Research on the frequency of transitions, or transition markers, has led to contested claims. Comparisons by L1 speaker (e.g. Leedham, 2015; Lei, 2012) argue that Chinese writers overuse and underuse certain transitions when compared to L1 English writers. Moreover, Biber et al. (1999) suggest transitions are frequent in technical scientific writing, while Hyland (2005) suggests they are more frequent in the discursive writing of the soft disciplines. Our study contributes to both these areas with evidence from a contrastive analysis of transition use by Chinese and English writers in the Han CH-EN corpus, a closely matched corpus of successful university student writing in English. A frequency comparison of transition use by Chinese and English writers finds no significant difference for most transitions. The transition used most often by both groups is however, which is examined across contexts. English writers use however significantly more than Chinese writers, but only in a small number of disciplines, genres and sentence positions. An examination of the literacy practices in these contexts suggests that terms such as ‘overuse’ and ‘underuse’ with their negative connotations should only be used when frequency data is combined with investigations of appropriate use in context.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The data for this paper draws on the BAWE corpus ( www.coventry.ac.uk/bawe ). The British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus was developed at the Universities of Warwick, Reading and Oxford Brookes under the directorship of Hilary Nesi and Sheena Gardner (formerly of the Centre for Applied Linguistics [previously called CELTE], Warwick), Paul Thompson (formerly of the Department of Applied Linguistics, Reading) and Paul Wickens (Westminster Institute of Education, Oxford Brookes), with funding from the ESRC ( RES-000-23-0800 ).
The paper is also supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China Project number: 2020jbkyzy009 awarded to Chao Han.
© 2021 The Authors
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
- Academic writing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Language and Linguistics
- Linguistics and Language