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a kind of syndrome by which we recognize that something is written in the language of



• interlocking definitions
• technical taxonomies
• special expressions
• lexical density
 grammatical metaphor
 syntactic ambiguity
o semantic discontinuity
Halliday, 1989

• Until the 1970s, most scholars in the field of ESP mainly focused on terminology (the
“nomenclature” of a given science or profession)
• Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) has favored a more in-depth approach, taking
other aspects (i.e. contextual and structural) into account


Context ≠ Co-text

When you use a particular The other words that

word out of the text surround the text
• Procedures and methods used to collect, define and present the terms belonging to one or
more languages/ specialized fields
Word ≠ Term

General, can be used Specialized lexical items

in several contexts, within a particular field of
and meaning can specialization (aims at
change depending on monorefentiality)

[polisemiche: le parole [monoreferenzialità: a un

hanno più significati] oggetto corrisponde una

In LSP (language for special purpose), terms include:

• Words (monosemic) [molte parole hanno caratteristica monosemica e.g.: microphone
jack; l’inglese è una delle lingue che ha più questa tendenza…
(Topo=) Souris [Fra] Mouse [Eng]
…l’italiano ha prestiti dall’inglese, il francese meno]
• Multi-word expressions
• Symbols
• Chemical or mathematical formulae
• Acronyms

• Two basic functions:
1) Representative à representing specialized concepts through univocal, unambiguous
designations (NORMATIVE)
2) Communicative à describing the way in which terms are used by the discourse
communities involved (DESCRIPTIVE)

[ci dà schemi terminologici] [ci dà i dizionari]

Onomasiologic approach: Semasiologic approach:
from the concepts to the terms from the word to its Denotational
(how is this concept defined?) meaning (what does this =reference meaning
[si parte dal concetto e si word mean?) description of object
nomina con una definizione [studia il significato della
scegliendo I termini] parola partendo dalla parola] e.g. wateràH2O

Definition seen as an Definition seen as cultural

EQUATION and context-dependent. Connotational
Must describe the CONCEPT Must describe the USAGE
[uno dei termini è l’oggetto da [il dizionario Collins dice e.g. Wateràpositive
descrivere] anche luso contestuale] connotations: life, purity

Important concepts
• Hyponyms à smaller category to which a given term belongs (car/ bike/ train are all
hyponyms of the larger concept of “vehicle”)
• Hyperonyms à larger category that includes smaller terms (e.g. vehicle is the hyperonym
of bike, train, car, etc.).

There are words which don’t have meaning alone but have it in a context.
According to John Firth, Papers in Linguistics, 1957 à “words shall be known by the company
that they keep” à notion of COLLOCATIONAL MEANING

E.g. I haven’t the slightest idea

Invisible to the naked eye
Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill (proverb that means: don’t exaggerate)
She was watching with envy (=jealousy)

Collocation ≠ colligation

Lexical words grammatical words

e.g. The contractor shall furnish all necessary labor, equipment, and materials [più forte di un
invito, usato come dovere nei testi di legge]

"Context is in this kind of model a construct of cultural meanings, realised functionally in the form
of acts of meaning in the various semiotic modes, of which language is one. The ongoing processes
of linguistic choice, whereby a speaker is selecting within the resources of the linguistic system, are
effectively cultural choices, and acts of meaning are cultural acts." (M.A.K. Halliday)
Definiendum = definiens 90°

(Definiens à a hyperonym of the definiendum + specific characteristics)

e.g. a right angled triangle is a triangle that has one 90° internal angle 90°angleàcharacteristic
 Connected with the idea of TERMINOLOGICAL NORMALIZATION
e.g. ISO reference terminology models (main certification agency) [definisce gli standard di qualità
e i nomi di standardizzazione nelle scienze, per esempio nella costruzione non posso chiamare le
cose come mi pare]
But not all specialized languages have standardized nomenclatures (e.g. linguistics doesn’t have

CREATION OF NEW WORDS [C’è una serie di procedimenti nella creazione di termini]
Development of a register
• The development of a new register brings about the introduction of new words:
 Re-interpretation of existing words (e.g. notion of “mass” in Physics; “mouse” in
computer science)
 Creation of new words attained by combining words of a native stock (e.g.
clock+wise = clockwise) [senso orario]
 Borrowing of words from other languages (e.g. the gastronomic words like spaghetti
[singolare in ing “spaghetti is”])
 Calquing (an “adaptation” from other languages, e.g. omnipotens à all + mighty =
 Invention of brand new words (rare: e.g. “gas”)
 Creation of locutions (e.g. right angled triangle)
 Creation of new words attained by combining words of a non-native stock (e.g.
“thermodynamic” comes from the fusion of two Ancient Greek words, but the word
“thermodynamic” itself didn’t exist in Ancient Greek)

