What is technicality? A Technicality Analysis Model for EAP vocabulary

Althea Ying Ho Ha, Ken Hyland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
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The identification of technical words for teaching discipline-specific EAP courses remains a problem for materials designers and teachers alike. This study proposes a method that identifies technicality and measures the degree of technicality of a word. The Technicality Analysis Model (TAM) suggests five levels of technicality: least technical, slightly technical, moderately technical, very technical and most technical. In identifying technicality we take four factors into account: 1) both general and specialised senses of a word; (2) the banding of a word in reference word lists; (3) the polysemy of a word; (4) the literal meaning of a word. The set of categorisation criteria is stringent in the sense that even least technical words may have specialised senses in a specific discipline but those senses may be almost the same as the general sense. All words in more technical categories have specialised senses. We trialled the TAM with 837 financial-sector-specific words generated from a 6.7-million-word corpus of financial texts. Results show that with the categorisation criteria in the technicality analysis, every financial-sector-specific word could be categorised into one of the technical word categories. Future research may use the TAM to develop a repertoire of discipline-specific vocabulary for EAP teaching and learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of English for Academic Purposes
Early online date14 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Technicality Analysis Model
  • Specialised vocabulary
  • Technical vocabulary
  • Technicality Terminology

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