The Usage of CAUSE in Three Branches of Science

  •  Bei Yang    
  •  Bin Chen    


Semantic prosody is a concept that has been subject to considerable criticism and debate. One big concern is to what extent semantic prosody is domain or register-related. Previous studies reach the agreement that CAUSE has an overwhelmingly negative meaning in general English. Its semantic prosody remains controversial in academic writing, however, because of the size and register of the corpus used in different studies. In order to minimize the role that corpus choice has to play in determining the research findings, this paper uses sub-corpora from the British National Corpus to investigate the usage of CAUSE in different types of scientific writing. The results show that the occurrence of CAUSE is the highest in social science, less frequent in applied science, and the lowest in natural and pure science. Its semantic prosody is overwhelmingly negative in social science and applied science, and mainly neutral in natural and pure science. It seems that the verb CAUSE lacks its normal negative semantic prosody in contexts that do not refer to human beings. The implications of the findings for language learning are also discussed.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.