First Advisor

Susan Conrad

Date of Publication

Winter 3-7-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

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


Applied Linguistics




Corpora (Linguistics), Lexical grammar, Second language acquisition



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 85 pages)


Lexical bundles (fixed sequences of three to four words) have been described as building blocks of discourse, both written and spoken (Biber & Barbieri, 2007), and as a useful mechanical device for creating writing that is suited for its academic field (Hyland, 2008). Having noticed that the academic theses of my students at Longdong University in Qingyang, China seemed very different from professional writing in their fields, I created a thesis project that addressed the question of how professionals in their fields were using bundles and how the learners' use of these bundles in terms of frequency, structure, and function varied from the professionals' use.

In order to answer this question, I compiled four corpora of writing in literature and applied linguistics, representing professional and learner writing in each field. I used concordancing software in order to identify four-word lexical bundles that occurred at least 20 times per 100,000 words and over a range of four texts. I then did a three-part analysis which looked at frequency, structure, and function of these bundles.

The results of the study reveal that professionals in applied linguistics and literature use bundles with different frequency, display different choices of lexical items to fill structural bundles, and use functional bundles differently. These differences seem to reflect the rhetorical needs of each discipline. Further, the learners in each field displayed differences in their use of bundles as compared to the professionals' use. Learners in applied linguistics used more types and tokens of bundles overall, while learners in literature used fewer. Both groups of learners relied more on repetitive use of certain bundles than did the professionals.

Implications of this study are discussed for teaching and curriculum development. The findings can be applied to teaching through creating awareness-raising and guided practice opportunities for the students to see how bundles are used in professional writing and to help them apply this understanding to their own writing.


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