the number of times a word not appearing on the list may occur. Some low-frequency words would be â€˜zoned’, â€˜pioneering’, pastoral’, etc.
I find this fascinating and am enjoying playing with vocabulary lists in various languages. I love those words that seem peculiar to a language. I’m going to start a new category on my blog of these, similar to books like They Have a Word For It and In Other Words.
Sitting at a soccer game yesterday, I mused on how â€˜they are tied’ might be a low-frequency word in a classroom but not at a soccer game, especially a soccer game.