Measuring the Vocabulary Load of English-medium Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Textbooks

Wen-Hua Hsu


The purpose of this research was twofold: to examine the vocabulary load of English-medium traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) textbooks and to create a TCM English word list (TCM EWL) to bridge the vocabulary gap for matriculating TCM undergraduates. The researcher compiled a corpus containing 4.48 million running words of 100 textbooks across 20 TCM subject areas and examined the lexical range and frequency along the wordfrequency scale of the British National Corpus and the Corpus of Contemporary American English. The results demonstrate that knowing the most frequent 9K-10K word families plus proper nouns, transliterated words, apparent compounds and abbreviations would command 95% lexical coverage of a TCM textbook. To reach the vocabulary threshold for adequate comprehension, nearly one thousand of the most frequently-occurring word families in the corpus were chosen and they covered 19.39% of the total words in the TCM textbooks. The TCM EWL encompasses various technical, lay-technical and academic vocabularies beyond the first 2K most frequent words. For TCM novices, the present TCM EWL provides a window to the TCM register and may be helpful for ESP teachers when preparing TCM English teaching materials for reading and vocabulary development.


Lexical coverage, Vocabulary size, Traditional Chinese medicine.


Full Text: