First Advisor

Susan Conrad

Date of Publication

Winter 2-26-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




Academic writing -- Study and teaching (Graduate) -- Research, English language -- Grammar -- Study and teaching (Graduate) -- Research, Corpora (Linguistics) -- Research, Grammar, Comparative and general -- Noun -- Research



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 80 pages)


Previous research has established the importance of the nouns and noun modification in academic writing because of their commonness and complexity. However, little is known about how noun modification varies across the rhetorical sections of research articles. Such a perspective is important because it reflects the interplay between communicative function and linguistic form.

This study used a corpus of empirical research articles from the fields of applied linguistics and language teaching to explore the connection between article sections (Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion; IMRD) and six types of noun modification: relative clauses, ing-clause postmodifiers, ed-clause postmodifiers, prepositional postmodifiers, premodifying nouns, and attributive adjectives. First the frequency of these six types of noun modification was compared across IMRD sections. Second, the study also used a hand coded analysis of the structure and structural patterns of a sample of noun phrases through IMRD sections.

The results of the analyses showed that noun modification is not uniform across IMRD sections. Significant differences were found in the rates of use for attributive adjectives, premodifying nouns, and prepositional phrase postmodifiers. There were no significant differences between sections for relative clauses, ing-clause postmodifiers, or ed-clause postmodifiers. The differences between sections for attributive adjectives, premodifying nouns, and prepositional phrases illustrate the way the functions of these structures intersects with the functions of IMRD sections. For example, Methods sections describe research methods, which often have premodifying nouns (corpus analysis, conversation analysis, speech sample, etc.); this function of Methods sections results in a higher use of premodifying nouns compared to other sections. Results for structures of noun phrase across IMRD sections showed that the common noun modification patterns, such as premodifying noun only or attributive adjective with prepositional phrase postmodifier, were mostly consistent across sections. Noun phrase structures including pre-/post- or no modification did have differences across sections, with Introduction sections the most frequently modified and Methods sections the least frequently modified. The different functions of IMRD sections call for different rates of usage for noun modification, and the results reflected this.

The results of this research benefit teachers of graduate students of applied linguistics in students' research reading and writing by describing the use of noun modification in the sections of empirical research articles and aiding teachers in the design of materials to clarify the use of noun modification in these IMRD sections.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier