This study investigated the lexical coverage and frequency of occurrence of 318 common science-specific technical word families in a corpus of science fiction-fantasy texts in order to determine the potential for science fiction-fantasy literature to be a resource for incidental technical vocabulary acquisition. Coverage of the word list in the science fiction-fantasy corpus was found to be 0.50%, which was 46% higher than coverage of the same list in a corpus of fiction texts (0.27%), and 70% lower than coverage of the same list in a corpus of academic science journals (1.68%). These findings suggest that, in terms of exposure to technical vocabulary, science fiction-fantasy could serve as a bridge resource for second-language learners studying or prespecializing in the Sciences. A frequency analysis revealed that the highest potential for lexical learning occurs at the 500,000-word reading level, at which 21% of science words occurred 10+ times and 83% occurred 1+ times. Potential lexical gains, as well as both practical and theoretical implications, are discussed.

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Keywords Academic English, English for Specific Purposes, Extensive reading, Incidental learning, Language through literature, Technical vocabulary
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Journal English for Specific Purposes
Rolls, H. (Heather), & Rodgers, M.P.H. (2017). Science-specific technical vocabulary in science fiction-fantasy texts: A case for ‘language through literature’. English for Specific Purposes, 48, 44–56. doi:10.1016/j.esp.2017.07.002