Idioma: Español
Fecha: Subida: 2021-04-11T00:00:00+02:00
Duración: 19m 39s
Lugar: Conferencia
Visitas: 108 visitas

A corpus-based analysis of clausal complexity in experts’ and learners’ academic texts: A case study

Elizaveta Smirnova (National Research University Higher School of Economic)


In recent years English has become the lingua franca of the academia (see, for example, Drubin & Kellogg, 2012; Meneghini & Packer, 2007). This fact has resulted in significant changes in ESL pedagogy, namely, increased attention to the enhancement of L2 learners’ EAP writing skills. This has introduced a number of challenges for EAP practitioners; selecting teaching materials and adapting them to learners’ needs being the most significant.
Advanced academic writing is traditionally seen as ‘an elaborated form of discourse that is grammatically complex’ (Staples et al., 2016: 150). The grammatical complexity of academic writing is understood as structural elaboration realized through the extensive use of specific constructions, particularly, dependent clauses (Biber & Gray, 2016: 7), which contribute to clausal complexity, and nouns as premodifiers or attributive adjectives, which increase the phrasal complexity of a text.
This study is a quantitative analysis of the use of clausal complexity features in two kinds of corpora: expert corpora which comprise articles published in peer-reviewed journals in business studies and economics, and learner corpora of Russian undergraduate students’ research papers in the same disciplines. The syntactic constructions selected for the analysis are taken from various guidebooks and textbooks in academic writing. They are it-clefts; pseudo-clefts; thwh constructions; attitudinal clauses; various types of adverbial clauses; relative clauses and nonfinite clauses. In the current paper I aim to answer the following research questions: do authorities recommend structures as advanced or academic which are in fact rare in academic writing? do academic texts written by professional authors demonstrate a reduction in clausal complexity in comparison with texts written by learners? do clausal features play a more important role in Social sciences than in Life and Physical sciences?
The AntConc concordance programme was employed for processing the texts. First, the use of syntactic constructions in the two expert corpora and the two learner corpora was compared in order to detect differences and similarities across the disciplines under consideration. At the next stage of the analysis, I compared each expert corpus with the learner one in the same discipline to identify discrepancies between the use of the syntactic structures in learner and professional writing.
The results of the data analysis demonstrate that not all syntactic structures recommended in the methodical literature for use in academic and high proficiency writing are extensively employed by experts in business studies and economics. They are it-clefts, pseudo-clefts, th-wh constructions, adverbial clauses of manner.
Generally speaking, academic texts written by professional authors do not seem to show an evident reduction of clausal complexity in comparison with the student writing. It was found that some clausal complexity features are significantly more common in professional writing (adverbial clauses, non-finite clauses), while others are more frequently used in the learners’ texts (relative clauses, attitudinal clauses).
Social sciences and Life and Physical sciences both employ clausal features, but the
frequency of different syntactic constructions varies significantly across the texts in business studies and economics.
The research findings might facilitate EAP teachers to design courses in academic writing with limited classroom time, making them more discipline specific and relevant to learner needs.


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Serie: CILC2021: Los corpus y la adquisición y enseñanza del lenguaje / Corpora, LA and teaching (+información)