A Corpus-based Comparison of Near-Synonymous Adjectives in General English and in Academic Writing




Siaw-Fong Chung;Li-Yin Chen

Key Words

academic writing ; near-synonym ; corpora ; adjective


Taiwan International ESP Journal

Volume or Term/Year and Month of Publication

7卷2期(2015 / 12 / 01)

Page #

1 - 23

Content Language


English Abstract

In academic writing, certain near-synonymous adjectives are commonly found, among which are critical and important. This study aims to analyze the unique and shared patterns of these two near-synonyms in academic discourse and general use. In the British Academic Written English (BAWE) Corpus, both adjectives modify nouns such as point, method, and data. However, each has its individual uses: only critical modifies lure, path, and period, and only important modifies element, thing, and implication. However, the collocation patterns are somewhat different in a reference corpus. In the British National Corpus (BNC), critical modifies scrutiny and evaluation, while important modifies implication and consequence. The two adjectives behave differently in the two registers. By comparing the unique uses of a word in a specialized corpus, one can explore its regular patterns. Such patterns could be contrasted more clearly by comparing to a reference corpus. We argue that the collocation analysis from a reference corpus may need to be accompanied by a specialized corpus for the understanding of the vocabulary of a specialized field.

Topic Category 人文學 > 語言學
社會科學 > 教育學
  1. Biber, D. (2006). University language: A corpus-based study of spoken and written registers. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  2. Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S. & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of spoken and written English. London: Longman.
  3. Chen, Q., & Ge, G. (2007). A corpus-based lexical study on frequency and distribution of Coxhead's AWL Word families in medical research articles (RAs). English for Specific Purposes, 26, 502–514.
  4. Chung, S.-F. (2011). A corpus-based analysis of “create” and “produce.” Chang Gung Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 4(2), 399–425.
  5. Coxhead, A. (2000). A New Academic Word List. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 213-238.
  6. Gries, S. Th. (2001). A corpus linguistic analysis of English -ic vs -ical adjectives. ICAME Journal, 25, 65-108.
  7. Gries, S. Th. (2004). HCFA 3.2. A program for R. Available upon request from S. Th. Gries at: http://www.linguistics.ucsb.edu/faculty/stgries/.
  8. Hunston, S., & Sinclair, J. (2000). A local grammar of evaluation. In S. Hunston & G. Thompson (Eds.)
  9. Hyland, K., & Tse, P. (2007). Is there an “academic vocabulary”? TESOL Quarterly, 41, 235-253.
  10. Khani, R., & Tazik, K. (2013). Towards the development of an academic word list for applied linguistics research articles. RELC Journal, 44, 209-232.
  11. Liu, D. (2010). Is it a chief, main, major, primary, or principal concern? A corpusbased behavioral profile study of the near-synonyms. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 15, 56-87.
  12. Martinez, I. A., Beck, S. C., & Panza, C. B. (2009). Academic vocabulary in agricultural research articles: A corpus-based study. English for Specific Purposes, 28, 183-98.
  13. Paquot, M. (2010). Academic vocabulary in learner writing: From extraction to analysis. London & New York: Continuum.
  14. Sutarsyah, C., Nation, P., & Kennedy, G. (1994). How useful is EAP vocabulary for ESP? A corpus based study. RELC Journal, 25, 34-50.
  15. Swales, J. M., & A. Burke (2003). “It's really fascinating work”: Differences in evaluative adjectives across academic registers. In P. Leistyna & C. F. Meyer (Eds.) Corpus analysis: Language structure and language use (pp. 1–18). New York: Rodopi.
  16. Vongpumivitch, V., Huang, J., & Chang, Y. (2009). Frequency analysis of the words in the academic word list (AWL) and non-AWL content words in applied linguistics research articles. English for Specific Purposes, 28, 33-41.
  17. Wang, J., Liang, S., & Ge, G. (2008). Establishment of a medical academic word list. English for Specific Purposes, 27, 442-558.
  18. Chung, S.-F. and Ahrens, K. (2008). MARVS Revisited: Incorporating Sense Distribution and Mutual Information into Near-Synonym Analyses. Language and Linguistics: Lexicon, Grammar and Natural Language Processing, 9(2), 415–434.
  19. Chung, T., & Nation, P. (2003). Technical vocabulary in specialised texts. Reading in a Foreign Language, 15, 103–116.
  20. Gries, S. Th., & Otani, N. (2010). Behavioral profiles: A corpus-based perspective on synonymy and antonymy. ICAME Journal, 34, 121-150.
  21. Hoffmann, K. (2014). A corpus-based analysis of the near-synonyms “nice”, “kind”, “lovely”, “friendly”, “gorgeous” and “pleasant”. Retrieved January 3, 2015 from http://www.academia.edu/7541436/A_corpus-based_analysis_of_the_nearsynonyms_nice_kind_lovely_friendly_gorgeous_and_pleasant_
  22. Hunston, S., & Thompson, G. (Eds.) (2000). Evaluation in text: Authorial stance and the construction of discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  23. Hyland, K. (2000). Disciplinary discourse. Harlow: Pearson Education.
  24. Kernerman, L. (1996). English learners’ dictionaries: How much do we know about their use? In M. Gellerstam et al. (Eds.), Euralex ’96 Proceedings, Vol. II, pp. 405-414.
  25. West, M. (1953). A General Service List of English Words. London: Longman.