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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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7. Research articles across subject areas 111


7. Research articles across subject areas This chapter applies the functional framework to Med1 and three new research articles representing arts (Soc1), commerce (Econ1) and law (Law1). The specific content area of each text is discussed as each is represented within this chapter. 7.1. Lexical profile of Soc1, Econ1, Law1 and Med1 Table 11 presents data on the length of each text and the lexical coverage of the first 1,000 words, second 1,000 words, Academic Word List (AWL) and other words in Soc1, Econ1, Law1 and Med1. Text Length (tokens) Lexical coverage (%) first 1,000 second 1,000 AWL Other words Soc1 8,752 68.5 5.7 11.3 14.5 Econ1 3,386 70.4 4.5 10.3 14.7 Law1 12,726 80.8 4.5 6.4 8.3 Med1 2,305 70.0 5.2 9.7 15.1 Table 11. Length and lexical profile of Soc1, Econ1, Law1 and Med1. Table 11 indicates that Soc1, Econ1 and Med1 have reasonably similar lexical profiles, while Law1 indicates a comparatively greater use of the first 1,000 words and correspondingly less use of academic words and other words. The role of the second 1,000 words is similar across all four texts. This statistical distinction between Law1 and the other three texts will be considered with regard to the representation of academic vocabulary across the six functional categories. 112 7.2. Functional categorisation of academic words Each occurrence of academic vocabulary in each of the texts was assigned to a functional category. All words could be assigned, and all...

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