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Writing in tables and lists: exploring multimodal undergraduate writing through keyword searches

Leedham, Maria (2011). Writing in tables and lists: exploring multimodal undergraduate writing through keyword searches. In: ICAME 32 Oslo 2011: Trends and Traditions in English Corpus Linguistics: In Honour of Stig Johansson , 1-5 June 2011, Oslo, Norway.

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Abstract

Chinese people now comprise the 'largest single overseas student group in the UK' with more than 85,000 registered at UK educational institutions in 2009 (British Council, 2010). While Chinese students' academic writing in English has been explored through corpora comprising short argumentative essays (e.g. Mayor et al, 2007; Chuang and Nesi, 2006), or postgraduate theses (e.g. Hyland, 2008), there has been comparatively little corpus research carried out on their undergraduate level writing, despite the high-stakes nature of this assessment. This paper explores a 170,000-word corpus of undergraduate assignments from first language (L1) Chinese students within 5 disciplines in UK universities, comparing this with a reference corpus of 580,000 words from L1 English students in the same disciplines (the majority of the data is extracted from the British Academic Written English corpus, Nesi, 2008). A keyword and key n-gram search is initially employed as a way in to uncovering differences in the writing of each student group; this is followed by searches for tagged non-linguistic items, and examination of concordance lines, collocates and dispersion plots to follow up the context of key items.
The paper focuses on two major differences between the student groups, namely the Chinese students' extensive use of visual elements such as tables, figures, images and diagrams, and their higher use of writing formatted as lists rather than as continuous prose. It is hypothesised that use of these features are strategies for L1 Chinese students who have to meet the challenge of producing multiple, extended pieces of writing in their second language. Presenting information using visual elements to support and extend ideas in the written language, and making points within a list format allow students to convey their thoughts clearly and effectively and in a more visually-oriented manner, while reducing the quantity of connected prose they have to produce.
Recent work within the field of multimodal analysis has highlighted the role of non-linguistic resources such as images and layout in all areas of communication (see Jewitt, 2009, for an overview). Exploring multimodality within corpus linguistics entails a focus beyond traditionally-privileged linear text, and this study explores the extent to which traditional corpus procedures can be used in the new 'trend' for multimodal corpora.

Item Type: Conference Item
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Extra Information: References
British Council. (2010). China Market Introduction. Retrieved 01/12/10, from http://www.britishcouncil.org/eumd-information-background-china.htm
Chuang, F.-Y., & Nesi, H. (2006). An analysis of formal errors in a corpus of L2 English produced by Chinese students. Corpora, 1(2), 251-271.
Mayor, B., Hewings, A., North, S., & Swann, J. (2007). A linguistic analysis of Chinese and Greek L1 scripts for IELTS Academic Writing Task 2. In L. Taylor & F. Falvey (Eds.), IELTS Collected Papers: Research in Speaking and Writing Assessment. Studies in Language Testing (Vol. 19, pp. 250-313): Cambridge University Press.
Hyland, K. (2008). Academic clusters: text patterning in published and postgraduate writing. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 18(1), 41-62.
Jewitt, C. (2009). The Routledge Handbook of Mulimodal Analysis. London: Routledge.
Nesi, H. (2008). BAWE: An introduction to a new resource. Paper published in the Proceedings for The 8th Teaching and Language Corpora Conference, Location.

Note: The data in this study come from the British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus, which was developed at the Universities of Warwick, Reading and Oxford Brookes under the directorship of Hilary Nesi and Sheena Gardner (formerly of the Centre for Applied Linguistics [previously called CELTE], Warwick), Paul Thompson (formerly of the Department of Applied Linguistics, Reading) and Paul Wickens (Westminster Institute of Education, Oxford Brookes), with funding from the ESRC (RES-000-23-0800).
Keywords: corpus linguistics; Chinese students; student writing; academic writing; lexical chunks; multimodality
Academic Unit/Department: Education and Language Studies > Centre for Language and Communication
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Item ID: 30717
Depositing User: Maria Leedham
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2012 12:50
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2012 18:38
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/30717
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