British Council - Word Family Framework
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Download a PDF file of all terms within the Word Family Framework:






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A2
B1
B2
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C2
X

About

WORD FAMILY FRAMEWORK OF GENERAL ENGLISH

What is the Word Family Framework (WFF)?  The WFF is a searchable resource for teachers and learners of English that consists of over 22,000 vocabulary items arranged according to six levels aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference.

What can the WFF be used for?  The WFF can be used by institutions, teachers and learners to construct target vocabularies for individual learning, syllabus and lesson planning, materials design and exam preparation.  It can be used for two different types of vocabulary selection:

'Vertical searches'

  • identifying all the vocabulary items at one CEFR level
  • identifying all the items at several CEFR levels


'Horizontal searches'

  • identifying the CEFR level of an individual word or group of words
  • identifying the CEFR levels of all the members of a word family in order to decide which items may be worth learning
  • identifying unknown members of word families in order to extend a learner's vocabulary

How can the WFF be searched?  The WFF can be searched in three main ways:

1  For horizontal searches to look for a particular word or item, type the term you
are looking for in the search box:

Enter search term here...

Then click the Start box:

Search button

 

2  For vertical searches to find all the items at one or more CEFR levels, tick (Tick) all the CEFR levels you want:

Search filters

 

Then click the Start box:

Search button

 

3  To download the complete WFF, click the Download box:

Download as PDF button

 

How does the WFF link to the Common European Framework (CEFR)? The CEFR includes statements about the vocabulary range of a learner at each of six levels, A1 to C2:

C2

Has a good command of a very broad lexical repertoire including idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms; shows awareness of connotative levels of meaning.

C1

Has a good command of a broad lexical repertoire allowing gaps to be readily overcome with circumlocutions; little obvious searching for expressions or avoidance strategies.  Good command of idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms.

B2

Has a good range of vocabulary for matters connected to his/her field and most general topics.  Can vary formulation to avoid frequent repetition, but lexical gaps can still cause hesitation and circumlocutions.

B1

Has a sufficient vocabulary to express him/herself with some circumlocutions on most topics pertinent to his/her everyday life such as family, hobbies and interests, work, travel, and current events.

A2

Has sufficient vocabulary to conduct routine, everyday transactions involving familiar situations and topics.

Has sufficient vocabulary for the expression of basic communicative needs.
Has sufficient vocabulary for coping with simple survival needs.

A1

Has a basic vocabulary repertoire of isolated words and phrases related to particular concrete situations.

Source:  Common European Framework of Reference for Languages:  Learning, teaching, assessment, Council of Europe, Cambridge University Press, 2001, page 112

The CEFR's descriptors make quantitative statements about the learner's vocabulary repertoire at each level, but stop short of stating how large this repertoire might be at each level or which vocabulary items would be appropriate for each level.  However, the CEFR invites users of the Framework to 'consider and where appropriate state:

  • which lexical elements (fixed expressions and single word forms) the learner will need/be equipped/ be required to recognise and/or use;
  • how they are selected and ordered.'

It is just this selection and ordering of lexical elements that the WFF offers to users.

How large is the WFF?  The WFF includes more than 22,000 words and vocabulary items.  It starts with a list of some 6000 of the most common and useful headwords, arranged alphabetically for easy access.   Most headwords provide the starting point for a word family, which includes the cognates, derivatives and compounds which make up the family.  All family members are then presented across a number of levels, so that the relative value of each item may be quickly determined.  The approximate numbers of headwords and the vocabulary items generated can be seen in this table:

CEFR level

A1

A2

B1

B2

C1

C2

X

no. of new headwords

1200

900

1100

800

1000

1000

0

cumulative
headword total

1200

2100

3200

4000

5000

6000

6000

no.  of new vocabulary items

1750

1850

2750

1900

2500

3100

8300

cumulative total of vocabulary items

1750

3600

6350

8250

10750

13850

22150

How were the words in the WFF chosen?  The vocabulary items presented in the WFF have been chosen from a survey of a large number of published sources and wordlists produced in the UK, USA, Germany, Europe and China.  These lists vary in size and function, and the items in the lists were selected according to differing criteria.  The research that preceded the development of the WFF therefore began by surveying these lists in detail to identify the levels of agreement between these different sources.  In this way, the WFF presents a consensus of views about the level of each vocabulary item.

