Engineering trades: Automotive Engineering - Vocabulary in the trades

Vocabulary and English for Specific Purposes Research - Averil Coxhead 2018

Engineering trades: Automotive Engineering
Vocabulary in the trades

The focus of this section is using a corpus to identify the specialised vocabulary of Automotive Engineering (AE). This field covers a range of topics such as understanding and repairing engines, electronics and electrical work and vehicle servicing. The AE list (Coxhead, in preparation) developed in the LATTE project was based on a written corpus of texts used in classes at Weltec, just as corpora were the starting points for all the other trades.

A total of 1,226 items were identified using frequency principles for this word list. These items are divided into 12 sublists of 100 words by frequency. That is, the first sublist contains the 100 most frequent words, the second Sublist contains the next 100 most frequent words and so on. Sublist 13 contains 26 items. Table 8.6 shows the first 26 words of Sublist 1 on the left and all of the words in Sublist 13 on the right. Note how much more general the words in the left column are in comparison with those on the right. In some ways, it is heartening to know that the most frequent word in the AE corpus is check. Sublist 13 contains hyphenated items, such as vent-cap and main-shaft. These hyphenated items need careful analysis in future research, as do compounds. These areas of specialised vocabulary often present complex issues for analysis.

The words in this list were all checked using dictionaries, the corpus and AE tutor decision tasks to determine whether they were specialised vocabulary. There may be items in the second column that seem odd, such as sipes or dieseling. The meanings of all these words were checked before selection for the AE list. There are a number of very interesting general words on the AE list, including toe, satisfactory, and tooth. These words serve as a reminder that while a word might be considered general, it could also have a technical meaning. Learning a new meaning for a known word can be confusing, as we have seen in Chapter 5.

Table 8.6 The first 26 words of the Automotive Engineering (AE) list and all of sublist 13

The following is the sample text on Diesel from earlier on in this chapter (Figure 8.9), this time with the items from the AE word list in bold and italics.

The text contains 137 words, and over 34% of these words are in the AE list. This figure is very close to Chung and Nation’s (2004) estimate of one word in three (or 33%) words in an Anatomy text being technical, according to their scale-based analysis. This marked up text from AE highlights the importance of multi-word units, such as pump housing, input shaft and distributor type injection pumps. More work needs to be done in this area. The marking up in the text also suggests why items such as fuel and pump are in the highest frequency sublist of the AE list (see Table 8.6). These items are regularly used in the sample text.

Figure 8.9 A sample of text on diesel from a textbook in Automotive Engineering (Weltec, 2016)