Selecting Television Programs for Language Learning: Investigating Television Programs from the Same Genre


  • Stuart Webb Victoria University of Wellington
Keywords: comprehension, corpus linguistics, genre, incidental vocabulary learning, television, vocabulary coverage, word frequency


The scripts of 288 television episodes were analysed to determine the extent to which vocabulary reoccurs in television programs from the same subgenres and unrelated television programs from different genres. Episodes from two programs from each of the following three subgenres of the American drama genre: medical, spy/action, and criminal forensic investigation were compared with different sets of random episodes. The results showed that although there were an equivalent number of running words in each set of episodes, the episodes from programs within the same subgenre contained fewer word families than random programs. The findings also showed that low frequency word families (4000-14,000 levels) reoccur more often in programs within the same subgenre. Together the results indicate that watching programs within the same subgenre may be an effective approach to language learning with television because it reduces the lexical demands of viewing and increases the potential for vocabulary learning.


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Author Biography

Stuart Webb, Victoria University of Wellington

is a senior lecturer and the MA programme director in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. He has taught in China, Japan, and New Zealand. His research has included studies of depth of vocabulary knowledge, collocation, and the lexical demands of movies, television programs, and texts written for children. His most recent work Researching and Analyzing Vocabulary (with Paul Nation) was published by Heinle Cengage Learning in 2011. He has published articles in journals such as Applied Linguistics, Language Learning, Studies in Second Language Acquisition and TESOL Quarterly.
How to Cite
Webb, S. (2011). Selecting Television Programs for Language Learning: Investigating Television Programs from the Same Genre. International Journal of English Studies, 11(1), 117–135.