Using a technical dictionary
Approaches to identifying specialised vocabulary for ESP
Technical dictionaries are available widely in a range of fields. Chung and Nation (2004) report on using dictionaries to help identify technical vocabulary. They found that this approach was quite straightforward in that the dictionaries had already been developed using decisions about what was technical and what was not. That said, the researchers also found that many decisions still needed to be made about whether a lexical item was technical or not, because of features of the dictionaries themselves. These features included the size of the dictionaries, whether a headword in a dictionary was in the main or sub-entries and whether word families or single words were to be included in the definitions. Chung and Nation (2004) report that this method of identifying technical vocabulary was about 80% accurate. Not all professional or academic fields have technical dictionaries, and it is important to find out as much as possible about how a dictionary was compiled and how principles for identification were decided on before embarking on a time-consuming analysis of technical vocabulary using this method. Consulting technical dictionaries was an important part of the checking process of developing trades-based vocabulary lists outlined in Coxhead et al. (2016). In this case, the researchers were not experts in the content area, in this case Carpentry, and they used dictionaries as well as corpora and experts to support decision making (see Chapter 8 for more on trades-based vocabulary research).