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A corpus-based study of verb-noun collocations and verb complementation clause structures in the writing of advanced Saudi learners of English

Alangari, M. A. (2019) A corpus-based study of verb-noun collocations and verb complementation clause structures in the writing of advanced Saudi learners of English. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This thesis reflects the shift in the study of collocations towards lexico-grammatical patterns through a series of three corpus-based studies on academic writing. The first study adopts a phraseological approach to explore the use of adjective-noun and verb-noun lexical collocations in the academic writing of Arab learners as compared to native speakers. The comparison between two corpora, the TEEP-ArSL and the LOCNESS-A-Level, reveals that verb-noun (VN) collocations are particularly difficult for Arab learners given that more than a quarter of the VN collocations they produced are misused. Studies 2 and 3 adopt a novel approach to the description and analysis of academic writing in the discipline of applied linguistics. These two studies focus on VN collocations by embedding them in their verb complementation clause structures, specifically noun phrase complementation. In Study 2, expert writers’ use of verb complementation clause structures and VN collocations therein are examined and compared in two corpora of published research articles in the field of applied linguistics in English and Arabic, the academic English Corpus (AEC) and the academic Arabic corpus (AAC). Study 3 investigates novice writers’ use of the same clause structures and VN collocations in two corpora of novice native and non-native students’ university exam writing - the novice native corpus (NNC) and the novice Saudi corpus (NSC). The analysis of the data in Studies 2 and 3 draws on Quirkian clause structures (Quirk, Greenbaum, & Leech, 1985) for the syntactic representation, and on Frame Semantics (Fillmore, 1982) for the identification of the semantic roles of the elements involved in the clause structures. The two studies explore the use of single-word and multi-word verbs in 15 clause structures, including the copular, transitive, complex copular, and ditransitive. The association between the verb and the clause structure is established using the measure of faithfulness (Römer, O’Donnell, & Ellis, 2015). The comparison of expert academic writing in Study 2 serves as baseline data for the comparison of novice academic writing in Study 3. The results of Study 2 show that prepositional verbs are frequently used in academic English and Arabic, despite the fact that they are seldom addressed in Arabic grammar books. The results also highlight phrasal verbs as one of the prominent characteristics of current English academic writing in the field of ii Study 3 explores advanced learners’ use of the 15 selected clause structures and the choices of verbs therein and whether there is a tendency to overuse, underuse or misuse these clause structures and VN collocations. It makes use of the results of study 2 to trace the influence of the first language, Arabic, on the use of verb complementation clause structures by advanced Saudi learners of English. The results of study 3 show that advanced Saudi learners use significantly more tokens in the copular, the transitive, and the prepositional type 1 clause structures than native speakers. However, the difference between the use of types is not significant which reveals an area of weakness in the writing of advanced Saudi learners related to the heavy reliance on a limited set of high frequency verbs, e.g. have, use, and say. Although native speakers used the phrasal verb clause structure more often than Saudi learners, both groups of novice writers used far fewer phrasal verbs than expert English writers; possible explanations for this underuse are investigated. The thesis concludes with a variety of pedagogical implications that could be of great benefit for language teachers and textbook and dictionary designers.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Jaworska, S.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Literature and Languages
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Language and Applied Linguistics
ID Code:86009

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