Vocabulary and English for Specific Purposes Research - Averil Coxhead 2018
Limitations of research into vocabulary and the professions in ESP
Specialised vocabulary research and the professions
This chapter has focused on areas of ESP where there has been a focus on vocabulary and a number of studies in each field have been included where possible. The field of Aviation has been fairly well served in vocabulary studies by the regulation of language by the industry in the interests of safety. That said, most of the effort has gone into the specialised vocabulary of pilots and air traffic control, for obvious reasons, and yet many more people in all kinds of professions also work in the Aviation industry, see Cutting (2012). Another area which has been fairly well served is Business, for some quite obvious reasons. A main limitation, therefore, of vocabulary in the professions, is that there seems to be little research overall. Or vocabulary is a small part of a larger study and mentioned in passing.
Collections of research such as Paltridge and Starfield’s (2013) Handbook of English for Specific Purposes and Gotti and Giannoni’s (2014) book on corpus analysis provide useful examples of research into some other areas of ESP. However, much of the research is focused on more grammatical than lexical features of text, in the case of corpus-based research. Another important point is that while some of the research in this chapter has come from qualitative research, such as Knoch’s (2014) analysis of a rating scale for pilot communication and O’Hagan et al. (2014) on assessing nursing communication, much of the research into vocabulary has remained steadfastly quantitative.
The word list study by Yang (2015) is a useful start to finding out more about the vocabulary of Nursing. This corpus-based study focused on the lexis in research articles in the field. Much of the health communication research into Nursing centres on the nature of spoken language in the profession, as in the examples earlier of word choice when speaking with colleagues, patients with little knowledge of their condition, and patients with a greater knowledge of their condition. A spoken corpus of health communication in a workplace setting would be a particularly rich and helpful source of information on vocabulary use, choice and technicality. Marra (2013) discusses techniques for gathering such data which have been honed in the area of workplace discourse. Overall, from this sampling of the literature in several areas of English for Professional and Occupational Purposes, there is more research in areas such as Business and Medicine than in other areas of professional vocabulary. The next chapter picks up on this particular point and focuses on research into vocabulary in the trades.