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An exploration of formulaic language in Chinese university students’ written texts

An exploration of formulaic language in Chinese university students’ written texts
An exploration of formulaic language in Chinese university students’ written texts
Over the past few decades, there has been an increased interest in the formulaic aspects of languages, including English. There has also been work conducted into the learning and teaching of formulaic language and its use by non-native speakers. Despite the increase in English language teaching in China, there has, however, so far not been any combined research into the learning, use and teaching of formulaic language in the Chinese EFL context. This study addresses this gap by investigating the written texts of Chinese university students and the learning, use and teaching of formulaic language in this research context.

As background to this study, an overview of existing research on formulaic language is firstly introduced, and then the rationale for this study, investigating formulaic language through student written texts, is established by positioning the role of written language in second language research and the relation between formulaic language and genre analysis studies. After these, specific background information on the EFL context in China is presented by supporting the claim that the EFL students in the study are seen as language learners as well as writers and users of English. The research questions that this study sets out to answer are the following:
(1) To what extent do Chinese university students use formulaic language in their written English?
a) What are the main structures of formulaic language used by these learners?
b) What are the main discourse functions of formulaic language used by these learners?
c) What is the relationship between the distribution of structural and functional categories of formulaic language in the learners’ written texts?
d) How is the formulaic language used differently in the written texts of Year1 and Year 3 university students?

(2) What do Chinese university students perceive formulaic language to be?
a) To what extent is this perception different in Year 1 and Year 3 students?

(3) How do Chinese university students perceive the learning, use and teaching of formulaic language?

The results of this research will present formulaic language use in student written texts, and link this use to students’ self-reported processes, strategies and sources of formulaic language learning and use. Nevertheless, student reflections on the teaching of formulaic language in the research context will be introduced in order to address the research questions thoroughly.

A mixed methods research design is employed in this study. The fieldwork took place during one semester (16 weeks) at a Chinese university. The participants were 83 students from the Year 1 and 73 students from Year 3 groups in the foreign language department. The main sources of data were firstly, students’ written texts and secondly, in-depth interviews with 12 informant writers.

The findings of the research present a well-rounded description of formulaic language use in Chinese university students’ English written texts, by analysing and comparing the distribution of structural and discourse functional categories in the formulaic strings identified by the student perceptions and through corpus linguistic methods. Also, triangulation of the textual data collected from the written texts and perceptual data gathered from interviews shows some discrepancies regarding the perception of formulaic language in English among students and in researchers in the field. This thesis ends with a discussion of the implications and limitation of the present study, and directions for future research on formulaic language in the EFL context.
University of Southampton
Chen, Jiaoyue
2cb896f8-69f1-44ab-a4fa-8cfeb74a0e56
Chen, Jiaoyue
2cb896f8-69f1-44ab-a4fa-8cfeb74a0e56
Huettner, Julia
bb0cd345-6c35-48e1-89f7-a820605aaa2c
Archibald, Alasdair
15b56a58-87df-4322-8367-70f4daff3f42

Chen, Jiaoyue (2016) An exploration of formulaic language in Chinese university students’ written texts. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 421pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Over the past few decades, there has been an increased interest in the formulaic aspects of languages, including English. There has also been work conducted into the learning and teaching of formulaic language and its use by non-native speakers. Despite the increase in English language teaching in China, there has, however, so far not been any combined research into the learning, use and teaching of formulaic language in the Chinese EFL context. This study addresses this gap by investigating the written texts of Chinese university students and the learning, use and teaching of formulaic language in this research context.

As background to this study, an overview of existing research on formulaic language is firstly introduced, and then the rationale for this study, investigating formulaic language through student written texts, is established by positioning the role of written language in second language research and the relation between formulaic language and genre analysis studies. After these, specific background information on the EFL context in China is presented by supporting the claim that the EFL students in the study are seen as language learners as well as writers and users of English. The research questions that this study sets out to answer are the following:
(1) To what extent do Chinese university students use formulaic language in their written English?
a) What are the main structures of formulaic language used by these learners?
b) What are the main discourse functions of formulaic language used by these learners?
c) What is the relationship between the distribution of structural and functional categories of formulaic language in the learners’ written texts?
d) How is the formulaic language used differently in the written texts of Year1 and Year 3 university students?

(2) What do Chinese university students perceive formulaic language to be?
a) To what extent is this perception different in Year 1 and Year 3 students?

(3) How do Chinese university students perceive the learning, use and teaching of formulaic language?

The results of this research will present formulaic language use in student written texts, and link this use to students’ self-reported processes, strategies and sources of formulaic language learning and use. Nevertheless, student reflections on the teaching of formulaic language in the research context will be introduced in order to address the research questions thoroughly.

A mixed methods research design is employed in this study. The fieldwork took place during one semester (16 weeks) at a Chinese university. The participants were 83 students from the Year 1 and 73 students from Year 3 groups in the foreign language department. The main sources of data were firstly, students’ written texts and secondly, in-depth interviews with 12 informant writers.

The findings of the research present a well-rounded description of formulaic language use in Chinese university students’ English written texts, by analysing and comparing the distribution of structural and discourse functional categories in the formulaic strings identified by the student perceptions and through corpus linguistic methods. Also, triangulation of the textual data collected from the written texts and perceptual data gathered from interviews shows some discrepancies regarding the perception of formulaic language in English among students and in researchers in the field. This thesis ends with a discussion of the implications and limitation of the present study, and directions for future research on formulaic language in the EFL context.

Text
Jiaoyue CHEN e thesis FINAL.pdf - Version of Record
Restricted to Repository staff only until 8 January 2021.
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.

More information

Published date: September 2016
Organisations: University of Southampton, Modern Languages

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Local EPrints ID: 402359
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/402359
PURE UUID: 92de1bbc-4799-4191-bc9d-f2cd35ff0a8c

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Date deposited: 01 Dec 2016 15:43
Last modified: 09 Jan 2019 17:34

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