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close this section of the library Alifereti, Vasemaca Ledua

View the PDF document Analyzing verticality in the University of the South Pacific students' argumentative writing texts : a systemic functional perspective
Author:Alifereti, Vasemaca Ledua
Institution: Tsinghua University
Award: Ph.D.
Date: 2013
Call No.: pac In Process
BRN: 1196969
Copyright:40-60% of this thesis may be copied without the authors written permission

Abstract: Writing is a skill that is difficult to acquire, especially for NNE students studying at tertiary institutions. This claim is supported by research findings on the status of academic writing. Reports indicate most students fail to complete their studies in Europe, USA and in Australia, as a result of poor academic writing skills (Bjork, Brauer, Reinecker & Jorgensen, 2003). Similar problems are recorded to be experienced by NNE students at USP. Among the various writing problems cited, the study chooses to explore the ‘lack of abstract and metaphorical concepts’ (Khan & Mugler, 2001). It is assumed that abstract and metaphorical concepts are manifested in the use of nominalization and grammatical metaphor. This assumption is based on one of the central arguments of the study that a Vertical knowledge structure is realized by the use of nominalization and grammatical metaphor. Bernstein defines Verticality as knowledge acquired in education contexts, compared to Horizontal that refers to learning in our various homes (2000).The distinction between home and school learning explored in Verticality is what relates it to the two concepts; nominalization and grammatical metaphor. They are related to Verticality because they all represent relocation in meaning making from homes, to the education contexts. This relocation in meaning is the major motif of Halliday’s notion of grammatical metaphor, defined by the shift to Thing. Based on this understanding, the two concepts are explored in this study as realizations of Verticality. A corpus-based analysis is conducted by using two independent sources of data. The first is from NE student texts of Michigan University in the USA used as referenced corpora (MICUSP, 2010). The second set, from NNE student texts includes second and third year students of USP. From the Transitivity system, Relational processes are selected to elicit data, based on Halliday’s (1985, 1994) claim that here circumstances are mostly incongruently realized. To determine Verticality in USP student texts, distribution of nominalization and grammatical metaphor between the two groups are compared against the background of the semogenetic timeframe within the congruent and metaphorical continuum. Although distribution is manifested in texts of both cohorts, a detailed analysis reveals glaring findings. At the lexical level, analysis of nominalization indicates semantic categories Abstract III used in USP student texts are closer to the congruent pole rather than the metaphorical. Distribution of grammatical metaphor at the clause level also indicates the nearness of USP student texts to the congruent pole. A comparison on condensation of information through rank downgrade illustrates it is common in NE but not USP student texts. This is embodied through the relocation in circumstantial meaning of ‘cause’ normally expressed through conjunctions in inter-clausal relations, to prepositions, processes or participants in Relational clauses. An overall analysis to determine Verticality proves that USP student texts are closer to the congruent as opposed to the metaphorical pole. The use of authentic student texts as corpora is significant in relation to pedagogical implications and language policy making. On the same token, adoption of Halliday’s notion of grammatical metaphor and the system of Transitivity broadens their scope of credibility. Most importantly, the study has identified a framework where USP students can explore abstract and metaphorical concepts that are cited to be lacking in their academic writing texts.
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