Creating basic low-tech high-relevance personalized language corpora with science postgraduates


This paper proposes a technically simple way for students to exploit individual linguistically specialized corpora which are directly relevant to their professional learning curve. Established science researchers today use highly specialized forms of professional ESP communication in spoken, written, or mixed media, although the central vehicle for research validation remains the research article. Since academic success is measured in publications, postgraduates aspiring to a scientific career, while learning to design and perform research activities, must also gain communicative proficiency. Raising students’ awareness of the linguistic characteristics and complex unwritten rules of research article construction can boost their communicative performance. Language acquisition theorists advocate the use of specialist corpora for acquiring specialist discourse competence, a theory supported by experimental studies involving the use and/or creation of personalized language corpora by students using concordancing software. However, science postgraduates can be reluctant to spend time learning to use even a simple concordance tool. Following a brief theoretical introduction and literature review, the author describes a teaching experience with a physics PhD group in which students created and studied personalized corpora of specialist research articles without a concordancing tool, whilst the teacher used concordancing to create tailor-made classroom activities based on the collective class corpus. Students prepared for peer-to-peer communication of research by analysing linguistic features, practising problematic points and comparing the rhetorical structure of their corpus articles with a generic model, thus building up a complex picture of how experts in their field do not simply convey information but work to persuade and reveal their stance.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v29p557

Keywords: ESP; postgraduate EST course; personalized specialist field corpus; classroom activities.


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