The pragmatic annotation of academic lectures
: an exploratory study applied to engineering disciplines

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores ways in which a corpus of engineering lectures can be annotated to identify, categorise and analyse pragmatic features. It also looks at the distribution of these features across individual lectures. The data on which the annotation system is tested comes from The Engineering Lecture Corpus (ELC). A growing corpus of English-medium lectures from across the world, currently including transcripts from Malaysia, New Zealand and the UK. Unusually, the ELC encodes functions that recur across large numbers of transcripts, which is referred to as pragmatic annotation.

The annotation allows features that are typical of the discourse to be identified and described. The ELVis data visualisation tool and corpus linguistic techniques are used to communicate and explore patterns at the macro-level, which guide finer analysis of the authentic language data. Comparison of the styles of English-medium engineering lecturers, in different parts of the world is made, and the current role of English-medium instruction (EMI) in the discipline of engineering is also explored.

Recurrent functions in ELC transcripts have been found to include storytelling, summarising and humour. Sub-categories have been assigned to these functions; for example storytelling is marked as an anecdote, exemplum, narrative or recount, and two types of preview ad two types of review have been attributed to summarising. The purpose of this middle ground annotation system between video data and textual transcription is to provide a layer description that allows more accurate conclusions concerning discourse features to be drawn.

Although engineering lecturers around the world may use a common language to deliver the same kind of syllabus for the same broad purpose, engineering lectures are likely to remain both context- and culture-specific. Lectures of all kinds often include pragmatic elements that serve to entertain, instruct, and make key information more memorable. The way in which these features are presented varies from place to place, however, and cultural differences may represent a challenge both to those who attend lectures and to those who deliver them. Such variation is important to take into account when designing ESP and staff development programmes.

Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorHilary Nesi (Supervisor)

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