The vocabulary of LSP

• SOFT vs. HARD sciences
(The ones with mathematics)

• “Brand new” words are more typical of “soft” sciences, where highly technical words
are coined to “keep out” the non-specialists (De Mauro).
• Hard sciences favor the re-interpretation of existing words

Words taken from Latin and Greek

• They are typical of both of soft and hard sciences, especially in affixes and affixoids,
 Hemo/ Haemo; -aemia à blood
 Ped/ Paed à children
 Hypo à low
 Hyper à high
 Pre à before
• Latin and Greek are also used for borrowing entire words,
e.g. [questi affisoidi vengono da parole piene]
 clone (GR sprout[=germoglio])
 phial (GR vial, urn)
 ovum (LAT egg)

 apex (LAT tip, summit)

How do you distinguish an affix from an affixoid?

• Both are morphemes that are attached to a word stem
• Before the stem --> prefix/ prefixoid
• After the stem --> suffix/ suffixoid
• Prefixoids and suffixoids come from a lexical word and have autonomous meaning (e.g.
hydro = water)

ACRONYMS (abbreviation which have meaning)

• Acronyms are frequent in the registers of both soft and hard sciences:
• But there are also words that were originally acronyms:
 PRION (Proteinaceous Infectious Particle)
 SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

EPONYMS (words which come from the name of the people)

Eponyms à entities that take their name from their inventors, frequent in LSP for:

 Physics à Units of measurement,

 Watt: unit of power, after James Watt /wot/[UK] /wa:t/[US]
 Ampere: unit of electric current, after André-Marie Ampère
 Pascal: unit of pressure, after Blaise Pascal
 Chemistry à Elements,
 Bohrium, after Niels Bohr
 Curium, after Pierre and Marie Curie
 Einsteinium, after Albert Einstein
 Medicine à Diseases and body parts:
 Alzheimer’s (after Alois Alzheimer)
 Broca’s area, after Pierre Paul Broca
 Eustachian tube, after Eustachius
 Other fields, e.g. avionics "aviation electronics"
 the Mach number /mak/
(ratio of an object's velocity to the speed of sound, after the physicist Ernst Mach à used in
aircraft speed measurement)

• Metaphors are highly productive in ESP and often generate new technical terms:
 Virus (in computer science)
 Bear (for “sellers”) in Stock Exchange ↑ the bears attack up typical
 Bull (for “buyers”) à optimism ↓ the bulls attack down in stocks
 Mouse (in computer science)
 Spam (something that’s everywhere) [nome di un tipo di carne in scatola]
 Mouse-tooth forceps (surgical instrument) [pinza chirurgica]
 Skyscraper (in architecture)
• Particularly frequent in computing, but widely used in other sectors:
 “For now, the [Federal Reserve]Fed's medicine appears to be working. Stock
prices fluctuated wildly Friday, but the Dow Jones industrial average...”
 “A Red Cross field worker who served in many war theatres...”
 “The BLU-82B/C-130 weapon system, nicknamed "daisy cutter"[nome
accattivante] in Vietnam and...”
 “a crewmember is in the immediate vicinity to arm the slides if required...”
[armare gli scivoli su un aereo]


Quark à elementary particle in Physics discovered by Murray Gell-Mann in the 1960s

Taken from James Joyce. Finnegans Wake. Book 2, Episode 4, Page 383
"Three quarks for Muster Mark!/Sure he has not got much of a bark/And sure any he has it's all
beside the mark."


Important concept
In a clause:
Theme ≠ Rheme

[Secondo Halliday il tema è sempre davanti]

Topic, given Comment, new
item, what is item, what is
being talked being said about
about the topic
[non segue l’analisi logica]

“Be careful…”
There are various types of theme according to M.A.K.
1) topical or experiential (the “what” of our statement
– a participant, most often) What are we talking
2) interpersonal (speaker’s evaluation of own
statement – usually with adverbials like “maybe”,
“surely” etc.) connected to modality
[presente nell’imperativo]

3) textual or structural (text organizers, conjunctions, etc.) [es. connetivi]

