An investigation of noun frequencies in cohesive nominal groups

Andrew Drummond


General purpose academic word lists, such as Coxhead’s (2000) academic word list, are widely used in the teaching English for Academic purposes. However, word frequencies in some micro-level aspects of academic discourse are yet to be determined, such as subject-specific word lists in some areas. This study has generated knowledge of noun frequencies in sentence transitions containing anaphoric lexical references to the preceding sentence. Investigating a corpus of approximately 5.6 million words of academic texts from the Social Sciences and Humanities has led to a list of 71 nouns most frequently used in cohesive nominal groups in these areas. This list was compiled with Antconc (Anthony, 2014) by examining eight syntactic structures containing an anaphoric determiner and noun. The list can be used alongside more general purpose lists to support L2 academic writing development. As well as the main list, two significant sub-lists have been identified: a list of items particularly useful for anaphoric references to a citation and a group of nouns that nominalise processes. Four frequently occurring nouns in the data have been identified as forming partitive constructions with a cohesive aspect enabling the writer to narrow or broaden the range of analysis in the writing. In addition, there is a proposed order in which the eight cohesive structures investigated could be introduced within an EAP syllabus.


cohesion in academic writing; lexical cohesion; lexical density; corpus linguistics; academic word lists

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ISSN 2045-4031. University of Central Lancashire 2010-2013.