Linking adverbials in first, second and foreign language English student writing corpora / J.G. Henning
Henning, Johanna Gertruida
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In the South African secondary and tertiary education system writing is a very important part of the curriculum. Students are expected to master basic writing skills in order to learn how to write longer argumentative essays during their tertiary education. Previous research has shown that tertiary learners, especially Black South African English learners, experience problems in writing well-structured, coherent argumentative essays. Previous research also identifies a number of distinct BSAE grammatical features that could have a detrimental effect on the structure, coherence and grammatical correctness of argumentative student writing. This study investigates one of those features, linking adverbials, and the effect it has on the coherence and cohesion of student argumentative writing in ENL, ESL and EFL student writing corpora. Linking adverbials play a fundamental role in the structuring of a logical argument. Used incorrectly, linking adverbials can confuse the reader of a text and mar the cohesion and coherence of a text. This is a field of study that hasn't been exhaustively investigated in South African or international academic communities. This makes this study all the more important, as it sheds light on the issue of linking adverbial usage in students writing and the effect it has on cohesion and coherence. Although a few studies have been done in this field, there is no evidence that explains the problem of linking adverbials, or a study that has fully investigated the link between linking adverbials, cohesion and coherence. The research done in this study, at least in part, is a beginning to fill this gap. Corpus linguistics methodology forms the basis of the study. This is a linguistic methodology founded on the use of electronic collections of naturally occurring texts or corpora. This study centres on learner corpora. There are two ways of approaching corpora for analysis. One can either take a corpus- based or a corpus-driven approach. In this study a corpus-based approach will be taken, as this method can accurately supply information as to which grammatical structures are found and to what extent they are used. The corpus-based approach entails that one formulates a problem and hypotheses about the problem, and then uses the corpora in order to prove the hypotheses true or false. The main sources of data for this study will be the TLEC (Tswana Learner English Corpus), the Locness Corpus and the Dutch student writing component of ICLE (The International Corpus of Learner English). Each of these corpora consist of argumentative student essays written in English. As machine-readable corpora will be used as the main sources of information in this study, it follows that corpus linguistic data analysis methods will be employed in this study. By using the linking adverbial categories stipulated by Halliday and Matthiesen (2004) as well as Biber et al. (2002a), corpus samples are tagged and analysed using correspondence analysis. A basic theoretical framework, providing an outline of grammatical concepts, defining various concepts and terms used in the study as well as an interpretative framework which will aid in understanding the deeper underlying issues at the root of the study, is used. The choice of the term 'linking adverbials' and cohesion and coherence is discussed, as well as the link between these concepts. This theoretical framework is used later in the study for the annotation of the data and the data analysis. The numerical data presented in this study shows that the TLEC differs a great deal from the ENL and EFL corpus. One would expect the foreign language English corpus to differ the most, as it is generally expected that foreign language English students are less proficient in English than second language speakers. However, the data presented paints a different picture. The findings of this study are that ENL, ESL and EFL students have different ways of using linking adverbials, showing a surprising tendency that EFL student academic writing adheres more closely to the ENL standard than ESL student academic writing does. Possible explanations involve Williams's (1 987) issues of economy and hyper clarity, Meshtrie's undeletion hypothesis (2003), Van Rooy's (2006) statement that Outer Circle (or New) varieties of English develop their own norms, while expanding circle (or EFL varieties) of English stay closer to the inner circle norm, and language acquisition and tranfer-related issues. All of these may be viable explanations as to why the ESL data are non-standard, and why the data in the ESL corpus differs from that in the ENL corpus. This study also emphasises the finding that BSAE students are not fully literate in academic English and that this is an issue that the educational system needs to address. This study further shows that certain linking adverbial semantic categories are overused by some student communities while others are underused. This study shows that this is a field worthy of concern and has proven that cohesion and coherence is influenced by the misuse of linking adverbials.
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