Qualitative approaches to identifying specialised vocabulary for ESP - Using a corpus for qualitative analysis
Approaches to identifying specialised vocabulary for ESP
This section looks at some qualitative approaches to find out more about vocabulary in ESP, beginning with corpora which can be used both quantitatively and qualitatively in studies on specialised vocabulary.
Using a corpus for qualitative analysis
Qualitative analyses of corpora can provide information about the specificity of vocabulary in corpora, for example, through consulting concordance lines to support lexical decisions in writing for legal purposes (Hafner & Candlin, 2007) and consulting a corpus to check the meaning of technical vocabulary in context, as Coxhead and Demecheleer (under review) do to support the selection of the specialised vocabulary of Plumbing. Hyland and Tse (2007) investigated the occurrences of words from Coxhead’s AWL (2000) and found variations in the frequency and meaning of AWL items in three disciplines. Table 2.2 shows some examples from Hyland and Tse (2007) (consist, credit and abstract). The second column shows the meanings of these words and their occurrences in Science, Engineering and Social Science corpora. Note the meanings are presented in the order of the highest total occurrences overall. This research shows the value of comparing corpora and close analysis of the context and meaning of target lexical items.
Table 2.2 Meanings and distribution of consist, credit and abstract across Science, Engineering and Social Sciences (adapted from Hyland & Tse, 2007, p. 245)
Note that Hyland and Tse’s (2007) corpus includes both professional and student writers, which allows for comparison and contrast. Durrant (2014) also researches disciplinary differences in vocabulary in academic corpora, urging researchers to investigate not only professional writers but also student writing, because the texts which learners read at university are not the same as the texts which they are required to write.