The Language of Public Health: A Corpus-based Analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


The objective of this study was to analyse a corpus of public health journal articles to identify lexical features characteristic of writing in the discipline.
A public health corpus of approximately 2 million words was compared with a reference corpus of general English in order to identify words and phrases which were relatively over-represented in the field of public health and whose meanings might not be readily accessible outside of public health. Additionally, representative samples of the public health corpus were analysed for parameters which reflect readability.
It was possible to identify a distinct technical vocabulary in public health. Measures of readability indicate that articles in public health journals should be accessible to readers with a college level education.
This study has identified certain lexical and syntactical conventions characteristic of the public health literature. It seems not unlikely that a more widespread and explicit knowledge of the language of public health would contribute to greater communicative competence and hence more effective dispersion and implementation of health care knowledge.

Bibliographic note

Co-authored (50%) c. 5000 words


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-374
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Public Health
Issue number5
Early online date15 Feb 2008
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008

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