Longman dictionary of scientific usage

Longman dictionary of scientific usage

176 The ESP Journal to treat the unitary hypothesis as more than an intriguing possibility, one whose importance is "at least as much its capacity t...

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176

The ESP Journal

to treat the unitary hypothesis as more than an intriguing possibility, one whose importance is "at least as much its capacity to generate controversy and research as its inherent truth, or lack of it." (p. 193) A variety of suggestions are offered, however, for further investigations of the hypothesis, ranging from recommendations on statistical procedures (e.g., use maximum likelihood factor analysis rather than principal component analysis, which by simplifying data tends to favor the hypothesis) to fruitful areas of study (e.g., test subjects in both L1 and L2 and compare performances on tests of the same type which differ only in subject content). Issues in Language Testing provides a most impressive demonstration of the variety and sophistication of the issues now engaging the attention of language testing researchers in many parts of the world, and of the commendable resistance of most, at least, of the current breed of researchers to this kind of instant dogmatizing that has all too often characterized past work in this field. And for graduate students looking for challenging dissertation topics in testing, Issues should prove a veritable gold mine. D a v i d P. H a r r i s is Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University. He was the first program director of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and has written a variety of EFL tests and instructional materials on language testing. He is a member of the editorial advisory board of The

ESP Journal.

LONGMAN DICTIONARY OF SCIENTIFIC USAGE. A. Godman and E. M. F. Payne. Harlow and London: Longrnan Group Ltd., 1979. Pp. xxxx + 684.

Reviewed by Mary Todd Trimble When the Longman Dictionary of Scientific Usage finally appeared in 1979, it became clear that the wait was both necessary and worth while, as the kind and scope of the book must have made its preparation an enormous and daunting task. The resulting dictionary should be of use to several groups of people, including a few not listed by the authors. The book is intended for use by "students studying science through English during their final years at secondary school . . . . students using English in their first year at a University but whose education has been in a language other than English. . . . those for whom English is not their first language but [who] are working in the scientific field and need access to English material, [and] those teaching English to science students." (p. iii) It will be of considerable help also to graduate students, scientists, and translators who need to write theses or publish papers in English, and to anyone writing an English course for scientists or students of science. Native speakers of English may very well find that it helps them to write more accurately. There is, though, one qualification: the book demands a fairly high standard of English if its users are to be ready either to work with the vocabulary explained, or to follow the language of the explanations.

Review Longman Dictionary of Scientific Usage

177

The dictionary opens with a brief section on its arrangement and suggestions on its use. This is followed by twelve appendices of varying kinds, before the dictionary proper begins with a section of over 1300 terms basic to all branches of science. Then come over 8500 technical terms from biology, chemistry, and physics. The basic and the technical terms are alike arranged as a thesaurus rather than an alphabetical dictionary, with an alphabetical index of terms at the end of the book. The indexing looks a little cumbersome, but is in fact easy to use, leading the reader to the entry where the particular word wanted is discussed along with other terms of related meaning. It is this semantic organization of the book that is its most valuable feature, especially for advanced students or professionals who need to write English, or for anyone helping them. The "Basic T e r m s " section is likely to be the most widely used, as it contains more of those words that specialist dictionaries may not include, and whose usage can only be made clear in comparison with words covering related or partially overlapping areas of meaning. At a first glance some of the near-synonyms seemed to be distinguished more sharply than is justified, but, each time I thought the authors had made an unnecessary, artificial, or exaggerated distinction, a few moments' careful thought convinced me that the definitions were true to the facts of usage, and had expressed accurately the kind of subtle difference that a teacher can seldom make clear quickly to a student who has almost but not quite found the fight word. I looked up several pairs or groups of words that I had had to give considerable thought or research in the course of teaching or materials writing, words such as matter/ material~substance and [email protected]/properly. The results were in each case illuminating. Readers may like to check any similar words that their own experience has shown to need attention. ! also looked up involve, since I have found some very advanced and competent nonnative writers of English using terms with a more limited and precise meaning when the vaguer involve was what they wanted to express. Godman and Payne give the word only in the compound adjective involved in, presumably because other collocations and grammatical forms are less used in scientific writing. The entry is extremely clear and helpful: Describes that which is connected with a process. The term describes that which appears between the cause and the effect with no stated connection with either. It is only used predicatively, e.g., the vitaminsare involvedin a number of different types of reactions in the cells of the body (neither the cause nor the effect of the reaction is stated). The noun form involvement in is then given, and the reader is referred to the entries for concerned with, responsible for, and process. The entry for production shows, as well as the same clarity, a happy marriage of scientific and linguistic knowledge and techniques. After defining production and giving an example of its use, Godman and Payne continue: The focus is on obtaining the product. Contrast operation in which the focus is on carrying out the process, e.g., the operation of the Castner-Kellnerprocess can be dangerous if . . . .

