Lexico-grammatical stance markers across registers: Nuancing the (in)formal dichotomy
Université Catholique de Louvain
Stance markers (i.e. self-positioning devices) help us position ourselves in relation to our claims, and as such are of central importance in both speech and writing (e.g. Biber et al., 1999). In this talk, I will focus in particular on how stance can be studied in relation to register to nuance the common view of (in)formality as a dichotomy. The study compares the distribution of frequent morphologically related stance markers (e.g. important, importantly, importance) in learner writing from one register (academic writing) to expert writing from several different registers (academic writing, popular science, news, novels and conversation). In doing so, it investigates (i) which of the experts’ registers the learners’ use is closest to and, thus, (ii) whether describing learner use as simply “informal” might be simplifying matters. As student writers have been found to exhibit somewhat insufficient register awareness (Larsson & Kaatari, accepted), such an investigation sheds further light on the often-cited claim that students, in particular non-native-speaker students, are overly informal in their writing (e.g. Altenberg & Tapper, 1998). The study uses subsets from one expert corpus, BNC-15, two learner corpora, ALEC and VESPA, and two NS student corpora, BAWE and MICUSP. Biber et al.’s (1999:969–970) framework of grammatical stance marking is used, along with inferential and explorative statistics, such as Multiple Correspondence Analysis.
ALEC (the Advanced Learner English Corpus). Corpus compiled at Uppsala University in 2013.
Altenberg, B., & Tapper, M. (1998). The use of adverbial connectors in advanced Swedish learners’ written English. In S. Granger (Ed.), Learner English on computer (pp. 80–93). London: Longman.
BAWE (British Academic Written English). Corpus compiled at the Universities of Warwick, Reading and Oxford Brookes in 2004–2007. http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/al/research/collect/bawe/
Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of spoken and written English. Harlow: Longman.
BNC-15. Subset of the British National Corpus (BNC) sampled in 2012.
Larsson, T. & Kaatari, H. (accepted). Extraposition in learner and expert writing: Exploring (in)formality and the impact of register. International Journal of Learner Corpus Research.
MICUSP (Michigan Corpus of Upper-level Student Papers). (2009). Ann Arbor, MI: The Regents of the University of Michigan. Available online from http://micusp.elicorpora.info.
VESPA (Varieties of English for Specific Purposes dAtabase). Corpus administered at the Centre for English Corpus Linguistics at Université catholique de Louvain. https://uclouvain.be/en/research-institutes/ilc/cecl/vespa.html