Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

That-Clauses in Native and Nonnative Academic Writing

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

That-Clauses in Native and Nonnative Academic Writing

Article excerpt


The present study investigates the use of that-clauses controlled by adjectives and verbs in the academic writings of the Turkish learners of English (TL) and native speakers of English. The point of departure for the study is the findings that that-clauses, particularly post-predicate clause types, most typically characterize conversation with the exception of extraposed and subject predicative that-clauses, which are moderately common in news and academic prose in the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (LSWE) corpus (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad, & Finegan, 1999). Thus, taking as a basis this finding, the study aims to compare that-clauses, in quantitative and qualitative terms, in the academic writing of both native and non-native speaking university students. For the purpose of the linguistic comparisons of these clause types the following corpora are used: (1) the Turkish Interlanguage Corpus of Learner English (TICLE), and (2) the Louvain Corpus of Native English Essays (LOCNESS). The findings obtained in the comparisons are discussed by reference to those observed in the academic component of the LSWE corpus and related previous studies in order to find out to what extent the writings of nonnative students reflect the features of academic writing.

KEY WORDS: Learner Corpus, That-clauses, Academic Writing, Interlanguage

1. Introduction

Biber and Reppen (1998) note that "linguistic association patterns are generally not valid for the language as a whole" as the use of grammatical features display a striking variation across registers (p. 145). An example of such linguistic patterns is the use of that-clauses. The findings regarding the register distribution of that-clauses in the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English corpus (LSWE) reveal that verb + that-clauses, accounting for over 80% of all the occurrences of that-clauses, are most common in conversation and very common in fiction and news (but less common in academic prose). Similarly, adjective + that-clauses are also most common in conversation. On the other hand, extraposed and subject predicate that-clauses are moderately common in news and academic prose in contrast to their rare occurrence in fiction and conversation (Biber et al., 1999, p. 674).

Several studies have so far pointed that the academic writing in learner corpora displays speech-like patterns, which Aijmer (2002) calls "register-interference, where the learners seem to transfer patterns of use from spoken English into the written medium" (p. 55). To cite some of these studies, Biber and Reppen (1998), who investigated the use of complement clauses in the argumentative essays of four student groups, found that learners' writings were very similar to native conversation and fiction, but strikingly different from native academic prose. Granger and Rayson (1998), using an automatic profiling technique to uncover the distinguishing features of learner writing, found that the learner essays "display[ed] practically none of the features typical of academic writing and most of those typical of speech" (p. 129). Aijmer (2002) found that the categories of modal expressions investigated were highly overused, which she attributed to learners' adopting a more speech-like style than the native speaking writers, (pp. 72-73). Similarly, Hinkel (2002) reports that learners significantly overuse many features of informal speech although these features occur commonly in both learners' and native speakers' writings (p. 96). Gilquin and Paquot (2008) found that the writings of upper-intermediate to advanced foreign learners of English shifted towards the speech end on the speech-writing continuum, displaying a chatty style. In the same manner, Paquot (2010) emphasizes the limited lexical repertoire and the lack of register awareness in novice native-speaker writing (p. 215). A brief review of studies shows that not many studies have so far been conducted on the use of ffoaf-complement clauses in learner academic writing, although learner academic writing has been investigated from various linguistic perspectives such as (in addition to the studies mentioned above) vocabulary frequencies (Ringbom, 1998), adjective intensification (Lorenz, 1998), phrasicon (DeCock, Granger, Leech, & McEnery, 1998), adverbial connectors (Altenberg & Tapper, 1998), direct questions (Virtanen, 1998), writer/reader visibility (Petch-Tyson, 1998), tag sequences (Aarts & Granger, 1998), modality (Aijmer, 2002), L2 acquisition of English verb system (Housen, 2002), small words (Hasselgren, 2002) and collocations (Nesselhauf, 2005). …

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