Consulting an expert - Approaches to identifying specialised vocabulary for ESP

Vocabulary and English for Specific Purposes Research - Averil Coxhead 2018

Consulting an expert
Approaches to identifying specialised vocabulary for ESP

Asking an expert to comment on the technical vocabulary of his or her field is an interesting method of identifying this lexis. It may seem to be a direct and helpful method, because these people are well placed to comment and provide guidance. Schmitt (2010) notes that experts might disagree on whether a word is technical or not, because they may have different levels or areas of expert knowledge within a field. Compare, for example, Engineering as a field of expertise. Water, roading and automotive engineers have vastly different areas of expertise. Schmitt (2010) also makes the point that experts may not approach the task of identifying technical vocabulary in the same way. This point became very clear in a study which involved expert opinions on technical words in Carpentry (Coxhead et al., 2016) and in Plumbing (Coxhead & Demecheleer, under review). One set of experts agreed to a high level of technical words in their trade, while the other experts disagreed wholeheartedly, despite having been given the same instructions for identifying specialised vocabulary. Deciding on the technicality of ESP vocabulary can be quite difficult to do, and answers are likely to vary depending on whether the expert is considering the needs and knowledge of learners who are starting their studies or are part way through, whether the experts themselves actually used the technical words and whether they thought trainee plumbers would know the words already (Coxhead & Demecheleer, under review). Chapter 4 discusses several studies into formulaic language or multi-word units which have called on experts in language, including teachers, in developing word lists for learners (see Simpson-Vlach & Ellis, 2010, for example).