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A Corpus-Based Study of "Lexical Chunks" in Chinese English Majors’ Spoken English

Author: LiZhaoRui
Tutor: WuHePing
School: Northwest Normal University
Course: Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords: Corpus Chinese English Majors Lexical Chunks in Spoken English
CLC: H319
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2011
Downloads: 106
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Abstract


Lexical chunks are relatively fixed multi-word combinations with high appearing frequency in language forms. People are likely to take them as a whole and store them as pre-fabricated chunks in the brain; consequently, it provides much easier access to the speakers to retrieve. In recent years, with the development of corpus linguistics, people found great existence of lexical chunks in actual language use and began to take a new view of language. It is widely acknowledged that language is not just an analytical system based on grammar rules, but a formulaic system based on human memory. To date, the research on lexical chunks has become a new trend in linguistics and language pedagogy.The present study is a corpus-based research on the basis of previous studies and the corpus data. It has put forward a working definition for the lexical chunk and proposed the methodology of obtaining chunks from corpus attempting to study the lexical chunk use of Chinese English Majors. Three research questions need to be answered:1. What are the general characteristics of lexical chunks employed by Chinese English majors with regard to the frequency and variety of such lexical chunks? What lexical chunks appear most frequently in these learners spoken language?2. What are the differences in use of lexical chunks in spoken English among different grades of Chinese English majors? Are there any differences in the frequency, variety of these lexical chunks?3. What are the characteristics and deficiencies of Chinese English majors lexical chunk use in their spoken English?In the present study, a dataset of 48,797 tokens has been built up with the randomly-selected 72 files from TEM-4 and 72 files from TEM-8 oral test (2003-2006). All the files are recording transcripts of the test task: making comments on a given topic, collected in Spoken English Corpus of Chinese Learners(SECCL)(2nd ed). A total of 3013 lexical chunks have been selected. After counting, categorizing and analyzing these lexical chunks, the following findings have been obtained:Firstly, the 2-word chunks have the largest proportion among all the 3013 lexical chunks identified, and the number of chunks will decline with the chunk words increasing. The speakers tend to use the simple chunks with fewer words.Secondly, due to the data selected from monologic task in SECCL, the second type of chunks: institutionalized expressions almost have no existence in all identified ones. And the other three types of chunks: polywords , phrasal constraints and sentence builder have been identified. Difference in frequency of the three types of chunks exists. Among them the most frequently used ones are sentence builders, accounting for 48.7%. In second place are polywords taking up 30.6% among total chunks, and phrasal constraints just share 20.8%. Therefore it can be found the English majors prefer to adopt the sentence builder chunks when speaking, which almost occupy half of all the chunks identified.Thirdly, as for the richness of these chunks, among all the 3013 chunks extracted, 224 chunks are of different types. The average type and token ratio (TTR) is 0.074. Phrasal constraints chunks possess the highest TTR of 0.097, followed by polywords chunks TTR 0.078 and sentence builders TTR 0.062. That indicates although the sentence builder chunks are used in large quantity frequently, yet limited in type. What s more, it has been found, by sequencing that the three most frequently used chunks are I think , We should , Want to .Fourthly, as regards to the difference of lexical chunks use among learners in different grades, the standardized frequency ( SF ) of lexical chunks use for group TEM-8 is 655, a little higher than group TEM-4 s SF 573, and the TTR of group TEM-8 is 0.0692, yet a little lower than group TEM-4 s TTR 0.0811, hence it can be concluded that the learners in group TEM-8 used lexical chunks in larger quantity with higher appearing frequency, However, in terms of variety, the learners in group TEM-4 adopted more types of chunks comparing with learners in group TEM-8.Finally, after making a qualitative analysis of deficiencies of lexical chunk use, the two major problems we need to pay attention to are: 1) a lack of chunk competence 2) overuse and simplicity of chunk use. A large number of chunks employed are repeated ones, resulting in the learners overuse and simplicity of chunk use.

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