Using corpus linguistics to investigate mathematical explanation
Mejia-RamosJuan P.
AlcockLara
LewKristen
RagoPaolo
SangwinChristopher J.
InglisMatthew
2019
In this chapter we use methods of corpus linguistics to investigate the ways
in which mathematicians describe their work as explanatory in their research papers.
We analyse use of the words explain/explanation (and various related words and
expressions) in a large corpus of texts containing research papers in mathematics and
in physical sciences, comparing this with their use in corpora of general, day-to-day
English. We find that although mathematicians do use this family of words, such use
is considerably less prevalent in mathematics papers than in physics papers or in
general English. Furthermore, we find that the proportion with which mathematicians
use expressions related to ‘explaining why’ and ‘explaining how’ is significantly
different to the equivalent proportion in physics and in general English. We discuss
possible accounts for these differences.