In Iceland and elsewhere, there is an increased awareness of the key role that vocabulary plays in learners’ literacy development (Auður Pálsdóttir, 2017; Beck et al., 2013; Roessingh, 2016; Sigríður Ólafsdóttir & Baldur Sigurðsson, 2017). The academic words used across different subject areas (Tier 2) are pivotal for students’ academic procedures (DiCerbo et al., 2014; Lawrence et al., 2016).
The purpose of this research was to develop a Tier 2 Icelandic academic word list (í. listi yfir íslenskan námsorðaforða, LÍNO-2). Such a list is important since it provides information about Icelandic words that learners need to know for active participation in school, their reading comprehension, discussion and writing skills.
In the Icelandic language, the number of words is countless, and therefore, it is important to know what words lie at the heart of academic success. Thus, it is important to research which words and how many words are useful to work with at each education level. Words that go beyond the most common words of the language (Tier 1) are called academic vocabulary (Beck et al., 2013; Roessingh, 2016). A part of these words is taught systematically within the various school subjects. Those are Tier 3 words. However, the words in Tier 2 are often overlooked by teachers and neglected in school activities. Words in this category are general, high-utility academic words used across various fields of study. They play a key role when discussing complex issues. The learners’ poor knowledge of these words is one of the main reasons why they have difficulty understanding a written text, which in turn, reduces their ability for academic progress.
A new Icelandic corpus (Málheild fyrir íslenskan námsorðaforða, MÍNO) was compiled containing selected student and academic texts from Tagged Icelandic Corpus (MÍM, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum, n.d.-a) and Icelandic Gigaword Corpus (IGC, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum, n.d.-b). MÍNO has a total of 31,680,235 running words. All the texts are current texts published this century. Words that appear 100 times or more in the corpus are sorted by frequency. The total word frequency list contains 10,314 words (lemmas, Tiers 1, 2 and 3). Objective and subjective approaches were used to categorise the words of the corpus, i.e., to distinguish between words belonging to Tier 1 and Tier 2, as well as words belonging to Tier 2 and Tier 3 (Dang, 2020). The Icelandic academic word list (LÍNO-2) contains 2,294 Tier 2 words (lemmas) from the new Icelandic language corpus MÍNO (Beck et al., 2013).
The words on LÍNO-2 were divided into five bands depending on their frequency in MÍNO. The first band included words from the most frequent 1000 words. The second band included words from the next 1000 etc. (Dang, 2020; Nation, 2001). The frequency bands are a useful reference when choosing words to teach the youngest learners. With the increased student age, the words from lower frequency bands are included step by step. LÍNO-2 is a valuable contribution to teaching Icelandic as a first and a second language.
The value of LINO-2 is fourfold. First, the value is for teachers and students in Iceland as an effective tool to enhance student Icelandic vocabulary, reading comprehension and productive language skills, i.e., proficiency in discussing and writing. Second, LÍNO-2 is valuable for developing teaching materials for different age groups and groups with diverse Icelandic language proficiency. Third, LÍNO-2 is important for assessing student status or learning progress of receptive and productive vocabulary, reading comprehension and writing skills. Fourth, the value of LINO-2 is significant for research aiming at keeping Icelandic words alive with future generations.
This research is the first of several projects funded by the University of Iceland Research Fund (í. Rannsóknasjóður Háskóla Íslands), the Icelandic Language Technology Fund (í. Markáætlun um tungu og tækni) and the Icelandic language fund (í. Íslenskusjóðurinn), where Icelandic academic vocabulary is the core subject.