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May 24, 2013

Linguistics

New General Service List now online

To the uninitiated it sounds like some sort of bureaucratic menu, but the General Service List, first developed in 1953, is a set of 2,000 words selected to be of the greatest "general service" to learners of English. In printed form, the list is a medium-sized red book, organized like a dictionary. The list had a wide influence in English language teaching over the latter half of the 20th century, serving as the basis for graded readers as well as other material. But it has also been criticized for being based on a corpus that is considered to be both dated and, at about 2.5 million words, too small by modern standards.

With the guidance of Professor Paul Nation and approved use of the Cambridge English Corpus, Dr. Charles Browne, Dr. Brent Culligan and Joseph Phillips have worked together to created a new General Service List (NGSL) of important vocabulary words for students of English as a second language. The new list has 2,368 "word families" compared to the original's 1,964 and is based on a corpus of some 273 million words.

While still in some respects a work in progress, the NGSL is available for download free of charge, in both lemmatized and headwords-only formats, from the New General Service List website

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I think the value of such word lists cannot be underestimated and TEFL teachers need to reference this regularly when preparing tests work on their own for the students. In materials writing we use it regularly!

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