Three concepts of keywords

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The term “keywords” is widely used to refer to words which are important in some way, either in individual texts or in a given culture. The general idea is perhaps clear enough, but there are two problems. First, there are several different concepts of “keywords”. This paper discusses three loosely related uses of the term, which derive from quite different academic traditions, and which are therefore only marginally compatible. Second, there is a very large gap between individual words, texts and culture. The paper argues that this gap can only be bridged by a theory which relates words, phrases and texts to the social institutions which are characterized by texts and text-types.


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