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What is Vocabulary for English for Specific Purposes?


Sub-technical Technical

In essence, such terms refer to the vocabulary of a particular area of study or professional use.
However, specialized vocabulary does not always mean long Graeco-Latin words or highly technical
words that are not used in everyday language.
by-pass and neck (medicine) (Nation, 2008)
market and price (business studies) (Crawford Camiciottoli, 2007)

Why is Vocabulary Important in ESP?

 Teachers and learners need to know that precious classroom time is directly related to their
language need.
Students’ knowledge of a discipline is closely tied to the specialized language of that discipline
(Kron, 2008:246)

 Understanding and using this special purposes vocabulary shows that these learners belong
to a particular group.
Learners need that language to show understanding, “make meaning and engage with
disciplinary knowledge (Woodward-Kron, 2008)

 Another important point is that the size of this specialized vocabulary is not fully
This means that ESP learners may face an extremely large learning task to fully develop their
understanding and use of specialized vocabulary in their subject area or in professional

Conceptualizing Vocabulary and ESP

Two Fundamental Perspectives on Language for Specific Purpose (Basturkmen, 2006)

1. English has a common core of words all learners should know. Specialization begins
once learners establish that common core
2. All language as being for specific purpose which means specialization should begin
Identifying Vocabulary for ESP
1. Consulting experts and technical dictionaries to identify specialized vocabulary (Schmitt,
However, this method has various difficulties:
a. There is a wide range of lists on the same topic produced by several authors depending
on the level of their knowledge and approach.
b. Decision-making in using technical dictionary
2. Using a scale to identify specialized vocabulary.
Chung and Nation (2003) devised a four- step scale to categorize technical vocabulary in
applied linguistics textbook and an anatomy textbook.

A sample of the anatomy text showing the various kinds of words (Moore and Dalley, 1999: 60)

The thorax (chest) is the superior part of the trunk between the neck and the abdomen. It is
formed by the 12 pairs of ribs, sternum (breast bone) costal cartilages, and 12 thoracic vertebrae (Fig.
1.1). These bony and cartilaginous structures form the thoracic cage (rib cage), which surrounds the
thoracic cavity and supports the pectoral (shoulder) girdle. Along with the skin and associated fascia
and muscles, the thoracic cage forms the thoracic (chest) wall, which lodges and protects the contents
of the thoracic cavity -- the heart and lungs, for example -- as well as some abdominal organs such as
the liver and spleen. The thoracic cage provides attachments for muscles of the neck, thorax, upper
limbs, abdomen, and back. The muscles of the thorax itself elevate and depress the thoracic cage
during breathing. Because the most important structures in the thorax -- the heart, trachea, lungs,
great vessels, and the thoracic wall itself -- are constantly moving, the thorax is one of the most
dynamic regions of the body.
Thoracic Wall
The thoracic cage is covered by skin, fascia, and muscles, including those attaching the pectoral
girdle to the upper limb and trunk. The mammary glands of the breasts (L. mammae) are in the
subcutaneous tissue. The function of the thoracic wall is to not only protect the contents of the thoracic
cavity but also provide the mechanical function of breathing. With each breath, the muscles of the
thoracic wall working in concert with the diaphragm and muscles of the abdominal wall vary the
volume of the thoracic cavity, first by expanding the capacity of the cavity, thereby allowing the lungs
to expand, and then, mostly through their relaxation, decreasing the volume of the cavity, causing the
lungs to expel air.

Step 1 Words such as function words that have a meaning that has no particular relationship
with the field of anatomy, that is, words independent of the subject matter.
Examples are: the, is, between, it, by, 12, adjacent, amounts, common, commonly, directly, constantly,
early, and especially.

Step 2 Words that have a meaning that is minimally related to the field of anatomy in that they
describe the positions, movements, or features of the body.
Examples are: superior, part, forms, pairs, structures, surrounds, supports, associated, lodges, protects

Step 3 Words that have a meaning that is closely related to the field of anatomy. They refer to
parts, structures or functions of the body, such as the regions of the body and systems of
the body. Such words are also used in general language. The words may have some
restrictions of usage depending on the subject field.
Examples are: chest, trunk, neck, abdomen, ribs, breast, cage, cavity, shoulder, girdle, skin, muscles,
wall, heart, lungs, organs, liver, bony, abdominal, breathing.
Words in this category may be technical terms in a specific field like anatomy and yet may occur
with the same meaning in other fields and not be technical terms in those fields.

Step 4 Words that have a meaning specific to the field of anatomy and are not likely to be
known in general language. They refer to structures and functions of the body. These
words have clear restrictions of usage depending on the subject field.
Examples are: thorax, sternum, costal, vertebrae, pectoral, fascia, trachea, mammary, periosteum,
hematopoietic, pectoralis, viscera, intervertebral, demifacets, pedicle

3. Corpus-based studies to identify specialized vocabulary.

 A Corpus is a body of text of written or spoken language.
 Corpus-based studies allow for larger-scale investigations of words in context.
 A corpus (plural corpora, German “das Korpus”, not “der”) is a collection of texts used
for linguistic analyses, usually stored in an electronic database so that the data can be
accessed easily by means of a computer. Corpus texts usually consist of thousands or
millions of words and are not made up of the linguist’s or a native speaker’s invented
examples but on authentic (naturally occurring) spoken and written language.
 A corpus is thus a systematic, computerized collection of authentic language used for
linguistic analysis.
 Corpus linguistics is the study of language by means of naturally occurring language
samples; analyses are usually carried out with specialized software programs on a

