Searching corpora of Chinese and British writers for lexicalised language

Leedham, Maria (2008). Searching corpora of Chinese and British writers for lexicalised language. In: Chinese Postgraduate Network, 15-16 Mar 2008, Oxford.


In the U.K., Chinese students are now “the largest single overseas student group” with more than 60,000 students studying there in 2006 (British Council, 2007). British universities are beginning to explore how they can meet the needs of this group (see, for example, Leedham 2004). The focus of this paper is on differences in assignment-writing and views of writing between Chinese and Brit-ish undergraduate level students within U.K. universities. Using the British Academic Written English project as a starting point, I am compiling two corpora or collections of texts. These will consist of 0.5 million words from 200 assignments written by L1 (first language) Mandarin students in three disciplines and the same quantity from L1 English students. The two corpora are matched for students’ year of study, age, gender and discipline of study. I will then focus on the frequencies of lexicalised language, that is, words which are often found together such as ‘in order to’, ‘in terms of’, ‘it can be seen that’ and ‘on the other hand’ as this is now recognised as a significant component of both written and spoken language (Wray, 2002). I will explore the differences in the frequency and use of lexicalised language and trace its development in assessed writing from year 1 to year 3 for different disciplines of each group. In addition to the language analysis, I am surveying and interviewing Chinese and British university students to explore their views on academic writing. I hope to give some pedagogical implications for the teaching of academic writing for both Chinese and British students.

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