Formulaic Language Patterns in Social Science and Natural Science Research Papers: A Corpus-Based Study


[PREPOSITION the NOUN Of] (e.g. on the basis of, in the case of), as some studies noted (e.g. Biber, 2009; Cortes; 2004), is one of the most frequent frames in academic discourse. Particularly, Groom (2005, p. 259) further emphasized that a similar frame may show different preferences in the words that commonly serve as fillers (e.g. basis, case as shown above) when occurring in different disciplines. Pedagogically speaking, identifying the frequent patterns of a discipline can help students acquire the convention of the texts they are asked to write (Hyland, 2008, p. 44). This study seeks to reveal which fillers are enclosed within the frame - [VERB from the NOUN of] - in the disciplines of social science and natural science. Data were gathered from the British National Corpus (BNC) under the written restriction of academic prose. It was found that the association between the fillers (VERB and NOUN) and the frame reflects that of a discipline-specific nature. In natural science, the top semantic group of NOUNs, annotated by the authors, accounts for 23.78% of the total frequency. It denotes different positions on concrete subjects (e.g. end, surface, back). The second biggest NOUN group (20.98%) mainly deals with nominalization of natural processes (e.g. erosion, dissolution, recrystallization). In social science, the NOUNs in this frame spread over a wider and different range of semantic groups. For example, the top frequent collocates refers to people's point of view (e.g. ideas, perspective, assumption), followed by those denoting different locations or institutions (e.g. edge, end, University, Gulf), harmful or unpleasant situations (e.g. decline, problem, difficulty), and the existence/non-existence of something (e.g. presence, introduction, absence). The results suggest systematic and semantically motivated variations across the two disciplines. This study has potential pratical applications for the teaching of English and enhances advanced academic literacy instruction.

Author Information
Yen-Yu Lin, National Chengchi University, Taiwan
Siaw-Fong Chung, National Chengchi University, Taiwan

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2013
Stream: Education

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