Asier Romero e Irati de Pablo (Universidad del País Vasco / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea)
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)
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.
Serie: CILC2021: Los corpus y la adquisición y enseñanza del lenguaje / Corpora, LA and teaching (+información)
Silvia Sánchez Calderón (Universidad de Educación a Distancia -UNED-)
Xiaolong Lu (University of Arizona)
Nan Jiang (Vanderbilt University)
Andrea Listanti (University for Foreigners of Siena), Jacopo Torregrossa (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt) and Liana Tronci (University for Foreigners of Siena)
Alicia San Mateo Valdehíta y Marc Rodius (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia -UNED-)
Begoña Clavel Arroitia and Barry Pennock Speck (Universitat de Valencia)
Raquel Mateo Mendaza (Universidad de La Rioja)
Daniel Díez Lorenzo (Universidad de Cantabria)
Miharu Fuyuno (Kyushu University) and Takeshi Saitoh (Kyushu Institute of Technology)
Silvia Aguinaga Echeverria (Universidad de Navarra) and Nausica Marcos Miguel (Denison University)
Francisco Javier Fernández Polo (Universidad de Santiago de Compostela)
Vanessa Cardoso Egrejas (CLUNL) and Antonio Chenoll (Universidade Aberta)
Ting Xu y Amaya Mendikoetxea (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)
Adrián Granados y Francisco Lorenzo (Universidad Pablo Olavide)
Anita Ferreira (Universidad de Concepción)