Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Using Wmatrix to Explore Discourse of Economic Growth

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Using Wmatrix to Explore Discourse of Economic Growth

Article excerpt


Growth is a concept of particular interest for economic discourse. This paper sets out to explore a small corpus of economic growth, which consists of articles from The Economist. The corpus software used in this study is a web-based tool Wmatrix, an automatic tagging software able to assign semantic field (domain) tags, and to permit the extraction of key words and key semantic domains by applying the keyness calculation to tag frequency lists. The results show that at 99% confidence (or p < 0.01), the cut-off of 6.63 (log likelihood value) indicates that there are 1051 positive keywords (including multiword expressions) and 80 key semantic domains generated from the corpus. It is evident that BRICs or the emerging economies/markets, in particular China and India, are a big concern regarding economic growth over the past years. A number of examples of possible ways forward in teaching methodology are presented.

Keywords: corpus, economic growth, discourse study, keyness analysis, Wmatrix Tools

1. Introduction

There has been a growing literature on the economic discourse over the past three decades. Some studies have dealt with the linguistic and discursive aspects of the widely read masterworks: Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (Bazerman, 1993; Henderson, 2006), Marshall's Elements of Economics (Del Lungo Camiciotti, 2005), and Keynes' General Theory (Bondi, 2010). Other studies have instead focused on the distinctive characteristics of key written economics genres used for the transmission and dissemination of knowledge: prediction in schematic structure in research articles (Dudley-Evans & Henderson, 1990), and economic metaphor in media articles or textbooks (Alejo, 2010; Boers, 2000; Charteris-Black, 2000; Henderson, 1982, 1994, 2000; Hu, 2014; Sun & Jiang, 2014; White, 2003).

While research on economic discourse can be based on researchers' intuitive knowledge (Tribe, 2015), there are a growing interest in corpus approaches to social sciences. Gaballo (2015), for example, explores the discourse of economics and the way it is used and organized in the business section, and in the finance and economics section of The Economist by bringing together methodologies of critical discourse analysis, systemic functional linguistics and corpus linguistics allowing the texts to be explored from different perspectives while providing multiple insights.

Economic growth is a big concern in world-wide economy, and not surprisingly, it is also a concept of particular interest for applied linguists. Unlike previous studies that are mainly concerned with growth metaphor (Crawford Camiciottoli, 2007; Henderson, 1994; White, 2003), this paper aims to explore discourse of economic growth by conducting keyness analysis with the aid of corpus tool Wmatrix.

2. Kyeness Analysis: From Keywords to Key Semantic Domains

Keyness analysis has a relatively recent history, which concerns the analysis of keywords, key part-of-speech, and key semantic domains. The term "keywords" is widely used to refer to words which are important in some way, either in individual texts or in a given culture. According to Stubbs (2010, p.23), there exist three different concepts of keywords, which derive from quite different academic traditions. The first sense of keywords derives from cultural studies (Williams, 1976), the second from comparative quantitative corpus analysis (Scott, 1996), and the third from work on lexico-grammar (Francis, 1993).

The first concept of keywords is labeled as "cultural keywords" (Williams, 1976; cf. also Wierzbicka, 1997). The meanings of words like alienation, capitalism, family, fiction, hegemony, literature, media, tradition etc. were taken by Williams to represent the most distinctive features of contemporary western culture, by integrating synchronic and diachronic perspectives in a full appreciation of meaning. These words are 'key' because they are of social, cultural or political significance and they are the 'dictionary' of a culture and a social group. …

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