Abbreviations as specialised vocabulary - The role and value of word list research for ESP

Vocabulary and English for Specific Purposes Research - Averil Coxhead 2018

Abbreviations as specialised vocabulary
The role and value of word list research for ESP

Abbreviations are possibly less problematic than high frequency lexis in specialised fields because abbreviations are often explained in texts. For example, it is common practice for the full form to be written in texts and then the abbreviations included in brackets, as in English for Specific Purposes (ESP). There are acronyms which are shared across fields with very different meanings. A good example is EAP as in English for Academic Purposes or Employee Assistance Programme.

Quero’s (2015) study of technical vocabulary in Medical texts found a number of items which, on the surface, might appear to be more general purpose than specific, including words such as ten and fish. These words were written in capital letters (as in TEN and FISH) in the Medical texts in Quero’s corpus, which suggested that these ’words’ are acronyms. TEN stands for ’toxic epidermal necrolysis’ and FISH stands for ’fluorescence in situ hybridisation’. It is clear in these instances that mistaking the number ten (10) for TEN while reading these Medical texts would be at the very least embarrassing but potentially problematic. That said, it is also clear that there is a great deal of knowledge about the medical field packed into these acronyms. It is important to note that corpus analysis (see the following), at the time of writing, still requires researcher time to check instances of words in context to check when everyday words are being used in a text with a technical meaning. Acronyms occur in all kinds of specialised fields, including trades, secondary and university studies, and professional areas of endeavour.