A Critical Review of the Word Classification System

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Razieh Gholaminejad


In this reflective paper, we review the currently-used word classification system proposed by linguist Paul Nation (2013, 2015) and the position of the academic vocabulary in this system. Different lexical layers in this system are explained as well as the underlying assumptions. Then, taking a critical position, we raise a number of criticisms against three different aspects of Nation’s classification. The first criticism involves the fact that the system has sacrificed function for form in developing the lexical layers. The second focuses on the problem of equating ‘academic words’ with Coxhead’s (2000) Academic Word List (AWL) and ‘high-frequency words’ with West’s (1953) General Service List (GSL). Finally, the system is criticized for the lack of an independent lexical layer for discipline-specific academic vocabulary by ignoring disciplinary variation at the level of academic words. The critical points raised in the paper can be useful for English for Academic Purposes (EAP) materials developers, teachers, test developers, and syllabus/curriculum designers.

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How to Cite
Gholaminejad, R. (2020). A Critical Review of the Word Classification System . HOW Journal, 27(2), 156-167. https://doi.org/10.19183/how.27.2.554
Reflections and Revision of Themes
Author Biography

Razieh Gholaminejad

Razieh Gholaminejad received her PhD from Shahid Beheshti University and her BA and MA from University of Isfahan. Among her research interests are corpus linguistics, English for specific purposes, and discourse analysis. In addition to publications in national journals, she has published in Routledge and John Benjamins Publishing Company.


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