Lexical Features in Argumentative Writing across English Writers from Different Language Backgrounds

Yu X.

5th Learner Corpus Research Conference,, Warszawa, Poland, 12 - 14 September 2019, pp.136

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Warszawa
  • Country: Poland
  • Page Numbers: pp.136
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


This corpus-based research analysed three lexical features (lexical diversity, lexical sophistication, and cohesion) in English argumentative writing and examined the potential differences in lexical performance 1) between native and nonnative English writers and 2) across all writers from seven language backgrounds. Two major research questions guided the analyses in the current study: 1. Are there significant differences in lexical features between native and nonnative argumentative English writing, as measured by lexical diversity, lexical sophistication, and cohesion? 2. Are there significant differences in lexical features, as measured by lexical diversity, lexical sophistication, and cohesion, in argumentative English writing across all writers from various mother tongue backgrounds? The target population of nonnative English writers was advanced English learners in non-English-speaking countries; the referential native speaking population was native English-speaking university students. The learner English corpora were six subcorpora selected from the International Corpus of Learner English v2 (ICLE v2), including the mother tongues of Chinese, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. The nativespeaking corpus was the Louvain Corpus of Native English Essays (LOCNESS), which included essays written by both British and American undergraduate students. For the seven selected subcorpora, 100 argumentative essays were randomly selected from each subcorpus. A total of 700 texts have been analysed in the study. The total tokens were 424,363 words. The findings revealed that nonnative English writers demonstrated significantly lower performance in lexical sophistication than did native English writers. The comparison between writers from different language backgrounds suggested statistically significant differences in all three aspects of lexical features. German, Japanese, and Turkish writers, in particular, revealed potential needs in obtaining supports regarding lexical diversity and lexical sophistication. Pedagogical implications for vocabulary instruction in argumentative writing for nonnative writers are introduced, such as emphasizing the mastery of academic, low-frequency, and discipline-specific vocabulary. Additionally, improving non-native writers’ vocabulary size and lexical diversity can offer these learners more options to build cohesion in academic writing at a deeper level. The results of this study also highlight the wide but often under-considered variability within any group of writers as learner differences come into play, thereby downplaying the idea that writers of any given group tend to perform homogeneously. Instructors should acknowledge the unique writing characteristics of different non-native writers and their varied learner needs. Thus, targeted instruction is essential to provide effective enhancement to non-native English writers’ lexical performance in academic writing.