Corpora and written academic English

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The impact of corpora in the study of written academic English over the past twenty years has been enormous, transforming how we understand, study, and teach this key area of language use. Corpora provide language data which represent a speaker's experience of language in a particular domain and so therefore offer evidence of typical patterning of academic texts. It is a method which focuses on community practices and the ways members of particular disciplines understand and talk about the world. Bringing an empirical dimension to the study of academic writing allows us not only to support intuitions, strengthen interpretations, and generally to talk about academic genres with greater confidence, but it contrasts markedly with impressionistic methods of text analysis which tend to produce partial and prescriptive findings, and with observation methods such as keystroke recording, which seek to document what writers do when they write. It also differs from methods which employ elicitation methods such as questionnaires and interviews, or introspection methods like think-aloud protocols to understand the perspectives of writers or readers on how they use texts. Perhaps most significantly, corpus approaches to academic writing provide insights into disciplinary practices which help explain the mechanisms by which knowledge is socially constructed through language. Together, this research explicitly contradicts the view that corpus linguistics takes an impoverished, de contextualized view of texts and replaces it with a detailed picture of how students and academics write in different genres and disciplines. In this chapter I discuss some of the key studies and ideas which contribute to our understanding of academic writing in English. Section 1 offers an overview of published studies, while Section 2 describes a study which illustrates how corpus research can inform our understanding of academic writing. Research into academic writing in English This section discusses previous research,identifies a number of key studies, and provides an overview of the research methodologies that have been employed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of English Corpus Linguistics
EditorsDouglas Biber, Randi Reppen
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781139764377
ISBN (Print)9781107037380
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

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