– PHRASE List –

Analysing Vocabulary Using the PHRASE List

What is the PHRASE list?

Found as part of the AWL tool, Text Inspector uses the PHRASE list to analyse the vocabulary used in a text in terms of commonly used expressions also known as ‘key phrases’. This includes expressions such as idioms and phrasal verbs.

The list was created by Dr. Ron Martinez and Professor Norbert Schmitt to provide the lexical ‘missing link’ that aren’t included in other common word lists.

It was created from selected data taken from the British National Corpus (BNC) that met their predefined criteria. All words included in the list appear in the most common 5000 words used in the English language.

Used alongside the Academic Word List (AWL) the PHRASE list provides a well-rounded tool that can help better inform ESL teaching and learning.

What are Phrasal Expressions?

Phrasal expressions are fixed sequences of two or more words that often occur together in language to create a new meaning.

These include the notoriously challenging phrasal verbs as well as idioms, collocations(words that frequently occur together) and binomial expressions (pairs of words joined by ‘and’ or ‘or’ that frequently occur together such as ‘black and white’)

English is a language which relies heavily on these types of expression in a variety of contexts and registers including colloquial, academic and formal.

Martinez and Schmitt support this ideas in their 2012 paper, ‘A Phrasal Expressions List’ (2012);

“Whereas formulaic language was once considered a peripheral phenomenon (Ellis et al. 2008), research has now established that it is fundamental to the way language is used, processed, and acquired in both the L1 and L2.” 

This makes it especially important that the learner can grasp these concepts from an early stage in their language-learning journey.

Why use the PHRASE List?

As with other vocabulary lists, the PHRASE list is an excellent tool that can better support language teaching and learning.

For ESL teachers, it can help identify which phrasal expressions to teach and in which order according to the most common words used in English. This, in turn, helps improve the development of language course materials including textbooks and examinations.

Because these phrasal expressions are so commonplace in the English language, an understanding of these phrases on both receptive and productive levels will significantly improve L2 skills.

How to use Text Inspector to Analyse the PHRASE List

After uploading your text to the Text Inspector tool or pasting the text into the search box, you’ll be taken to a summary of the analysis.

Look to the left side of the page and click the option ‘Lexis: AWL’ to access the detailed analysis relating to the PHRASE list,

[Note: this option is for subscribers only. Upgrade here.]

You’ll be taken to a page that provides a description of the text in terms of both the PHRASE list and AWL word list.

If any of the words in the text appear in the PHRASE list, you will see the result in both the summary and the graph.

This will be identified in terms of K1, K2, K3, K4 or K5 level.

A K1 grade indicates that the phrase appears in the most common 1000 words as seen in the British National Corpus (BNC). K2 indicates that it appears in the most common 2000 and so on.

You can also find detailed information at the bottom of the page which displays the phrases found and breaks down each level into tokens, types and percentages.