A Comparative Corpus-Based Analysis of the Cross-Cultural Lexico-Grammatical Differences Between Master’s Level Academic Writing in New Zealand and the United States

Udomphol, Pakkawan
Hocking, Darryl
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Master of Language and Culture
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Auckland University of Technology

While lexico-grammatical differences in academic writing have been a key focus of research in cross-cultural rhetoric, there have been no studies focusing on the differences between English-medium master’s level academic writing in New Zealand and the United States. This is despite the fact that many international post-graduate students and academic literacies courses in New Zealand rely on coursebooks developed in the United States, for example, Swales and Feak's (2012), Academic Writing for Graduate Students.

In order to examine lexico-grammatical differences in English-medium master’s level writing between these two countries, two 860,000-word corpora of master’s level writing were compiled: one containing master’s level academic writing from universities in New Zealand, and the other containing master’s level academic writing from universities in the United States. Using the resources of corpus analysis, such as frequency, collocation and concordance analysis, the occurrence of a number of lexico-grammatical features across the two corpora were examined and compared. These features examined included pronominal choice, phrasal verbs, reporting verbs, and the use of hedges and boosting, all areas that had been identified in contrastive rhetoric studies as exemplifying cross-cultural difference.

This study reveals that overall there are many similarities between master’s level academic writing in New Zealand and the United States. The notable exceptions, however, involve pronominal use, and the degree of confidence expressed towards academic claims, whether the student’s own, or those reviewed from the scholarly literature. The study concludes with a number of implications for teachers and supervisors of L2 master’s students studying in a New Zealand university, and for coursebook writers of English for Academic Purposes at the post-graduate level.

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