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A Corpus-Based Study on Verb-Noun Collocations and Adjective-Noun Collocations in Published Authors' and Taiwanese EFL Learners' Academic Writing
English for academic purposes
Research has revealed that the usage pattern of collocations vary from one academic discipline to another, and that advanced English for Academic Purposes (EAP) learners in general used academic collocations quite different from native speakers. However, discipline-specific studies on the usage pattern of collocations by either published authors or EAP learners are scant. The current research thus set out to investigate the frequent verb-noun (V-N) and adjective-noun (A-N) collocations employed by published authors and Taiwanese EFL learners in the field of applied linguistics. The purposes of this study are: 1) to generate lists of frequent V-N and A-N collocations in the published authors’ writing in order to provide EAP learners a useful reference, 2) to extract the frequent V-N and A-N collocations in the Taiwanese EFL learners’ writing and compare the learners’ usage pattern of collocations with the published authors’, and 3) to identify V-N and A-N collocations that are underused/overused by the Taiwanese EFL learners. To achieve the research purposes, two corpora were built in the current study. A reference corpus, Research Article Corpus (RAC), composed of 1,500 research articles from 15 international journals in the field of applied linguistics. A learner corpus, Master’s Thesis Corpus (MTC), composed of 494 masters’ theses from 10 national universities in Taiwan. The two corpora contained approximately 12 million words. The researcher identified 29 core nouns and respectively investigated their frequent verb/adjective collocates in the two corpora. The Taiwanese EFL learners’ usage pattern of the frequent V-/A-N collocations were then compared with the published authors’ to uncover the similarities/differences in their collocation use. In the published authors’ articles, 181 types of V-N collocations and 248 types of A-N collocations were frequently employed. In the Taiwanese EFL learners’ theses, 203 types of V-N collocations and 231 types of A-N collocations were frequently used. Comparisons between the published authors’ and the Taiwanese EFL learners’ usage pattern of collocations yielded the following findings. First, 136 types of V-N collocations and 159 types of A-N collocations were overlapped in the two corpora. Second, the published authors’ lexical repertoire of both V-N and A-N collocations was wider as compared to the Taiwanese EFL learners, and the published authors’ lexical repertoire of V-N collocations was proportionally similar to their lexical repertoire of A-N collocations. These findings suggest that the published authors demonstrated a more balanced productive knowledge of both V-N and A-N collocations in their writings, whereas the Taiwanese EFL learners’ production of V-N and A-N collocations was less diverse and balanced. This study also uncovered that the Taiwanese EFL learners’ overusing behavior was more salient that their underusing behavior. Association analysis (i.e. t-score and MI-value) on the underused and overused collocations showed that both underused/overused collocations were tended to be those with high t-scores. Further association analysis of several synonymous pairs of underused/overused collocations demonstrated that robust (i.e. frequent and highly-associated) collocations and collocations with higher t-scores were more likely to be overused in the Taiwanese EFL learners’ writing. In addition, many verb/adjective collocates that recurrently formed different types of underused/overused collocations were also observed in the learners’ writing. Some pedagogical implications for EAP writing instruction in the field of applied linguistics and possible directions for future research are proposed.
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