Academic word list reorganization

Poster Presentation to the 12th Annual Colloquium on Language Teaching

February 17, 2018 at the University of Nebraska-Omaha

Title: Reorganizing the Academic Word List to Teach Pronunciation. Download handout.

[Teachers: You can send suggestions for new pronunciation dimensions and/or feedback on the proposed AWL reorganization to Thank you for your input!]

Abstract: The Academic Word List (AWL) was developed for the purposes of “setting vocabulary goals for language courses, guiding learners in their independent study, and informing course and material designers in selecting texts and developing learning activities,” (Coxhead, 2000, p. 214). The development and organization of the List were guided by strict criteria including the frequency of use of academic vocabulary words. Murphy and Kandil (2004) have noted that a reorganization of the List could increase learners’ confidence on word-level stress patterns by attending to—among other factors—broader phonological features, vowel quality, and helping students predict pronunciation (Murphy & Kandil, 2004, p. 62). Still others have found that word stress, while perhaps one of the more complex features of spoken English, is not the sole challenge that produces disfluencies in learners’ presentational English. Hincks (2003) inventories specific phonemic errors in a corpus of Swedish students delivering class presentations in English. These and other studies underscore the need for a new reorganization of the Academic Word List to teach pronunciation. This project (1) proposes a reorganization of the List around six pronunciation dimensions including three specific word stress alternations and three phonemic transformations—all of which arise in response to predictable suffixation of AWL headwords; (2) offers a critical demonstration of a new digital app, AWL Master (Cavage, 2017), as to its usefulness along each pronunciation dimension; and (3) includes both digital and analog tools as part of a “techno-pedagogical pivot” (Olmanson, Kennett, & Cope, 2015) that constitutes a rich panoply of resources for EAP teachers of pronunciation in a range of instructional settings.


Cavage, C. (2017). AWL Master. Savannah, Georgia: Bella Lingua, LLC. Retrieved from

Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34(2), 213–238.

Hincks, R. (2003). Pronouncing the academic word list: Features of L2 student oral presentations. In Proceedings of the 15th international congress of phonetics sciences (pp. 1545–1548). Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona Birmingham, UK.

Murphy, J., & Kandil, M. (2004). Word-level stress patterns in the academic word list. System, 32(1), 61–74.

Olmanson, J. D., Kennett, K. S., & Cope, B. (2015). The Techno-Pedagogical Pivot: Designing and Implementing a Digital Writing Tool. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, International Journal of Social, Behavioral, Educational, Economic, Business and Industrial Engineering, 9(7), 2273–2276.