A Corpus Based Study of Adjectives in Literary and Technical Texts

Document Type: Original Article


Yazd University


In this study, corpus-based techniques were utilized in order to investigate the quantitative and qualitative features of adjectives across literary and technical texts. The corpus was composed of five literary novels and five engineering academic books in English. Seventy paragraphs were randomly drawn from each corpus and the frequency distribution of adjectives with respect to their position (attributive, predicative) and syntactic functions (descriptive, verbal, numeral, etc.) were tallied and summed.
The results revealed that there is a significant difference in the frequency use of adjectives across the two corpora. From a register perspective, the high frequently use of adjectives in technical texts in comparison to literary texts (67.3% and 32.7%, respectively) may be due to the fact that almost all technical texts employ “expository” linguistic features which have a generally “informational purpose”, while most novels employ “narrative’’ linguistic features which have a direct functional association with the communicative purpose of telling a story of events which have occurred in the past. From a genre perspective, academic texts in engineering tend to be highly informational, non-narrative, and characterized by an impersonal style, whereas novels generally share the same primary communicative purpose of narrating a story whose purpose is to entertain.


Ambekar, A. G. (2008). Mechanical vibrations and noise engineering. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India Private Limited.

Atai, M. R. (2000). ESP revisited: A reappraisal study of discipline-based EAP programs in Iran (Unpublished doctorial dissertation). Isfahan University, Iran.

Atai, M. R. (2002). Iranian EAP programs in practice: A study of key methodological aspects. Sheikhbahaee ELT Journal, 1 (2), 1-15.

Cao, J., & Fang, C. A. (2009). Investigating variations in adjective use across different text categories. Research in Computing Science, 41, 207-216.

Christian, M. (2006). Fire and water. London: Lulu Enterprises.

Commish, D. (2004). A long way to freedom. London: Lulu Enterprises.

Connor, U., & Upton, T. A. (2010). Applied corpus linguistics: A multidimensional perspective. Amsterdam: John Benjamin Publishing Company.

Dudley – Evans, T., & St John, M. J. (1998). Developments in English for specific purposes: A multi-disciplinary approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dunn, C. E. (2007). Biogeochemistry in mineral exploration. Oxford: Elsevier.

Ewer, J. R. (1983). Teacher training for EST: Problems and methods. The English for Specific Purpose Journal, 2 (1), 9-31.

Fette, B. (2004). Children of ruin. London: Lulu Enterprises.

Flowerdew, L. (2010). The argument for using English specialized corpora. In U. Connor & T. Upton (Eds.), Applied corpus linguistics: A multidimensional perspective (pp. 11-33).Amsterdam: John Benjamin Publishing Company.

Fraser, S. A. (2001). Vocabulary and the teaching of English for specific purposes. Integrated Studies in Nursing Science, 3 (1), 32-37.

Gavioli, L. (2005). Exploring corpora for ESP learning. Amsterdam: John Benjamin Publishing Company.

Grabe, W. (2002). Narrative and expository macro-genres. In A. M. Johns (Ed.), Genre in the classroom: Multiple perspectives (pp.241-267). Lawrence Erlbaum.

Kennedy, G. (1998). An introduction to corpus linguistics. London: Longman.

Markon, S., Kita, H., & Bartz-Beieistein, T. (2006). Control of traffic system in buildings. London: Springer London Limited.

Mazdayasna, G. (2008). Developing a profile of the ESP needs of Iranian students: The case of students of nursing and midwifery. (Unpublished doctorial dissertation). Isfahan University, Iran.

Mazdayasna, G., & Fazilatfar, A. M. (2010). The role of native language in teaching English for specific purposes. Iranian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 13 (1), 99-124.

Mazdayasna, G., & Tahririan, M. H. (2008). Developing a profile of the ESP needs of Iranian students: The case of students of nursing and midwifery. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 7 (4), 277-289.

Meyer, C. (2004). English corpus linguistics: An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Reeves-McMillan, M. (2008). City of masks. London: Lulu Enterprises.

Reppen, R. (2010). Academic language: An exploration of university classroom and textbook language. In U. Connor & T. Upton (Eds.), Applied corpus linguistics: A multidimensional perspective (pp. 65-88).Amsterdam: John Benjamin Publishing Company.

Reppen, R., & Simpson, R. (2002). Corpus linguistics. In N. Schmitt (Ed.), An introduction to applied linguistics (pp. 92-114). London: Oxford University Press.

Salo, G. (2008). The crimson wrath. London: Lulu Enterprises.

Shooman, M. L. (1984). Software engineering: Design, reliability and management. Singapore: McGraw-Hill Company.

Soler, V. (2002). Analyzing adjectives in scientific discourse: An exploratory study with educational applications for Spanish speakers at advance university level. English for Specific Purposes, 21 (2), 145-165.

Stoessel, F. (2008). Thermal safety of chemical processes: Risk assessment and process design. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH.

Tahririan, M. H. (1990). A summative evaluation of teaching English in Iranian universities. Research Bulletin of Isfahan University, 6 (2), 1-8.