How does the WFF differ from dictionaries and wordlists?  Traditionally, dictionaries and wordlists present lexical items in alphabetical order.  The WFF, however, presents words in word families.  Each family may include items that depart from strict alphabetical order.  So, for example, the family value includes words such as devalue, evaluate and invaluable, which would be widely separated from value, valuable and valueless in a conventional dictionary or list.  They are presented together here because it is widely believed that seeing words as members of a family rather than in isolation promotes effective vocabulary learning:

headword

A1

A2

B1

B2

C1

C2

X

value

value nCU

value nU

valuable adj

value vT

valuation nCU
invaluable adj

 

valued adj
devalue vIT

     

evaluate vT

     

evaluative adj

What is column X and how do I use it?  As can be seen here, in addition to the six levels aligned to the CEFR, the WFF includes a column X.  This column includes extra  members of word families which are either a) off the A1-C2 scale or b) not included in the main scale because there is insufficient data in the research data.  It presents items of various kinds:

X

Family members that fall outside the common core of the most frequent English words but which may be useful to learners and which should prove relatively easy to learn because they are related to core member of the family.  Items in column X   typically include:

  1. many adverbs and negatives
  2. fixed expressions
  3. phrasal verbs
  4. compounds
  5. idiomatic phrases

Note:  Column X does not include vocabulary items that belong to any word family not already included in A1-C2.

Learners and teachers may select from column X the items which they find useful and easy to learn or teach.  In this way, the WFF allows users not only to select vocabulary at a particular level (vertical searching), but also to look across levels at items within the same family (horizontal searching).

What does the WFF not include?  The WFF includes a wide range of over 22,000 items of English vocabulary.  It covers both British and American English, with variant spellings (honour/honor) and variant terms (lift/elevator).  However, it is a framework of general English and so it does not include vocabulary items from academic, business, scientific or technical English.  Neither does it include dialect or obsolete words found outside the common core of British or American English. 

Can I adapt the WFF to my own context?  It is recognized that the WFF may not be fully appropriate for all learners or all learning situations.  For this reason, the WFF will incorporate an interactive dimension, and users are invited to discuss their views and the ways they use the WFF with the British Council and other users in the WFF discussion forum (click for access).  Our intention is that this discussion will lead to the introduction of a facility which will enable users to download and adapt the WWF to their particular local contexts.

The WFF was developed for the British Council by Richard West, who would like to acknowledge the contributions made by Dr Wendy Scarlin and Mrs Judy Hermitte.

ABBREVIATIONS

abbrev

abbreviation

adj

adjective

adv

adverb

Am

American

Aust

Australian

Brit

British

C

countable (noun)

comp

comparative

conj

conjunction

det

determiner

esp

especially

exclam

exclamation

fig

figurative

I

intransitive (verb)

n

noun

nC

countable noun

nCU

countable & uncountable noun

npl

plural noun

nU

uncountable noun

neg

negative

opp

opposite

pass

passive

phr v

phrasal verb

pl

plural

prep

preposition

pron

pronoun

Scot

Scottish

sing

singular

sup

superlative

T

transitive (verb)

U

uncountable (noun)

usu

usually

v

verb

vI

intransitive verb

vIT

transitive & intransitive verb

vT

transitive verb

Instructions

The Word Family Framework can be used in three main ways, using a different part of the home page:

Search help

1. Horizontal search for a word or word family

To see a word or complete word family with their CEFR/WFF levels, put a word into the search box and then click on:

Search button

2. Vertical search for CEFR/WFF levels

To see all the words at one or more levels, tick (Tick) all the boxes you require:

Search filters

You can choose as many levels as you like, in any combination. Then click on:

Search button

3. Show all words - Download the complete WFF

To download a PDF file with the complete WFF, click on:

Download button

Contact

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