Vocabulary: Introduction

English for Academic Purposes: Vocabulary


Vocabulary is important in EAP.

When you find a word you do not know, it is important to decide how much it is necessary to know about the word. You may need some or all of the following. A good dictionary will help.

  • pronunciation – how to pronounce the word
  • spelling – how to spell the word
  • grammatical patterns – whether the word is a noun, verb, adjective etc and which patterns it occurs in – particularly useful are Grammar patterns 1: Verbs (1996) and Grammar patterns 2: Nouns and adjectives (1998)
  • collocations – which other words it typically occurs with – particularly useful is Oxford collocations dictionary for students of English (2002) and Hill & Lewis (Eds.) (1997)
  • frequency – how common the word is
  • register – which type of language the word is used in, letters or reports, spoken or written biology or business etc?
  • meaning – what the word means
  • formation – how the word is made up e.g. What other words or affixes are part of the word? Which other words is it related to?
  • connotations – what other meanings a word has, as well as its main meaning e.g. Is it a positive or negative word?

In order to succeed in HE in English, you need:

    • a good general vocabulary, for example: General Service List
    • a good general EAP vocabulary, for example: Academic Word List or Academic Keyword List
    • specific vocabulary for use in your academic area, for example:
      • education
      • business
      • science & technology
      • politics
      • law
      • music
      • mathematics
      • environmental science
    • knowledge of some less-frequent words
    • vocabulary building skills, for example:
      • use of prefixes, suffixes and roots to produce words;
      • knowledge of construction of compound nouns and adjectives;
      • ability to change word forms (nouns to verbs etc),
      • information about families (synonyms, antonyms, hyponyms etc)
    • vocabulary learning techniques, for example:
      • dictionary use
      • ways of dealing with meaning
      • recording of new words
      • remembering new words
      • working out meaning of unknown words.
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