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Academic Vocabulary in Context

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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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11. Conclusions 165

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11. Conclusions 11.1. What roles do academic words assume in academic writing? This book has presented a functional framework which explains through exemplification the lexical contribution of academic words to academic writing. The framework views writing from three perspec- tives: textual, ideational and interpersonal. Within the textual layer, academic words are involved in the function of: (1) providing texts with coherence through headings and in-text cues (metatextual); (2) situating the text within the wider academic community by acknowledging links between the text and the extratextual context in terms of previous research, other bodies, borrowed methods, ethical consent and further research (extratextual); and (3) providing textual cohesion by indicating relationships between parts of the text through use of conjunctions and carrier words (in- tratextual). At the ideational layer, academic words are involved in the function of: (1) presenting a methodological procedure and scientific evidence for new propositions made (scholarly process); (2) introduc- ing and describing aspects of subject matter that are being dealt with (states of affairs); and (3) adding to existing knowledge regarding the relationship between key entities (relations between entities). The third layer, interpersonal, concerns the use of academic words to set the tone for the relationship the writer seeks to create with the reader. This aspect of academic word use is suggested in the various functions of words indicated in the textual and ideational layers which enable authors to present the writing and underlying research as authoritative and scholarly, as is required of published work within socially-situated academic...

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