1) Textual theme
• Continuatives (e.g., umm, yeah, ...)
• Conjunctions (e.g., and, or, but) [tengono assieme
• Conjunctive adjuncts (e.g., however, therefore, because, although, ...) il testo]
• Wh-relative (e.g., which, who, ...) [si collegano a qualcosa di detto]
[L’ordine è consueto]
2) Interpersonal theme
• Vocatives (e.g., Henry!, Sir!, ...)
• Modal adjuncts, i.e. adverbials that
indicate speaker’s commitment to
own statement (e.g., probably,
usually, frankly, ...) [alcuni avverbi si
possono parafrasare usando i modali]
• Finite operators (e.g., modal
auxiliaries, 'be' auxiliary, ...)
• Wh-question word (e.g., who, what,
where, how, why)

3) Topical theme
• Participant (NP=noun phrase)
• Circumstance (PP=prepositional
phrase, adverbial)
• Process (VP)


• Multiple theme [“What I want” ha funzione
di soggetto]

• Clause complex

Context Component Function Type of theme

Field Ideational Topical
Tenor Interpersonal Interpersonal
Mode Textual Textual

Use of a higher number of lexical words as opposed to the congruent (= grammatically
simpler) variant: it is a category of (grammatical) IDEATIONAL METAPHOR

No. of lexical items

Lexical density =
No. of ranking clauses (*)

*=If a clause functions as something lower than a clause (e.g. a participant), we consider it a
downranked clause (e.g. “what is you say is nonsense”. The clause “what you say” functions as a

“...a measure of the density of information in any passage of text, according to how tightly the
lexical items (content words) have been packed into the grammatical structure. It can be
measured, in English, as the number of lexical words per clause”. (Halliday)

Lexical density is a result of the use of NOMINALIZATION (-ation at the end e.g. segmentation)
[nomi che descrivono azioni che di solito fa il verbo]
• Griffith’s energy balance approach to strength and fracture also suggested the importance of
surface chemistry in the mechanical behavior of brittle [=fragile] materials. 13
• The conical space rendering of cosmic strings’ gravitational properties applies only to
straight strings. 10
• The model rests on the localized gravitational attraction exerted by rapidly oscillating and
extremely massive closed loops of cosmic string. 13
Extreme=most [non si conta come lexical item]
theme rheme
“If this method of control is used, trains will unquestionably be able to run more safely and faster,
even when the weather conditions are most adverse”.
Still not very colloquial; could be writing or very formal speech
content words 12
Lexical density = = =4
ranking clauses 3


• In corpus linguistics
[consultare dei frammenti di lingua vera per sapere il significato delle parole]
TTR à Type / Token Ratio

Types ≠ Tokens

all the forms of a given

different word forms type, including identical
that appear in a given forms of the same types,
text / corpus different inflected forms,
paradigms of verbs etc
e.g. query
Type Token
[la conto una volta considerando le [la conto tutte le volte che figura in corpus
altre ripetizioni] concordance]

Types vs. Tokens

• Distinction introduced by the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (leading US
pragmatist, 1839-1914)
• The size of language corpora is usually calculated in terms of the number of tokens
• John Lyons (1977) claims that linguists should be more interested in types that in tokens.

Lyons himself, in Semantics (1977) established that whether something is counted as a token or a
type is relative to one's purposes - for instance:
1. Are tokens to include words with different meanings which happen to be spelt or
pronounced in the same way?
2. Does a capital letter instantiate the same type as the corresponding lower-case letter?
3. Does a word printed in italics instantiate the same type as a word printed in Roman?
4. Is a word handwritten by X ever the same as a word handwritten by Y?

TTR (is a way to know how rich is a vocabulary in a text is)

accounts for the degree of lexical variation à measure of vocabulary richness in a text, i.e. the
relationship between the total number of words (=no. of tokens) and the number of different word-
forms (=types) in the text/ corpus of texts.

A high figure in the type-token ratio indicates rich and varied vocabulary.

“If I’m right and he’s wrong we’re both in trouble”
Can be seen to have 13 words, but it may even have 11 words if we consider “am”, “are”
and “is” to be tokens of the same type “be”
3 token: am, is, are
1 type: be

Forms and expressions

Tokens of the same type are not necessarily forms of the same expression
“They found it necessary to found hospitals”.
In this case, “found” and “found” are tokens of the same type but not forms of the same expression.
[il type è lo stesso, non importa che abbiano differenti significati]

• The larger the text/ corpus, the lower the TTR (a corpus of 4 M words will probably have a
type/token ratio of about 2; a 1,000- word article might have a TTR of 40)
• So type/ token ratio is not always a trustworthy measure of the degree of lexical richness in
a text/ corpus
• It is only reliable when we compare corpora/ texts of roughly the same size


