n Language Matters : Studies in the Languages of Southern Africa - A corpus-based analysis of involved aspects of student writing

Volume 37, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0256-5986



Previous research on student writing in South Africa, particularly Black South African English (BSAE) speakers, tends to focus on differences between BSAE writing and Standard varieties of English, and to fail to notice similarities. There is also a trend to focus on multiple linguistic features, but usually in isolation, without attempting an analysis of features as coherent subsets or subsystems. This article adopts the multifunctional-multidimensional approach of Biber, examining a set of linguistic features that form a coherent set for the expression of involvement in different registers. The Tswana Learner English Corpus (TLEC) and the Louvain Corpus of Native English Student Essays (LOCNESS) are used for the analysis. Results indicate that the TLEC, compared to LOCNESS, is characterised by writing that is less formal and more colloquial; it exhibits more reduction phenomena typically associated with conversation; is less integrated and more fragmented in terms of information presentation; uses more general and potentially more ambiguous cohesive devices; and is more cautious and polite when claims are made. Using Correspondence Analysis, the comparison is extended to include five other registers from the original study by Biber (1988). The analysis indicates that the differences between the two student writing corpora are relatively slight in terms of this overall perspective. As a set, the TLEC and LOCNESS exhibit many similarities to academic writing, but the student writing differs in that it reveals also similarities with spoken registers, rather than other written registers.

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