Recounting and reflecting: The use of first person pronouns in Chinese, Greek and British students' assignments in engineering

Published on Mar 1, 2017in Journal of English for Academic Purposes
· DOI :10.1016/j.jeap.2017.02.001
Maria Leedham5
Estimated H-index: 5
(OU: Open University),
Maria Fernandez-Parra1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Swansea University)
Chinese and Greek students are among the many international groups now studying at UK universities. While the written English of these groups has been extensively explored through the short argumentative essays comprising learner corpora, little research has been conducted on their assessed writing at undergraduate and Masters level. This paper reports on a study of Chinese, Greek and British student writing within the discipline of Engineering in five UK universities. Data is extracted primarily from the 6.5 million-word British Academic Written English corpus, supplemented by assignments from additional UK universities. The main aim of the study is to explore texts from students with different L1s and cultural backgrounds but within the same discipline and current educational system. First person pronouns were selected as a contained aspect of student writing for comparison, since these are a highly visible feature of a writer's identity construction (e.g. Hyland, 2002b), yet it is often claimed that L2 English students ‘over use’ these pronouns to the detriment of their writing (Lee & Chen, 2009). Findings indicate that the Chinese and Greek students make greater use of we in their writing within Engineering than British students and the paper explores the various functions of both we and I.
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