Using Rhetorical Structure Theory for contrastive analysis at the micro and macro levels of discourse: An investigation of Japanese EFL learners’ and native-English speakers’ writing
On March 12th, Jonathan Brown succesfully defended his doctoral thesis and graduated. The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics congratulates Jonathan on this great result.
- Jonathan Brown
- 12 March 2019
- Leiden University Repository
This study compared the features of Japanese EFL learners' (JEFL) English texts (N = 22), with those written by native speakers (N = 22). Texts in each corpus were parsed into elementary discourse units (EDUs) using the Syntactic and Lexical-based Discourse Segmenter and were then analyzed within the Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) framework. Yule’s difference coefficient was applied to assess the difference in the relative frequency of a relation in the two corpora. Wilcoxon signed-rank tests were applied to determine if there was a statistical significance between the two corpora’s relation frequencies. Three key anamolies were revealed from the contrastive analysis: 1) Subject Matter (SM) relations were used less frequently by the JEFLs and the difference was significant (p = 0.047); 2) JEFL writers regularly struggled to match the content of a nucleus with its function, often forming what I have termed “artificial nuclei;” 3) a number of relations were overrepresented in the JEFL corpus, particularly those of weak coherence. Together these anomalies result in a violation of basic communication principles that could plausibly account for Japanese English writing often being regarded as incoherent.