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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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8. Textbook chapters across subject areas 125


8. Textbook chapters across subject areas Aside from research articles, another important text type associated with academic writing is university textbooks in terms of their in- tended audience of university students. In this chapter, the functional framework is applied to chapters taken from four textbooks representing science (Chemtext1); com- merce (Econtext1); law (Lawtext1); and arts (Soctext1): Chemtext1, a chapter titled ‘Chemical nature of the amino acids’ is extracted from The Properties of Amino Acids (Gasser 1996), a medical biochemistry text used at the Indiana Univer- sity School of Medicine. Econtext1, a chapter titled ‘Production’ is extracted from Price Theory (Friedman 1986), a first-year undergraduate economic text. Lawtext1, a chapter titled ‘What to protect’ is extracted from Textbook on Media Law (McGonagle 1996). Soctext1, a chapter titled ‘Approaches to network positions and social roles’ is extracted from Introduction to Social Network Methods (Hanneman 1998), an assigned reading text at the University of California. The statistical role of the wordlists in each text is provided to reflect on the statistical occurrence of academic word use in the texts. Then graphs of each text indicating proportion of academic vocabulary tokens associated with each functional category are presented, leading to a comparison of academic vocabulary use in the four texts accord- ing to functional categories. 126 8.1. Lexical profile of Chemtext1, Econtext1, Lawtext1 and Soctext1 Table 12 provides data on the statistical role of the first 1,000, second 1,000, Academic Word List (AWL) and other word lists in the four texts. Text...

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