Sample Corpus-Based Studies

A. Crawford Camiciottoli (2007)

B. Mike Nelson (n.d.)

• Two Corpora
a. Business English books (approx. 600,000 words)
b. Business English Corpus (approx. 1 million words)
• Four Main Areas
a. writing about business (business, books, journals, articles)
b. writing to do business (annual reports, faxes, letters, etc.)
c. talking about business (interviews, radio and TV business reports)
d. speaking to do business (meetings, speeches, presentations)
Comparison of top 10 words in business studies (Nelson, n.d., and Camiciottoli, 2007)

4. The Academic Word List (AWL)

This list was designed as a potential tool for teachers and learners to help bridge more
general everyday language that they might have encountered and used in high schools and
language schools and the more specialized language of written academic English.

What is Academic Word List (AWL)?

• The AWL is a list of words which appear with high frequency in English-language academic
texts. The list was compiled by Averil Coxhead at the Victoria University of Wellington, New
• The list contains 570 word families and is divided into 10 sublists. Sublist 1 consists of the
60 most common words in the AWL. Sublist 2 contains the next most frequently used words
and so on. Each sublist contains 60 word families, except for sublist 10, which contains 30.
• The words selected for the AWL are words which occur frequently in a range of academic
subjects, including the Arts (including history, psychology, sociology, etc.), Commerce
(including economics, marketing, management, etc.), Law and the Sciences (including
biology, computer science, mathematics, etc.).
• This means that the AWL is useful to all second-language learners who wish to study in an
English-speaking institution no matter what their field of study. The AWL does not,
however, include technical words which are specific to a given field. Nor does it contain
words which are of general use and very high frequency.

Example of word families from Coxhead and Hirsh (2007)

5. Specialized Medical Vocabulary
Wang et. Al.’s (2008) medical word list is an example of early specialization, which means
that learners with particular academic subjects in mind can focus early on the specialized
vocabulary of their subject area rather than working on more general academic

6. Early Specialization: Ward’s English list of basic engineering words

 An example of early specialization for vocabulary learning is Ward’s (2009)
development of an English word list of basic engineering to support lower
proficiency undergraduates.
 This study followed on from Ward (1999) where he examined engineering texts to
determine the number of words students would need to know .
 His final list contains 299 word types and covers 16.4 percent of a corpus of
engineering textbooks.

Metaphor as an Example of Specialized Vocabulary

• Key or difficult concepts in lecture might well be expressed through metaphor.
• Students who are not able to follow metaphors are likely to misunderstand the lecture or
not understand the key points at all.
• Littlemore et al. (2010) suggests that teaching second language speakers to recognize and
understand metaphor in academic lectures “is no luxury” in ESP Classes.
• Cultural differences can affect metaphor use.

Sample ESP Exercise with Metaphor

Match the following expressions of the conceptual metaphors THE MARKET IS AN ORGANISM and
THE MARKET IS WATER (indicated by numbers) with their meanings (indicated by letters):

1. the market has grown a. supply exceeds demand

2. the market is depressed b. the market is in a good state
3. the market is flooded c. the market is in a bad state
4. the market is buoyant d. the market is bigger than it used to be
5. the market has suffered e. the market is smaller than it used to be
6. the market has dried up f. the market is undergoing a gradual process
(Source: Adapted from M. Powell [1996], Business Matters, p. 28) Answers: 1d, 2e, 3a, 4b, 5c, 6f.
Now complete the following extract with some of the expressions from Exercise 1:
The US market was fairly 1. _______________ when we finally managed to penetrate it three
years ago, even though it was largely dominated by two or three big American players. And over the
next two years both the market itself and our market share 2. _______________ significantly (...).
I’’ m afraid the picture in Western Europe is not much better. European trade disputes have further
3. _______________ a market which was already 4. _______________ from the effects of the recession.

(Source: Adapted from M. Powell [1996]. Business Matters, p. 28)

Answers: 1. buoyant; 2. flooded; 3. depressed; 4. suffering

Looking Beyond the Single Word at Lexical Patterning in ESP

Most frequent two and three-word phrases in Nelson (nd) and Camiciottoli (2007)

Some Challenges for Vocabulary in ESP

1. What to do with everyday words that take on a particular meaning in specialized
a. Use variety of techniques to teach these new meanings in specialized context.
b. Use these specialized word in the context of the specialized area.
2. What to do with everyday words that take on a particular meaning in specialized
a. Explore misconceptions about the words with the students by asking their opinion
about the meaning of the word, highlighting the misconception that arises, and
giving the scientific point of view.
b. Break down words to show their constituent word parts. (example: Photosynthesis)
3. Specialized vocabulary “evolves and renews itself according to changing interests
within communities of practice (Camiciottoli, 2007)

Bringing Special Vocabulary into the Classroom

 Nation (2001) outlines the kinds of knowledge learners need for understanding and using
words. This kind of knowledge is important for everyday language and specialized words.
• Nation’s four strands to create a balanced vocabulary program (2007)
1. meaning-focused input (learning through reading and listening)
2. meaning-focused output (learning through writing and speaking)
3. language-focused learning (deliberate study of aspects of words such as
pronunciation and spelling)
4. fluency development

Presented by:


MAEd- English

School of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education


Presented by:


MAEd- English

Presented to:



In Partial Fulfillment of the Module

English for Specific Purposes

First Semester, AY 2018-2019