The contextual knowledge of a word is closely related to the knowledge of phraseological sequences as words are often used in the phraseological forms. Owing to the importance of phraseological knowledge, much has been done to examine the phraseological sequences for various purposes, including for English for Academic Purposes (EAP). In EAP settings, scholars have argued for the two different approaches to EAP, i.e. discipline-specific and common-core. As such, it is necessary to examine the issue of specificity in EAP with regard to the use of phraseological sequences such as lexical bundles. This study therefore aims to identify lexical bundles in journal articles in the field of International Business Management (IBM). Following corpus-driven approach the corpus analysis software,
Keywords: English for Academic Purposescorpus-drivenphraseological sequenceslexical bundlesspecificity
Academic study and writing require unique demands on language users as constructions and patterns of academic work are very different from the conventions that language users are more familiar with, for example the conversational register. Thus, the process of adapting to a hitherto unfamiliar register may pose difficulties for language learners at tertiary institutions. Research have found that university students have problems with using accurate and effective expository language in the academic register. In the case of non-native students in particular, these problems are compounded by the additional complexities involved in mastering the language itself. In most cases, university students have to write and publish academic research articles despite not having received the necessary training for the task. As a result of this shortcoming, scholars as well as practitioners in the field of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) have started examining the linguistic and textual features of academic writing in various disciplines from the linguistic and pedagogical perspectives.
With the flourishing of corpus-driven phraseological research since the last decade, attention has been shifted to examining and building lists of academic phraseological sequences for EAP curriculum. For instance, in a corpus-driven study of academic discourse, Simpson-Vlach and Ellis ( 2010) employed a combination of statistically-driven approach and teacher insights to identify and extract a list of the most useful lexical bundles, which they termed Academic Formulas List (henceforth AFL). Simpson-Vlach and Ellis ( 2010) identified academic lexical bundles common to many academic disciplines that have high frequency and are of general and academic use. They therefore concluded that a general approach to EAP is sufficient to derive lists of common core academic phrases that transcend disciplinary boundaries. Their conclusion followed ideas pioneered by Zamel ( 1993) who strongly advocated a common-core approach to EAP courses whereby EAP instructors should focus on language forms common to all disciplines. Nevertheless, it was argued that each academic discipline has its own subject-specific conventions ( Green & Lambert, 2018). Hyland (2002, 2006), a strong proponent of discipline-specific approach to lexical bundles refuted the idea of core academic clusters by demonstrating variations in the frequencies and functional uses of academic lexical bundles in different academic domains. According to Hyland, there are significant amount of formalities in academic texts, which are characterised by the use of subject-specific vocabulary. The issue of specificity has thus challenged instructors and linguists in the field of EAP to take a stance on how language should be perceived, that is whether language forms and features are transferable across different academic disciplines or specific to particular fields or disciplines. There are differing views with regard to the approaches to phraseology for EAP and this issue is still debatable in the field. It is therefore necessary for researchers to continue exploring phraseological sequences such as lexical bundles in academic discourse for the sake of further enhancing EAP instruction and curricula.
Definition and Previous Studies on Lexical Bundles
Lexical bundle was first defined and studied in detail by Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad, and Finegan in a chapter of the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (henceforth LGSWE) ( 1999), their exhaustive and comprehensive corpus study of grammar in English language. This seminal work deserves attention here as most studies on lexical bundles are largely based on the definition and framework proposed by Biber et al. ( 1999). According to Biber et al. (1999: 989-990), lexical bundles are “bundles of words that show a statistical tendency to co-occur… as recurrent expressions, regardless of their idiomaticity, and regardless of their structural status”. Lexical bundles are seen as sequences of word forms that are found frequently in both written and spoken discourses. They are usually identified empirically and extracted automatically from a corpus using the relevant corpus analysis software. In relation to lexical bundle research in academic genres, numerous studies have been conducted on lexical bundles to examine the use of lexical bundles by native and non-native speakers, and expert and novice writers ( e.g., Chen & Baker, 2016; Pan et al., 2016; Bychkovska & Lee, 2017; Esfandiari & Barbary, 2017; Kwary et al., 2017; Hyland & Jiang, 2018; Shin et al., 2018; Lu & Deng, 2019; Shin, 2019; Jeong & Jiang, 2019; Wright, 2019). Nevertheless, little is known with regard to the approaches to lexical bundles in academic settings as the issue of specificity remains largely unexamined.
Specifically, this study addresses the following question:
How do lexical bundles in journal articles in the field of International Business Management (IBM) differ from those in AFL?
Purpose of the Study
This study compares lists of lexical bundles representing IBM and AFL ( Simpson-Vlach & Ellis 2010) to determine the specificity of the lexical bundles in this study. Following common-core approach, AFL is a list of lexical bundles retrieved from a corpus of academic writing sampled across four academic disciplines: Humanities and Arts, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences/Medicine and Technology and Engineering while the lexical bundles identified in this study represent lexical bundles extracted from a specialised corpus which contains only journal articles in the field of IBM.
The present study employed corpus-driven approach to identify and extract three- to five- word lexical bundles in a one-million word corpus with 138 original research articles taken from two international peer-reviewed journals relevant to IBM.
Identification of Lexical Bundles
The corpus analysis software,
A total of 1055 lexical bundles of varying lengths remained on the list after the manual filter. These 1055 lexical bundles make up 2.19% of the more than one million words in the current corpus. Table
The findings of the study indicate that academic lexical bundles are discipline-specific. The findings of this study have implications on how EAP should be informed in language classrooms at tertiary institutions. The outcome of the analysis suggests that EAP instructors should follow a discipline-specific approach, particularly in the teaching of phraseological sequences such as lexical bundles. To sum up, there are two different views on how instructors and researchers approach EAP and this issue remains debatable in the field. It is necessary for scholars in the field to continue examining the various forms of phraseological sequences in academic discourse for enhancing EAP instructions and syllabuses in order to benefit language learners at tertiary institutions.
This work was supported by Universiti Sains Malaysia Short Term Grant (304/PHUMANITI/6315044).
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12 October 2020
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Hong, A. L. (2020). Lexical Bundles in Academic Writing: The Issue of Specificity. In N. Samat, J. Sulong, M. Pourya Asl, P. Keikhosrokiani, Y. Azam, & S. T. K. Leng (Eds.), Innovation and Transformation in Humanities for a Sustainable Tomorrow, vol 89. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 695-701). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.10.02.64