Veronica Benigno obtained the title of Doctor Europaeus in Linguistics and Didactics by conducting a corpus-based study on phraseology at three different universities in Italy, France, and The Netherlands. At Pearson she conducts corpus-based research on vocabulary and is responsible for the research and validation agenda in support of teaching and assessment products. She worked for several years as a lexicographer, as a teacher of Italian, English, and French, and in the field of natural language processing. Her main research interest is language proficiency profiling, with a particular interest in vocabulary studies, testing, and learning/teaching interface. She was twice member of the organizing committee of LTRC.
Vocabulary targets and language proficiency. A framework for learning, teaching, and assessing vocabulary.
Vocabulary is a crucial component of communicative competence. Although a great deal of research has been conducted to define vocabulary knowledge both in terms of quantity (size) and quality (depth), there is still a need for a reference framework that establishes which and how many words learners should master at increasing levels of proficiency . Furthermore, existing estimates on vocabulary size are sometimes conflicting.
This paper describes a graded vocabulary framework produced by combining corpus frequency data with teacher ratings about usefulness of vocabulary. The framework indicates which and how many word meanings learners should be able to understand at increasing levels of proficiency. The framework includes more than 20,000 lemmas, 36,000 word meanings, 80,000 collocations, and 7,000 phrases. In an initial stage frequency data were extracted from a reference corpus; then word meanings were semantically annotated by topic; next teachers were asked to rate the communicative usefulness of word meanings on a scale from 1 to 5; in the final stage, frequency data and teacher ratings were analysed and combined in a weighted model to produce a graded vocabulary framework.
Our study seeks to align the learning, teaching, and assessment of vocabulary by providing a probabilistic model of the relative importance of vocabulary items in English. The study was carried out to complement the functional guidance provided by the CEFR (Council of Europe, 2005) Can Do statements and to provide users with a systematic and principled rationale for selecting the lexical exponents needed to realize different communicative acts.