Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Language teaching

A Study on the Development Patterns of the Use of Lexical Chunks in Writing for Chinese Non-English Majors

Author KongZhaoLi
Tutor ChenShiFa
School Shandong University of Science and Technology
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords lexical chunks change tendency frequency distribution correlation teaching of English writing
CLC H319
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Linguistic researches show that there exists a large pool of fixed or semi-fixed forms of words which are defined as "lexical chunks". Lexical chunks, "as form/function composites", reflect the interaction of syntax, semantics and pragmatics. It is said that lexical chunks support the development of syntactic rules, help learners to achieve idiomaticy and accuracy of expressions, ease the burden of language processing and also facilitate the language production. Correspondingly, many linguistics, at home and abroad, view lexical chunks as an important component of language competence. Compared with lots of horizontal theoretical study of lexical chunks, however, few longitudinal empirical studies have been taken to show the developmental patterns of lexical chunks used by Chinese learners of non-English majors. Therefore, in the present study, based mainly on Nattinger and DeCarrico’s classification of lexical chunks, an empirical research is carried out to study the use of lexical chunks in 128 compositions written by 32 Chinese non-English majors in four successive English final exams. It is aimed at studying the developmental patterns of the use of lexical chunks in writing for Chinese non-English majors, which focuses on the two hypotheses:1) with the development of language proficiency for Chinese non-English majors, there are significant differences among their use of four types of lexical chunks, that is, polywords, institutionalized expressions, phrasal constraints and sentence builders.2) The number of students’use of lexical chunks is correlated significantly with writing quality.The present dissertation is composed of five chapters. The first chapter is a brief introduction. Chapter Two is the literature review, which offers a brief review of lexical chunks and studies about lexical chunks at home and abroad. Chapter Three introduces the methodology of the research, which contains research questions, subjects, instruments, procedures, data collection and analysis. The fourth chapter is mainly about results and discussions. Results show that the total number of lexical chunks and the four different types of lexical chunks exhibit different change tendencies in the four compositions (the first term is narration, and the other three terms are argumentations) written by 32 non-English major college students across the four terms. The total number of lexical chunks shows a rising-falling-rising tendency. As to the subcategories of lexical chunks, polywords and phrasal constraints exhibit rising-falling-rising tendencies; institutionalized expressions show a falling-rising tendency; sentence builders display a rising-falling tendency. Additionally, one-way ANOVA analyses show that there exist significant differences in the use of the total number of lexical chunks. As to subcategories of lexical chunks, there are significant differences in the use of phrasal constraints and sentence builders. However, significant differences can not be found in the use of polywords and institutionalized expressions. To better answer the second research question, the author carries out the study in two steps. Firstly, the correlation between the total number of lexical chunks used in a composition and the quality of it is analyzed. Pearson correlation analysis indicates that in the four terms there is a positively significant correlation between the total number of lexical chunks and writing quality. Secondly, each type of lexical chunks is treated as independent variable and the mean score of a composition as dependent variable to test the correlation between the two variables. Pearson correlation analyses indicate that polywords, institutionalized expressions, phrasal constraints and sentence builders bear significantly positive correlations with the quality of writing. Through answering the two hypotheses, a conclusion can be drawn that students’ writing quality in the four different terms exhibits a "rising-falling-rising" tendency. That is, students’levels in compositions are dynamic and changeable.The last chapter is conclusion. It summarizes the findings at first. According to the findings, the use of lexical chunks is very important to writing. Therefore, the present research can help English teachers have a comprehensive understanding of the developmental patterns of lexical chunks used in Chinese non-English majors’writing. Meanwhile, it is hoped that the present study of the developmental features in the use of lexical chunks in Chinese non-English majors’writing can draw teachers’attention to lexical chunks in the teaching of English writing and supplement the current study on lexical chunks. In the end, limitations of this study and valuable suggestions for further study are proposed.

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