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A syntactic analysis of the introductory it pattern in non-native-speaker and nativespeaker student writing

From the book Corpus Linguistics, Context and Culture

  • Tove Larsson


The introductory it pattern, as in It is important to consider the issue of learning outcomes, is a versatile tool that has proved challenging for learners of English. Taking Quirk et al.’s (1985: 1392) seven syntactic types as the starting point, the present corpus-based study aims to map out the full inventory of this pattern in non-native-speaker and native-speaker student writing. Comparisons are made across native-speaker status, academic disciplines, and level of achievement (higher-graded papers vs. lower-graded papers). The material comprises student papers from three corpora: Advanced Learner English Corpus (ALEC), Michigan Corpus of Upper-level Student Papers (MICUSP) and the British Academic Written English (BAWE). The results show that while there are only small differences across native-speaker status, there are noteworthy differences across the academic disciplines. Furthermore, the students at a lower level of achievement show a preference for one syntactic type in particular. All in all, it seems that this pattern deserves a place among discipline-specific conventions taught to university students.

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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