A longitudinal study of multi-word units in L1 and L2 novice academic writing

  • Duygu Candarli

Student thesis: Phd


English academic writing has a central role at English-medium universities for assessment purposes. It is generally reported that L2 novice writers have difficulties in using multi-word units in their academic writing. Although there have been recent studies that investigate the use of multi-word units across different levels in L1 and L2 novice writing, truly longitudinal studies are rare. By using growth curve modelling, this study tracks the use of multi-word units, i.e. lexical bundles and p-frames in both L1 and L2 novice writers’ essays in the field of English Language Education over one academic year. Additionally, interviews were conducted with lecturers and novice writers in order to provide contextual insights into the role of multi-word units in novice academic writing. The results indicate that dynamic patterns of change in terms of multi-word units occurred in both L1 and L2 novice writers’ essays over one academic year, and both L1 and L2 novice academic writing overall approximated to the typical characteristics of the English academic prose identified in previous studies (Biber, 2009; Gray & Biber, 2013). The patterns of multi-word units and the changes that occurred over one academic year are interpreted in relation to the theoretical approaches to multi-word units, including usage-based approaches to language as well as interlanguage developmental effects informed by previous studies and contextual factors informed by the interviews. Teaching implications for English and academic writing as well as suggestions for further research are offered.
Date of Award31 Dec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlexander Baratta (Supervisor) & Steven Jones (Supervisor)


  • academic writing
  • growth curve modelling
  • phrase frames
  • multi-word units
  • longitudinal study
  • lexical bundles

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