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Academic Vocabulary in Context


David Hirsh

Academic texts present subject-specific ideas within a subject-independent framework. This book accounts for the presence of academic words in academic writing by exploring recurring patterns of function in texts representing different subject areas. The book presents a framework which describes academic word use at the ideational, textual and interpersonal levels. Functional categories are presented and illustrated which explain the role of academic words alongside general purpose and technical terms. The author examines biomedical research articles, and journal articles from arts, commerce and law. A comparable analysis focuses on university textbook chapters. Case studies investigate patterns of functionality within the main sections of research articles, compare word use in academic and non-academic texts reporting on the same research, and explore the carrier word function of academic vocabulary. The study concludes by looking at historical and contemporary processes which have shaped the presence of academic vocabulary in the English lexicon.


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1. Introduction 11


1. Introduction 1.1. The focus of this book This book is concerned with a group of words sharing three distin- guishing features: They do not occur frequently enough in non-academic writing such as novels and newspaper stories to be regarded as general service vocabulary. They are not sufficiently associated with any single subject area to be regarded as technical vocabulary. They appear frequently enough in academic texts across a wide range of subject areas to be regarded as useful core vocabulary for reading academic texts for tertiary study. This group of words, termed academic vocabulary, perform a special- ised role in academic writing, occupying a place in the lexicon alongside general service words and technical words. This book looks at the functions that academic words perform in academic writing. The motivation for the book is to provide a framework for investigat- ing the presence of academic words in academic writing. A useful way to establish a focus for this book is to identify dif- ferent groups of words appearing in an academic text and to explain some important features which distinguish each group. The selected text is a section taken from a university ecology handbook for first year students (Tan 2007: 9). The first group of words marked in italics in Figure 1 are general service vocabulary. The complex food chain which sustains our fauna includes both predator and prey. Consequently, the decline or loss of one species of fauna often endangers The survival of others. Figure 1. General service...

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