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Language transfer in L2 academic writings: a dependency grammar approach

Dependency distance (DD) is an important factor in language processing and can affect the ease with which a sentence is understood.

Language transfer in L2 academic writings: a dependency grammar approach

Previous studies have investigated the role of DD in L2 writing, but little is known about how the native language influences DD in L2 academic writing. This study is probably the first one that investigates, though a large dataset of over 400 million words, whether the native language of L2 writers influences the DD in their academic writings. Using a dataset of over 2.2 million abstracts of articles downloaded from Scopus in the fields of Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences, the study analyzes the DD patterns, parsed by the latest version of the syntactic parser Stanford Corenlp 4.5.5, in the academic writing of L2 learners from different language backgrounds. It is found that native languages influence the DD of English L2 academic writings. When the mean dependency distance (MDD) of native languages is much longer than that of native English, the MDD of their English L2 academic writings will be much longer than that of English native academic writings.

The findings of this study will deepen our insights into the influence of native language transfer on L2 academic writing, potentially shaping pedagogical strategies in L2 academic writing education.

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