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Ute Römer, University of Michigan, USA

The use of phraseological items in apprentice academic writing: Does nativeness matter?


Nowadays, a large and growing number of academic English texts (e.g. research articles, book reviews, dissertations) are written by non-native speakers of English. While the research world is becoming more and more Anglicized and large numbers of “non-Anglophones” (Swales 2004: 46) produce academic English alongside their native-speaker colleagues, it is yet unclear what status nativeness has in this context and what challenges novice or apprentice academic writers whose first language is not English have to face.
This talk will address the issue of nativeness and examine what the native/non-native-distinction means in the context of English academic writing. It will investigate how different the academic writing of native speakers and non-native speakers of English is and, based on comparisons of apprentice and expert performance data (in Bazerman’s 1994: 131 terms), discuss whether nativeness has an effect on academic writing proficiency if other potentially influential factors like genre, discipline, and duration of university education are controlled.

The focus of the analyses reported on in this talk is on frequent phraseological items, e.g. word combinations such as on the one hand or in the case of, that are typical of academic writing, in comparable sets of successful apprentice academic writing by native speakers and non-native speakers of English in the disciplines of Linguistics and English (language and literature). Phraseological items (n-grams and phrase-frames of different lengths) have been extracted from the Cologne-Hanover Advanced Learner Corpus (CHALC, see Römer 2007) and from a subset of the Michigan Corpus of Upper-level Student Papers (MICUSP, see A collection of published expert academic writing (research articles from Linguistics journals) functions as a reference corpus and is regarded as a kind of target norm for our apprentice writers.


Bazerman, C. (1994). Systems of genres and the enactment of social intentions. In: A. Freedman & P. Medway (eds.). Genre and the New Rhetoric. London: Taylor and Francis. 79-101.

Römer, U. (2007). Learner language and the norms in native corpora and EFL teaching materials: A case study of English conditionals. In: S. Volk-Birke & J. Lippert (eds.). Anglistentag 2006 Halle. Proceedings. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier. 355-363.

Swales, J. M. (2004). Research Genres. Exploration and Applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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