A Corpus-Based Approach to Teaching English in Abstracts

A Corpus-Based Approach to Teaching English in Abstracts

Amelia AMaria Cava (University of Naples Federcio II, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch038
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In the academic field abstract is the first genre that students need to become familiar with. Abstracts have been investigated on structure and language by Swales (1990), Bhatia (1993, 1997), dos Santos (1996), Cremmins (1982) and Day (1989) or by international organizations such as ISO and ANSI. Every academic journal presents its personal guidelines on how to write abstracts properly but generally, undergraduate students do not have a clear idea about how to write them. The main purpose of the present research study is to analyze the language used by authors with a pedagogical intent. The investigation is a corpus-based analysis setting out to highlight certain lexico-grammatical features specifically related to the ‘research-process language’. The data are drawn from a corpus of 6 years of three international journals: The International Journal of Primatology, Mathematics and Computers in Simulation and Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics.
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The integration of corpora is viewed as a coherent course design step at university settings (J. Flowerdew, 2001; L. Flowerdew, 2001 and 2002; Curado, 2001). A corpus-based analysis of language tends to play a key role in specialized language organization and methodology, especially in English for Specific Purposes (ESP), as suggested by Flowerdew (2001, p. 71). In agreement with Krishnamurthy (2001, p. 83), two important aspects justify corpus integration in language program: “a corpus can give us accurate statistics” and “a corpus can provide us with a vast number of real examples”.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Concgrams: are patterns of word associations, and can be used in order to find all the word associated grammatically and semantically.

Concordance: lines are like a snapshot of language, they display the search word in the centre and a variable amount of context at either side.

Discourse Analysis: is the study of different forms of discourse, written, spoken or signed language use.

ESP: stands for English for Specific Purposes; a wide taxonomy falls under this category, like English for Academic Purposes, English for Occupational Purposes, English for Professional Purposes, English for Vocational Purposes and so on.

Concordance software: is an integrated suite of programs for looking at how words behave in texts, it has several tools aiming at highlighting typical collocational and syntactic patterns.

Corpus Linguistics: studies language (real data, not ad-hoc built repository) collected in digital corpora, with the intent to observe regularities and recursive pattern in language.

EAP: stands for English for academic purposes, that is Academic English the standard used at the University, e.g. in Ph.D. dissertation.

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