Patent application abstracts; Engineering fields; Communicative functions; Linguistic mechanism
There is an increasing demand from non-native English-speaking researchers and companies in engineering fields for patent application filing with international organisations. Writing a patent application in English can be a challenge, especially to new inventors as they may not be aware of rhetorical conventions of patent applications. It is thus important to make explicit to novice writers features of a patent application in engineering fields. There is however a dearth of materials teaching this genre. This study identifies the structure and its linguistic correlates in engineering patents. The study is exploratory in nature as it focuses on one section – the abstract. To this end, it employs a situated textual analysis approach (Swales, 1990) to identify organisational patterning of the abstract by drawing on a corpus of ten engineering patents published in 2019–2021 and performs a linguistic analysis of the identified structure. Research findings show the patent abstract in engineering fields consists of three main communicative functions: introduce the invention; detail the invention; and highlight the novel aspects of the invention. This is rather different from the general guidelines proposed in the existing books and materials on the overall structure of the abstract, which state that a technical problem is identified and a solution is proposed. Prominent linguistic mechanisms involve the use of the present simple tense, active voice, complex sentences and non-canonical forms. The findings can provide a useful resource for teaching patent application writing to people from non-English speaking countries like Vietnam.