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Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory

Founded by Gries, Stefan Th. / Stefanowitsch, Anatol

Ed. by Wulff, Stefanie

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Attended/unattended this in academic student writing: Quantitative and qualitative perspectives

Stefanie Wulff, / Ute Römer, / John Swales,
Published Online: 2012-04-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cllt-2012-0006


This paper addresses the question of what governs the optional attendance of the determiner this by a noun phrase in academic student writing. Previous research on this has largely focused on the noun phrases accompanying this, while the question of what determines writers' choice between attended and unattended this in the first place has received only little attention. In the present study, we present the results of a more comprehensive analysis, including quantitative methods (logistic regression analysis, Distinctive Collexeme Analysis, textual distribution measures) and qualitative methods (cluster extraction), of more than 5,800 hits of sentence-initial this obtained from the Michigan Corpus of Upper Level Student Papers (MICUSP). Overall, the results point to a strong influence of the verb accompanying (un)attended this, which is moderated to some extent by author-related variables like academic discipline, academic proficiency level, native speaker status, and gender. A qualitative pattern analysis of the most prominent this + verb clusters reveals that semantic biases evidenced in the verbs distinctively associated with (un)attended this are reflected at the text-organizational level in terms of positional preferences within paragraphs and texts. In combination, the results point towards an ongoing delexicalization of this + verb clusters like this is and this means into textual organization markers, which stands in sharp contrast to traditional cautions against unattended this as mere “vague reference” that is to be avoided.

Keywords:: disciplinary variation; distinctive collexeme analysis; clusters; logistic regression; multifactorial analysis; phraseology; student academic writing; textual distribution/organization; (un)attended this

About the article

Published Online: 2012-04-04

Published in Print: 2012-05-25

Citation Information: Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, Volume 8, Issue 1, Pages 129–157, ISSN (Online) 1613-7035, ISSN (Print) 1613-7027, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cllt-2012-0006.

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