Specificity in English for Academic Purposes (EAP): A Corpus Analysis of Lexical Bundles in Academic Writing

Leng Hong Ang, Kim Hua Tan


The issue of specificity in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) settings has always challenged linguists and instructors in the field to take a stance on how language should be perceived, that is whether language forms and features are transferable across different academic disciplines or are specific to particular disciplines. This study intends to take this debate a step further by employing a corpus-driven method in identifying a type of phraseological sequence, namely lexical bundles in a corpus of journal articles in the field of International Business Management (IBM). The lexical bundles were compared with those compiled by Simpson-Vlach and Ellis (2010) in their study of Academic Formulas List (AFL) to determine the specificity of the lexical bundles identified in this study. Following frequency-based approach, the corpus tool, Collocate 1.0 was used to extract three- to five-word sequences. These word sequences were manually filtered to exclude irrelevant and meaningless combinations. The qualified lexical bundles were compiled and compared with lexical bundles in AFL (Simpson-Vlach and Ellis 2010) using log-likelihood test. The findings show that three-word lexical bundles are the most common types of lexical bundles in IBM corpus. The comparison reveals that lexical bundles in IBM corpus are relatively specific as compared with lexical bundles in AFL.  A discipline-specific approach to the teaching and learning of lexical bundles in EAP settings is therefore advocated to enhance EAP syllabuses and instruction.


Keywords: EAP; phraseological sequences; lexical bundles; frequency-based; discipline-specific 

Full Text:



Ang, L. H., Tan, K. H. & He, M. (2017). A corpus-based collocational analysis of noun premodification types in academic writing. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies. Vol. 23(1), 115-131.

Barlow, M. (2004). Collocate 1.0 software.

Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S. & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Harlow, Essex: Longman.

Biber, D., Conrad, S. & Cortes, V. (2004). If you look at…: lexical bundles in university teaching and textbooks. Applied Linguistics. Vol. 25, 371-405.

Braine, G. (1988). A reader reacts (commentary on Ruth Spack’s “Initiating ESL students into the academic discourse community: how far should we go?”). TESOL Quarterly. Vol. 22(4), 702.

Cortes, V. (2004). Lexical bundles in published and student disciplinary writing: Examples from history and biology. English for Specific Purposes. Vol. 23(4), 397-423.

Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly. 34, 213-238.

Coxhead, A. (2008). Phraseology and English for academic purposes. In F. Meunier & S. Granger (Eds.), Phraseology in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching (pp. 149-162). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Dunning, T. (1993). Accurate methods for the statistics of surprise and coincidence. Computational Linguistics. Vol. 19(1), 61-74.

Durrant, P. (2014). Discipline and level specificity in university students’ written vocabulary. Applied Linguistics. Vol. 35(3), 328-356.

Granger, S. & Paquot, M. (2009). In search of a General academic vocabulary: a corpus-driven study. In K. Katsampoxaki-Hodgetts (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Conference on L.S.P: Options and

practices of LSP practitioners (pp. 94-108). Heraklion: University of Crete Publications.

Hill, J. (2000). Revisiting priorities: From grammatical failure to collocational success. In M. Lewis (Ed.), Teaching collocations: Further Development in the Lexical Approach (pp. 47-69). London: Language Teaching Publications.

Hutchison, T. & Waters, A. (1987). English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hyland, K. (2002). Specificity revisited: how far should we go now? English for Specific Purposes. Vol. 21, 385-395.

Hyland, K. (2006). English for Academic Purposes: An Advanced Resource Book. New York: Routledge.

Hyland, K. (2008a). As can be seen: Lexical bundles and disciplinary variation. English for Specific Purposes. Vol. 27(1), 4-21.

Hyland, K. (2008b). Academic clusters: Text patterning in published and postgraduate writing. International Journal of Applied Linguistics. Vol. 18(1), 4-62.

Hyland, K. (2012). Bundles in academic discourse. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics. Vol. 32, 150-169.

Hyland, K. & Tse, P. (2007). Is there an “academic vocabulary”? TESOL Quarterly. Vol. 41(2), 235-253.

Jordan, R. (1989). English for Academic Purposes (EAP). Language Teaching. Vol. 22(3), 153-164.

Jordan, R. (1997). English for Academic Purposes: A Guide and Resource Book for Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lea, M. & Street, B. (1999). Writing as academic literacies: understanding textual practices in higher education. In C. N. Candlin & K. Hyland (Eds.), Writing: Texts, Processes and Practices (pp. 62-81). London: Longman.

Paquot, M. & Granger, S. (2012). Formulaic language in learner corpora. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics. Vol. 32, 130-149.

Pawley, A. & Syder, F. H. (1983). Two puzzles for linguistic theory: Nativelike selection and nativelike fluency. In J. C. Richards & R. W. Schmidt (Eds.), Language and Communication (pp. 191-226). London: Longman.

Salazar, D. (2014). Lexical Bundles in Native and Non-Native Scientific Writing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Schutz, N. (2013). How specific is English for Academic Purposes? A look at verbs in business, linguistics and medical research articles. Language and Computers. Vol. 77(1), 237-257.

Simpson-Vlach, R. & Ellis, N. C. (2010). An academic formulas list (AFL). Applied Linguistics. Vol. 31, 487-512.

Sinclair, J. (1991). Corpus, concordance, collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Spack, R. (1988). Initiating ESL students into the academic discourse community: how far should we go? TESOL Quarterly. Vol. 22(1), 29-52.

Zamel, V. (1993). Questioning academic discourse. College ESL. Vol. 3, 28-39.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17576/3L-2018-2402-07


  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2247

ISSN : 0128-5157