© A. Etges/Mercator-Institut

Development of a reference vocabulary for schools

(in the form of a web-based application)

Some of Germany’s federal states – e.g. Bavaria, Berlin-Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and North Rhine-Westphalia – define so-called key, minimum or basic vocabulary for primary schools. Teachers use these vocabularies, in German lessons for example, to teach the children reading and writing, and especially spelling. However, no vocabulary has yet been defined that contains additional information to meet the needs of primary and secondary schools and that can be used by teachers of all subjects and made available to a wider target group, including educational institutions, publishers and academics.

The aim of the project is to develop an annotated vocabulary in the form of a web-based application. The database upon which it will be based is to include approximately 5,000 words that are based on the criteria of linguistics and language teaching and reflect real life. Additional associated information (e.g. pronunciation, thematic fields, grammar, origin, orthography and frequency) will be assigned to each word so that the various target groups can find the information they need to answer their specific questions.

The vocabulary is intended to serve as a tool for teachers and educational institutions (e.g. further education, colleges, universities, childcare facilities), helping them to support their students individually and to plan and develop lessons. It can also be used by publishers to develop and compile appropriate educational school material and by academics in their research work.

At a glance


Development and provision of an annotated vocabulary, based on the criteria of linguistics and language teaching, in the form of a web-based application that the target groups can use to answer their questions about specific vocabularies for school years 1 to 10.


The Mercator Institute for Literacy and Language Education


Academic Advisory Council: 

Prof. Dr. Hartmut Günther
Prof. Dr. Jakob Ossner
Prof. Dr. Jörg Jost, Universität zu Köln
Dr. Tobias Thelen, Universität Osnabrück
Prof. Dr. Thorsten Pohl, Universität zu Köln
Prof. Dr. Torsten Steinhoff, Universität Siegen

Funded by

Stiftung Mercator


May 2019 - Juli 2023

Project management

Prof. Dr. Michael Becker-Mrotzek (responsible project manager)

Project team

Rebekka Wanka (operational project manager and research associate)
Stephan Leven (research assistant)
Anna Horshkova (research assistant; until January 2023)
Viktoria Michels (research associate; until December 2022)
Susana Mogollón Guarín (research assistant; until August 2021)
Charlotte Stehr (research assistant; until July 2021)