This paper attempts to demonstrate how lexis may contribute to our understanding of genre differences.The argument is based on the statistically significant lexical differences between genres that were established by the Keywords program in the WordSmith software package. Five newspaper genres were selected for analysis, i.e. hard news, sports news, business news, arts articles, and obituaries. The data was taken from the same five weekdays in the CDROM-based 1997 issues of The Times and The New York Times. The days were selected by stratified sampling.
The program compared the vocabulary in the five genres in each paper with a larger reference file (FLOB and Frown respectively) and assigned a ‘keyness’ value to the words in each genre indicating to what extent their use differed from that in the reference file.
The comparison showed that differences in word use signal genre differences within at least four textual parameters, i.e. topic, communicative function, communicative purpose, and formality. It also turned out that keyness values for the top American keywords were consistently much higher than for the top British keywords. It seems in other words that The New York Times uses a vocabulary further removed from standard American usage than The Times with respect to standard British usage.