An Empirical Analysis of Extended Meanings of Lexical Items in a H1N1 Corpus

An Empirical Analysis of Extended Meanings of Lexical Items in a H1N1 Corpus

Jessie Yi-jia Wang (Department of English, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China)
DOI: 10.4018/ijcallt.2014070104
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The year 2009 has witnessed a global outbreak of a new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1. Despite the high exposure on the mass media, few researches have been conducted on the discourse related to the H1N1 event. This study examined six frequently-occurred lexical items in a pandemic (H1N1) corpus: influenza, pandemic, cases, virus, transmission and death, using Sinclair's (2004) descriptive model of lexical items. WordSmith 5.0 (Scott, 2010) was used to generate a keyword list and concordances. The randomly-selected concordances were then analysed from five perspectives, the core, collocation, colligation, semantic preference and semantic prosody. The findings show that the extended meanings of the lexical items are specific in the context of pandemic H1N1 event and they are interrelated in the context. It is argued that it is the study of lexical items rather than single words that enables language learners to better understand the meanings of words.
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The year 2009 has witnessed a global outbreak of a new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1. On June 11, 2009, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan announced the outbreak to be a pandemic one (Chan, 2009). A special term of Pandemic H1N1/09 virus has been given to the novel pandemic virus (WHO website, 2011). The H1N1 infection also got great attention from the medical experts and the health authority for its novelty and susceptibility to infection. According to a study at the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children do not have pre-existing immunity to resist the H1N1 virus (2009) and this novel virus type is easily spreading through coughing and sneezing between people and may threaten people’s lives (Wilkinson, 2009). Events related to the infectious disease frequently occurred in the media since April 2009. The WHO and CHP (Centre for Health Protection), the official disease prevention and control centre of the Hong Kong government frequently released situation updates and press release to monitor the progress of the infection and keep the general public up-to-date with the H1N1-related events. However, despite the high exposure on the mass media, it is still uncertain which words are more frequently occurred in H1N1-related news reports and documents and how they are specifically used in the context of the H1N1 event.

The purposes of this study are to examine whether Sinclair’s descriptive model of lexical item can be applied to analyse the key words related to H1N1 event and whether such an analysis could bring a thorough understanding of the meanings of those key words; and to demonstrate that a combination of a corpus-driven approach and Sinclair’s model may offer more productive language description of lexical items than looking into them in isolation.

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