Transitions of Contrast in Chinese and English University Student Writing

Sheena Gardner, Chao Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


One of the fundamental ways in which knowledge develops is through contrast. This applies not only to the development of ideas and theories in argumentative texts, but also to the contrasting of new findings with old in experimental reports. Contrast, then, is central to the development of academic knowledge. A common finding in contrastive analyses is that the transition however is used significantly more by English than Chinese writers. This has been explained through suggestions that Chinese writers may be culturally less willing or linguistically less able to express contrast. Our objective was to identify which transitions of contrast are used more by Chinese students and to understand where and how they are used. In the closely matched Han CH-EN corpus of similar texts written by successful Chinese and English students at British universities, we identified four transitions that are used significantly more (p<0.05) by Chinese writers: while, whereas, on the other hand, and in contrast. Through examining contexts of use and specific examples, we argue that Chinese students employ a greater variety of transitions than English students to achieve a similar amount of contrast in their writing. The paper concludes with seven implications for teaching academic writing in English.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861–882
Number of pages22
JournalEducational Sciences: Theory and Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2018
EventMetadiscourse Across Genres - MIddle East Technical University, Cyprus
Duration: 30 Mar 20172 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

This paper is submitted to the special issue on “METADISCOURSE IN NATIVE AND FOREIGN LANGUAGE ACADEMIC TEXTS”."


  • Metadiscourse
  • Corpus linguistics
  • Chinese students in the UK
  • Transitions of contrast
  • English for Academic Purposes
  • Academic Writing
  • academic English


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