The use of shell nouns in Japanese and American student writing

Tahara, Nobuko (2017). The use of shell nouns in Japanese and American student writing. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis addresses the quality of ‘difference’ in L2 English argumentative essays written by Japanese students by focusing on the use of metadiscursive nouns. It does this by comparing the similarities and differences in the use of 33 shell nouns (Schmid, 2000) as discourse construction devices in two corpora: the Japanese subcorpus of ICLE – Japanese writing in English as a foreign language – and the US subcorpus of LOCNESS – Americans writing in English as a first language. Based on Schmid’s (2000) theory, discourse roles of shell nouns are analysed according to three aspects: noun frequencies, syntactic patterns where shell nouns occur, and lexicalisation of nouns. This thesis demonstrates that one source of different impressions in non-native speaker writing stems from their use of shell nouns. The findings show that each group of students uses shell nouns differently, most notably for anaphoric referring functions. Employing different lexicalisation patterns, Japanese students use nouns for these functions more frequently than American students. Different lexicalisations are correlated with preferred discourse construction and argumentation patterns in each of the corpora. This thesis describes the findings and discusses causes of difference that suggest a transfer of L1 cultural values and essay conventions. Aspects of shell noun usage that the Japanese students tend not to handle well are identified and implications for pedagogical practice are discussed.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English


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