More useful, however, are collocation lists or lexical chunks within a specific genre of writing and/or field of research. A word like method may appear frequently but almost all students know this word. They may not, however, be able to exploit all the collocations/frames/lexical chunks/fixed expressions where it might occur in an ESP context:
Collocation: novel/proposed/innovative/alternative/ -method. Chunk/frame example with comparative: In contrast to the conventional method A, our proposed method B improves accuracy/reliability by C ..... In addition, I think it would be more valuable to have the students work on and select the vocabulary words that they don't know than to have the instructor prepare them for the students using electronic corpora or not. I don't have the reference handy, but recent work has cast some doubt on the universality of even well know academic word lists when searching across disciplines. The example of words like "stress" being used very diferently in mechanical or civil engineering than in other fields is an oft cited example.
I think it would depend on what kind of corpus you have and how specific your audience is. If it is not too specific, you could get a lot of use out of Google Scholar discipline specific searches to roughly gauge frequency, for example. If it is highly specific corpus then students could probably just select their own words from readings and give them to you.
My students want to know not how frequent a word is but whether or not that particular word is the appropriate one for that particular sentence in the context of the paragraph they are writing in the context of the genre of writing they are doing.
I am however very convinced of the benefits of combining genre analysis and concordancing, and of the value of examining how collocations and lexical chunks behave within a particular genre and register of a type of writing in a particular field. After teaching engineering writing classes, I do wonder however whether there is such a thing as say "mechanical" engineering in terms of the language of a discipline as the field can be quite diverse from automotive engineering to CAD design to fluid dynamics. This goes back to the old debate over how specific ESP teaching should be.
Even when vocabulary work is well informed by corpora, we often still get these fill in the blank types of exercises from them that all teachers know only test lower level recognition and passive vocabulary and that the students can't always activate in productive skills like writing and speaking. We all do them because they are easy to make and score.
Continuing a previous thread on the relationship between research and teaching, I would be interested in hearing researcher's perspectives on why it is so important to concentrate on frequency so much. I think more useful work could be done at the phrase/frame/chunk level for classroom applications.
On Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 2:41 PM, True Friend <true.friend2004 at gmail.com> wrote:
> I am working on a project of ESP. I have to generate vocabulary lists.
> What is the best criteria to generate vocabulary list? Frequency or the
> Range (occurance in number of files in corpus, or how wide the word is used
> in corpus)? Keyword generators work on the basis of frequency i.e. antconc
> and wordsmith tools etc. They generate a list by comparing with reference
> corpus a list of words having more frequency in specialized corpus and less
> in reference corpus. Frequency basis is fine but Range has its importance
> i.e. if a word is most frequent but used only in 10 files is less important
> then a less frequent word found in more files. So what are your
> suggestions. Personally I'll prefer frequency because there is no software
> available to generate keywords on the basis of Range or Ranking, or to
> arrange the words from a list on the basis of their Range (i.e. more range
> will have number 1 and so on).
> محمد شاکر عزیز
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-- Adam Turner
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