Enhancing Lexicogrammatical Performance through Corpus-Based Mediation in L2 Academic Writing Instruction

Open Access
Park, Kwanghyun
Graduate Program:
Applied Linguistics
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 04, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Celeste S Kinginger, Dissertation Advisor
  • Celeste S Kinginger, Committee Chair
  • Karen E Johnson, Committee Member
  • Xiaofei Lu, Committee Member
  • Xiaoye You, Committee Member
  • Learner-Corpus Interaction
  • L2 writing
  • Lexicogrammar
  • Genre-based pedagogy
This thesis documents a project intended to improve the lexicogrammatical performance of L2 writers in genre-based academic writing. Lexicogrammatical performance refers to the extent to which writers make appropriate choices of vocabulary and syntax in accordance with the expectations of discourse communities. Improving their performance in this regard presents a major challenge to L2 writers. In working to improve lexicogrammatical performance, genre-based pedagogy has focused either on raising awareness through explicit instruction or on enhancing performance through situated learning. These methods, however, have been only modestly successful. This thesis explores an alternative approach—one that uses corpus technology to enhance awareness and performance simultaneously. The research develops a corpus-based system consisting of a genre- and discipline-specific corpus and a companion search engine, the effects of which are evaluated in relation to the lexicogrammatical performance of students in an undergraduate ESL composition course for the duration of one semester. Through working with this system, L2 writers meet their lexicogrammatical challenges in an effective and efficient way. Their interaction with the corpus (Learner-Corpus Interaction, LCI) is a multi-layered process comprising four structural units: consultation, transaction, exchange, and move. Through these units, students engage in intense hypotheses testing to eventually appropriate the target lexicogrammatical items from the corpus. Thus, the primary characteristic of LCI is the dialogic negotiation and collaborative construction of knowledge. The way LCI facilitates the students’ development is strikingly similar to the ways in which an experienced tutor helps a student to advance through the Zone of Proximal Development. The findings suggest that the writer’s composing process is fundamentally a developmental process and that corpus-based research should focus on maximizing the writer’s developmental potential through collaborative construction of text. LCI raises the exciting possibility that many issues in writing pedagogy (e.g., plagiarism) can be addressed by facilitating micro-scale development through highly focused and situated interaction with a corpus. To maximize the benefits for students, the thesis suggests that a corpus system should be incorporated into, and coordinated with, the teacher’s instruction and guidance. In identifying guidelines for such coordination and theoretical principles for artifact-mediated writing in this digital era, the thesis offers this conclusion: it posits distributed cognition theory as a conceptual framework for coordinating computational mediation with genre-based writing instruction in contemporary writing contexts—contexts that are increasingly mediated, distributed, and collaborative.