Representing Language Use in the University: Analysis of the TOEFL® 2000 Spoken and Written Academic Language Corpus

Biber, Douglas; Conrad, Susan M.; Reppen, Randi; Byrd, Pat; Helt, Marie; Clark, Victoria; Cortes, Viviana; Csomay, Eniko; Urzua, Alfredo
Publication Year:
Report Number:
RM-04-03, TOEFL-MS-25
Document Type:
Subject/Key Words:
Academic registers corpus linguistics discourse analysis ESP multidimensional analysis register studies


To date, there have been few large-scale empirical investigations of academic registers, and virtually no such investigations of spoken academic registers. Given this lack of basic knowledge, it has been nearly impossible to evaluate the representativeness of English as a second language/English as a foreign language (ESL/EFL) materials and assessment instruments. Specifically in the context of the TOEFL® 2000 effort, we have lacked the tools to determine whether the texts used on listening and reading exams accurately represent the linguistic characteristics of spoken and written academic registers. The TOEFL 2000 Spoken and Written Academic Language (T2K-SWAL) Corpus was constructed and analyzed to help fill this gap. This report describes the design and analysis of the corpus. Two major stages of analysis were completed: First, linguistic analyses of the text categories in the T2K-SWAL Corpus were completed to identify the salient patterns of language use in each academic register (across registers, disciplines, and levels). Then, based on those findings, diagnostic tools were developed to indicate whether the language used in T2K Listening and Reading Comprehension tasks is representative of real-life language use.

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