Symbolism in Malaysian Educational Anthropology: A Corpus-Driven Analysis

Authors: Wong Wei Lun, Mazura Mastura Muhammad (Sultan Idris Education University)
Speaker: Mazura Mastura Muhammad
Strand: Sociolinguistics
Session Type: General Session


In language, vocabulary could be a symbol. In Malaysia, fewer studies have been undertaken on vocabulary as a symbol in writing language among advanced upper primary school learners. Thus, this study aimed to examine the symbols derived from the analysis of salient vocabulary. The quantitative computational research methodology and corpus-driven study design were utilised. 560 advanced upper primary school learners were selected from 28 schools with high English proficiency, as recommended by district education officers, using a purposive sampling technique. The chosen schools were all located in Malaysia’s state and federal capitals. All the cities were divided into several regions, including the northern, central, and southern regions, the east coast, Sabah, and Sarawak. LancsBox was used to analyse 152,187 words as the major computational tool for corpus investigation. Some symbolic nouns are family, COVID-19, university, and camping; some symbolic adjectives include aggressive, violent, and respiratory. Each of these words had unique symbolic connotations that were reflected in their extensive use in literature. For extended writing, upper primary school pupils found their family members to be the closest and most authentic topic matter. It demonstrates a strong bond between learners and their families. Moreover, COVID-19 had a negative impact on their life. Learners may see it as a derogatory and unfavourable symbol. Thankfully, the university is a symbol of intelligence and education. Learners were aware from a young age that education may influence a better future. Instead of vandalism, camping reflected a healthy lifestyle by which Malaysian learners were deemed intellectually and physically well. On the contrary, aggressiveness and violence were interrelated. Findings revealed that learners in the central region might be exposed to vulgar messages or channels, which negatively impacted their writing style, and even worse, their nonverbal emotions. Lastly, respiratory bolstered the effects of COVID-19 as it represented the virus’s effects on the human respiratory system. The findings contained some recommendations. Parents should be aware of their children’s media exposure, which may reveal aggressive and violent behaviour. Next, the English teachers formulated a plan for what to include in the courses, as certain symbols, such as family, were unavoidable. For future research, language and symbol could be examined with a variety of samples and goals outside linguistics and possibly even psychology.

Keywords: vocabulary, symbol, extended writing, corpus-driven