Spoken vocabulary in the trades - Vocabulary in the trades

Vocabulary and English for Specific Purposes Research - Averil Coxhead 2018

Spoken vocabulary in the trades
Vocabulary in the trades

The purpose of the spoken vocabulary corpus for the LATTE project was to find out more about the vocabulary which is used by trades’ tutors in Weltec. If exposure to language is a key part of learning, then clearly spoken classroom discourse is a key data set. The longstanding Language in the Workplace research project led by Janet Holmes and colleagues at Victoria University of Wellington illustrates the importance of gathering spoken data. Holmes and Woodhams (2013) provide an example of research from that stable, illustrating how builder talk contains technical vocabulary which apprentices need pick up in their work, for example to rip meaning ’to cut timber with the grain; a specialized rip saw is used’ and pallets which are ’a flat wooden structure on which goods are stored’ (p. 283).

There is also an important precedent in discourse studies of classroom-based studies in foreign and second language studies; see, for example, Horst (2010) in English as a second language community conversation classes. Gibbons (2006) points out,

The talk of teachers and students draws together — or bridges — the ’everyday’ language of students learning through English as a second language, and the language associated with the academic registers of school which they must learn to control.

(p. 1)

And, as pointed out already earlier, initial interviews with students in the trades clearly showed that listening and talking were important avenues for learning technical vocabulary (Coxhead et al., 2016)

The LATTE project has gathered and transcribed spoken texts from Carpentry, Plumbing, Automotive Engineering and Fabrication. Each of the spoken corpora contains over 95,000 running words. This corpus was gathered in classrooms and on building sites and contains theoretical and practical talk by tutors and students. As much as possible, a range of tutors were included in the corpus to provide an understanding of language use by different speakers and to avoid bias in the sampling. A full analysis of this corpus is not yet complete.

Figure 8.4 shows an example of a 118-word interaction between a tutor (T.) and a student (S.) on a building site from the Carpentry corpus (unpublished data, LATTE project). Just over 89% of this text is in the first 1,000 word families of Nation’s BNC/COCA lists. Items outside the first 1,000 word families include screw in the BNC-COCA-2,000; angle, drill, drilling and hips in the BNC-COCA-3,000; flush from the BNC-COCA-4,000; diagonally from the BNC-COCA-6,000; and rafter in the BNC-COCA-8,000.

Note the ’here and now’ language in this sample, illustrated by the tutor saying ’that angle there, not that one. See that one there. See all of them need to be’. Note that understanding this sample of talk hinges on knowing what ’square’ means in Carpentry, and the relationship between angles, hips and facings.

Figure 8.4 Example from a building site interaction in the Carpentry corpus

The next section looks at each of the four trades in the LATTE project in turn, beginning with the Construction trades, and uses examples from the project to look more closely at aspects of the specialised vocabulary in both qualitative and quantitative research.