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Dimensions of Academic Language

Dimensions of Academic Language

What are the components of academic language?

Academic vocabulary can be characterized by three different components: content-specific vocabulary
words, vocabulary associated with functional language, and English morphology and word structure. The following components
of academic vocabulary instruction are essential for effective vocabulary instruction for English language learners:

Content-Specific Vocabulary

Content-specific vocabulary consists
of key vocabulary associated with content lessons. For example, when teaching a lesson about the life cycle of a butterfly,
the content-specific vocabulary might be the following: life cycle, metamorphosis, pupa, chrysalis, larva, and other important
vocabulary that is required for students to have an in depth understanding of the content. It is imperative that English language
learners are exposed to content-specific academic vocabulary multiple times and are provided opportunities to authentically
use the vocabulary as they are reading, writing, speaking and listening. 

Functional Language

Functional language consists of language and structure patterns
that are associated with specific language functions, or tasks and purposes as to why we use language. Language is used to
predict, summarize, ask questions, compare, contrast and a variety of additional language functions. For every language function,
certain vocabulary words and sentence structures are associated with the language function and should be explicitly taught
to English language learners. One example of functional language and sentence structures that are associated with the language
function of compare and contrast can be found on the compare/contrast functional language page by clicking here

Morphology and Word Parts

Word analysis
is an essential aspect of academic language development. Morphological analysis consists of the study of prefixes, suffixes,
root words and other parts of words. Word analysis should take place within the context of meaningful and contextualized learning.
For example, when students are learning about the life cycle of the butterfly they might also learn that the meaning of the
root “morph” signifies “to change”. In this type of scenario students are studying English morphology
as they are also learning about content-specific vocabulary.



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Resources About Academic Language: