The academic formulas list (Simpson-Vlach & Ellis, 2010)
Multi-word units and metaphor in ESP
Simpson-Vlach and Ellis (2010) used a combination of quantitative corpus-comparison analysis and qualitative approaches to determine the most frequent and pedagogically useful academic formulas. Simpson-Vlach and Ellis (2010) used four corpora in this study: an academic speech corpus and an academic writing corpus, and a non-academic speech corpus and a non-academic writing corpus. In the quantitative analysis of the corpus, the authors used n-grams, mutual information and log likelihood to identify academic formulas, comparing occurrences in all four corpora. They then called on people with language testing experience and language teaching experience to rate a sample of the academic formulas they had identified. The rating exercise had three elements for the raters to consider: whether the formulas were ’a formulaic expression, or fixed phrase, or chunk’ (p. 496); whether they had ’a cohesive meaning or functions, as a phrase’ (p. 496); and ’the formula teaching worth’ (p. 488). After correlating the quantitative and qualitative data, Simpson-Vlach and Ellis (2010) presented three sublists. The ’core’ AFL list of written and spoken formulas (e.g. and the same; as opposed to), the first 200 formulas of spoken academic English (e.g. (nothing) to do; the same thing; blah, blah, blah) and the first 200 formulas of written academic English (for example, be related to the; is more likely). The authors also categorised the formulas into functions such as contrast and comparison.
The Academic Formulas List has been used to compare second language writing in English with first language writers, such as Eriksson’s (2012) study of English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) students in Sweden and Hiltunen and Mäkinen’s (2014) study of Swedish doctoral students with either Swedish or Finnish as a first language with the BAWE (Nesi & Gardner, 2012). For more on general academic multi-word units in academic corpora, such as Liu’s (2012) research on general academic formulaic language, including lexical bundles, phrasal/prepositional verbs, and idioms, see Chapter 6. See also Carter and McCarthy’s (2006) work on items such as the importance of and for example in different academic contexts.