Knowledge of a trade such as Plumbing involves understanding and use of its technical vocabulary. Trainee plumbers need support for the development of their language as they grow in their knowledge of their profession, and yet little is known about this vocabulary. This article reports on the challenges of dealing with technical vocabulary from the point of view of tutors in a polytechnic in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and analysis of a written corpus (565,881 running words) and a spoken corpus (133,093 running words) of Plumbing developed at the same institution. Technical vocabulary was identified from the written corpus, using frequency principles, a semantic analysis of a rating task for tutors, and checking the corpus and technical dictionaries. A word list of Plumbing was developed, along with a list of technical abbreviations and another of proper nouns. The Plumbing word list covers over 30% of the written corpus and just over 11% of the spoken corpus. Nation’s (2012) BNC/COCA frequency lists were adapted and a vocabulary load analysis found over 8,000 word families plus supplementary lists for 98% coverage of written and 5,000 word families plus supplementary lists for spoken Plumbing texts. The article ends with suggestions for pedagogy and suggestions for future research.
English for Specific Purposes – Elsevier
Published: Jul 1, 2018
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