Session 3

Analyzing discoursal flow in argumentative writing: a corpus-based study

Huaqing Hong (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and Libo Guo (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)


Since the 1980s, scholars and language educators (e.g. Rutherford, 1987; Larsen-Freeman, 2003; Celce-Murcia, 2016, to just name a few) have argued that while sentence-level grammar may be taught to help the students to understand and produce English sentences, to help them develop communicative competence, we will need to empower them with knowledge about discourse and context. In this article we build on the pioneering work on corpus-informed language pedagogy (e.g. Chambers, 2005; Herriman & Aronsson, 2009; Hunston, 2002; Park, 2012) and describe how we can provide the students with opportunities to compare and analyze the flow of discourse in different learner argumentative texts in annotated learner corpora. The corpus data are from the Singapore Learner Corpus of English Writing for Pedagogy (SLCEWP), developed at National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. This corpus contains around 3 million words and includes English writing produced by students at different academic levels including Primary 6 (Year 6), Secondary 4 (Year 10), Junior College 2 (Year 12), and university Year 1. The particular feature annotated draws on the classification of Theme and Rheme in systemic functional linguistics (e.g. Halliday & Matthiessen 2014). In this article we will argue for the value of the integration of corpus linguistic technologies and systemic functional linguistics (Hunston 2013) and illustrate the potential of this integration for teaching the discoursal flow in writing argumentative essays.