‘In my opinion’: Discourse-organising nouns in learner English
This study investigates the use of discourse-organising nouns (DONs) in Swedish advanced students’ academic writing, and compares it with the use of DONs in advanced L1 students’ academic writing and in expert academic writing. DONs are semantically unspecific nouns (e.g., argument, fact, problem, and thing) often used as cohesive devices in academic writing, or as ‘pegs’ for semantic content expressed elsewhere in the linguistic context (e.g., in my opinion, the fact that, this problem, another important argument is that). A quantitative analysis of 93 DONs in the three corpora found that the L2 student writers used the most tokens overall, especially a few very high-frequency DONs, but that they used the fewest types. They relied especially on a few semantically flexible high-frequency nouns such as thing and fact to a higher degree than the other two writer groups. A qualitative analysis of thing, fact, and opinion found that the L2 student writers used these nouns differently from how they were used in the expert corpus and, to a lesser extent, in the L1 student corpus, with the effect of creating discourse that may arguably be considered to be more vague and subjective.