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The semantic grouping of entries which is the organizational principle of this book is one aspect of the authors' understanding of the importance of the contexts, both verbal and nonverbal, or words. Another aspect of this respect for context can be shown briefly by referring to the index. Instead of a single entry for a noun or the infinitive of a verb, we sometimes find more than one form of the verb, or the regularly formed adjective separately from its noun. The entries for the different forms may then appear in different sections of the dictionary, as may the same form in different collocations. The noun or infinitive itself may also be entered in several different places if it has several different meanings. The index refers us, for instance, to combine at BB079 in the section on chemical techniques, and, separately entered, to combined at BC014 in the section on the classification of matter. The lists of varying forms, meanings, and collocations of what we might think of as the "same" word can be quite long. Readers may like to look at the part of the index running from activate (v. t. ) to activity series (n.). A shorter list, but one that nevertheless illustrates well these various kinds of respect for context, is: neutral 1 (adj.) (Oh) DD033 neutral 2 (adj.) (Ph) NK121 neutral equilibrium (n.) KD004 neutralization 1 (n.) (Ch) BB006 neutralization 2 (n.) (Bio) JB005 neutralize (v. t. ) BB051 neutral point (n.) QB015 The contexts of sentence structure, collocation (neutral equilibrium), field of study (Ch for chemistry), and subtopic or "set" within a field (QB for magnetism and KD for physical equilibrium) are all recognized and made explicit. I have seen only one error in the reference system used in the book, and that is unimportant, though it will unfortunately be noticed early by a careful user of the dictionary. On page iii, in the section "How to use this book," we find "e.g., natural is coded AB024." It is in fact coded AB025, and the index gives this correct code. Despite the fairly complex codes and a fairly long time going from the index to the entries, I have not found any other slips, and, as the proofreading seems to have been thorough, would be surprised to find many in future use of the book. I expected to use it heavily when I have students of the fight level, first to familiarize myself with the language of the main concepts and relationships of their field, and then to send the students to it for help in their reading and writing. In materials writing I expect to turn to it more regularly and in connection with a wider range of student levels, in order to ensure that the basic language for central concepts is presented as accurately and unambiguously as possible from the beginning. I expect to find the appendices, especially those on prefixes, abbreviations, SI units, and naming chemical compounds of considerable help. But the dictionary is likely to be most valuable of all to those nonnafive speakers who already have a good basic command of English and of the English to express general logical relations, and who need to use scientific English in their studies and professions and have a commitment to using it well.

Review English in the Medical Laboratory

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It would be good to have a dictionary on similar lines for technical English usage. It would probably be shorter, and would have to be written for readers of a lower level of English, but the approach of Godman and Payne would lend itself very well to treating groups of words such as component~part~unit, housing/ case~cover, or device~instrument~tool~appliance. M a r y Todd T r i m b l e has taught English in France, Zimbabwe, and Yugoslavia, and on various short specialized courses, and has worked in research and course development in scientific and technical English. She is at present working in materials development, and is on the editorial advisory board of the The

ESP Journal.

ENGLISH IN THE MEDICAL LABORATORY. John Swales and Paul Fanning. Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex: Thomas Nelson & Sons Limited, 1980. Pp. vi + 106.

Reviewed by Margaret van Naerssen It is most commendable that Swales and Fanning have not tried to be too general or too ambitious in their goals. Their experience in teaching and directing scientific English programs in Africa and England is evident. In their text they are addressing the needs of a very specific audience, have very carefully determined the objectives of their text, and have delivered. This is a course in the English of Medical Laboratoryprocedures. It is designed for medical students, trainee laboratorytechnicians and technologists for whom English is not a first language. The specificgoal of this course is to help such students to understand the instructions given in laboratorymanuals and similar materials, and to write answers in English to exanfination questions on medical technology procedures. . . . The book does not aim to deal directlywith either descriptive medical English or with the spoken English likelyto occur within a medical technologyenvironment. (Teacher's Introduction, p. v) Since the target student population and objectives are rather precisely defined, teachers should not assume the text to be appropriate as a more general text for medical English, although certainly some of the excellent exercises might be selected out for specific needs. The text appears to be easy to teach from. Exercises are simply but carefully explained and supported with the relevant technical readings, diagrams, and charts. The exercises are efficient and appropriate. One can see the purpose of an exercise even when it is not stated. Neither the student nor the teacher should feel that time is being wasted on busy-work activities. And the teacher need not have a technical medical background; a teacher's booklet is available with a key to exercises, additional notes, and a guide to the pronunciation of technical and subtechnical terms. (This booklet was not available to the reviewer.) Both native and nonnafive English-speaking teachers, even inexperienced ones, should feel secure teaching with this text.