Averil COXHEAD & David HIRSH (Massey, Nouvelle-Zélande / Sydney, Australie)
A pilot science-specific word list
2007, Vol. XII-2, pp. 65-78
The coverage of the General Service List (GSL) (West, 1953) and Academic Word List (AWL) (Coxhead, 2000) over a science-based written academic English corpus of approximately 875,000 words is 80%, compared with three corpora of the same size from arts (86.7%), commerce (88.8%), and law (88.5%) (Coxhead, 1998). The AWL coverage of 9.1% over science is similar to arts and law, the coverage of the GSL over science is 65%, 10% lower than the coverage over law, 8% less than arts, and 6% less than commerce. One way to address this gap in coverage is conduct a corpus-based study of the vocabulary in academic science texts to establish whether there is a science-specific vocabulary consisting of words outside the GSL and AWL. Hirsh (2004) found that academic subject areas with the highest proportion of technical vocabulary make use of the lowest proportion of general service vocabulary. This pilot study found 318 such word families with coverage of approximately 4% over a science-specific corpus of 1.5 million running words, in contrast to its coverage of well under 1% of the arts, commerce, and law corpora mentioned above, and a 3,500,000 word corpus of fiction.