Frames - Multi-word units and metaphor in ESP

Vocabulary and English for Specific Purposes Research - Averil Coxhead 2018

Multi-word units and metaphor in ESP

Frames contain slots for words to fit in, such as the XXX of (as in the concept of Biber et al., 1999) investigated variation in frames using a corpus of 5.3 million words of academic research articles and books. The frames had to occur more than 200 times in the corpus. Biber et al. (1999) found that ’the XX of the’ and ’in the XX of’ were two of the most frequent patterns in their data set. Ädel and Römer (2012) investigated the use of with the XX of (for example, with the intention/idea/use of) in an academic corpus. Ädel and Römer (2012) found that the most frequent nouns fitting into that frame were idea, use and help, as in with the help of. Flowerdew (2014) notes that these kinds of patterns, while frequent, may not be continuous strings and might not be meaningful. Nation (2016) has a similar concern that teachers need to know how multi-word unit word lists have been constructed and that items in a list might not be meaningful.

An interesting feature of common frames is how far they might stretch. That is, how many words might occur in the frame or how many words might appear between the parts of the frame. This is why researchers tend to select items in a four-word frame, for example, so that the occurrences of words are kept close together. Figure 4.1 contains examples of a target frame, the consequences of, from an analysis of an academic written corpus (Coxhead, 2017a, p. 66). The examples show how this frame gets extended by the addition of extra words in each case.

Figure 4.1 Examples from an academic corpus of the consequences of as a frame (adapted from Coxhead, 2016b, p. 183)