“This is like metaphor in the usual sense except that, instead of being a substitution of one word for
another, as when we say ‘you’re talking tripe’ instead of ‘you’re talking nonsense’, it is a
substitution of one grammatical class, or one grammatical structure, by another; for example, ‘his
departure’ [nominalizzazione] instead of ‘he departed [deriva dal verbo]’”.
(Halliday, 1989)
Halliday à a metaphor where variation is essentially in the grammatical form. Meaning
construed in a way different from the CONGRUENT VARIANT by means of a different
grammatical construction

[sviluppo lineare] [grammaticalmente più complessa]

Congruent ≠ Metaphorical

e.g. “the cast (N) acted (V) brilliantly e.g. “the cast’s brilliant acting (N)
(ADV) so the audience (N) drew (V) lengthy applause (N) from
applauded (V) for a long time (PP)” the audience (PP)*”
Example of
“I considered the option. I didn’t “The option was a consideration that nominalization as
take it. I was uncertain if it would was not taken by me because of the (grammatical)
benefit me” uncertainty of its benefit” metaphor
*PP=prepositional phrase
The relative clause belongs to
the theme

[Un testo lessicalmente denso con troppe costruzioni grammaticalmente metaforiche indicano che
l’interlocutore faccia apposta a non farsi capire]

Halliday's rank scale

Downranking occurs when something from a higher
Word group rank functions at a lower rank.


• If a clause functions as something lower than a clause (e.g. a participant), we consider it a

downranked clause.
1. Seeing Minnie in a two-piece suit was too much for Mickey.
2. What tutorials give me is a massive headache
3. The laksa seller who forgot my order thinks of nothing but cockles.

is downranked because it is is NOT downranked because it is

part of the NG. à “The laksa simply a gloss to the independent
seller who forgot my order clause à “The laksa seller, who 9
thinks of nothing but cockles”. forgot my order, thinks of nothing
but cockles”.
"As far their expression is concerned, non-defining relative clauses are clearly signalled both in
speech and in writing. In written English, a non-defining relative clause is marked off by
punctuation - usually commas, but sometimes by being introduced with a dash; whereas a defining
relative clause is not separated by punctuation from its antecedent. This in turn reflects the fact
that in spoken English, whereas a defining relative clause enters into a single tone group together
with its antecedent, a non-defining relative [clause] forms a separate tone group."
(Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 402)
The relative pronoun “that” is NOT used in non-restrictive relative clauses:
e.g. John, who passed the exam, threw a party afterwards. (CORRECT)
John, that passed the exam, threw a party afterwards. (WRONG)


Only when the relative pronoun is the object (i.e. NOT THE SUBJECT!!!) can you drop it, as in:
• The party that we had on Saturday = the party we had on Saturday
• The guy that threw the party on Saturday à the relative pronoun is OBLIGATORY
To whom it may concern [modo formale di iniziare una lettera]
The teacher to whom I spoke = the teacher I spoke to
Very important…
[quando una frase è limitative si mette prima l’ausiliare]
Only late have I seen him
Not until this morninig did I read the news
• Facilitates the Theme-Rheme structure à helps the flow of argumentation
• Makes the language sound more impersonal and objective
• The more lexically dense a text is, the more information is “packed” into it à more difficult
to read, especially if the reader is a non-specialist

“Lung cancer death rates are clearly associated with increased smoking”.
“Lung cancer death” is ambiguous à ‘how many people die from lung cancer’, or ‘how quickly
people die when they get lung cancer’? Or is it perhaps ‘people are so nervous about lung cancer
that they smoke more’???
• Premodification

 Typical of specialized languages (especially EST) to make the language more concise
(e.g. “plant safety standards committee”; “speech processing technology”, “form
recognition laterality patterns”, “glass crack growth rate”, etc.)
• Passives
 Make language more impersonal and objective
 Allow writers to keep the theme/ rheme position
 is used (= normal procedure) ≠ we used (something original that we did)

“writers sometimes make semantic leaps, across which the reader is expected to follow them in
order to reach a required conclusion”. (Halliday, 1989)

In specialist-to-specialist communication, much information is taken for granted

strong anti-pollution laws over the last twenty Over the last twenty years, [the government has
years have resulted in cleaner factories, passed] strong laws to stop [people] polluting; so
cleaner countryside and an increase in the the factories [have become] cleaner, and there are
number of light-coloured pepper moths. more light-coloured pepper moths than before ( =
moths have also become cleaner)