Grammatical Complexity in Academic English uses corpus-based analyses to challenge a number of dominant stereotypes and assumptions within linguistics. Biber and Gray tackle the nature of grammatical complexity, demonstrating that embedded phrasal structures are as important as embedded dependent clauses. The authors also overturn ingrained assumptions about linguistic change, showing that grammatical change occurs in writing as well as speech. This work establishes that academic writing is structurally compressed (rather than elaborated); that it is often not explicit in the expression of meaning; and that scientific academic writing has been the locus of some of the most important grammatical changes in English over the past 200 years (rather than being conservative and resistant to change). Supported throughout with textual evidence, this work is essential reading for discourse analysts, sociolinguists, and applied linguists, as well as descriptive linguists and historical linguists.
1. Academic writing: challenging the stereotypes; 2. Using corpora to analyze grammatical change; 3. Phrasal versus clausal discourse styles: a synchronic grammatical description of academic writing contrasted with other registers; 4. The historical evolution of phrasal discourse styles in academic writing; 5. The functional extension of phrasal grammatical features in academic writing; 6. The loss of explicitness in academic research writing; 7. Conclusion.
Douglas Biber is Regents' Professor of Applied Linguistics in the English Department at Northern Arizona University. Bethany Gray is Assistant Professor of English (Applied Linguistics and Technology) at Iowa State University.
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