N + P clusters in freshman composition
Craig, Elizabeth Claiborne
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This study addresses the lexical difficulties that English as a second/foreign language learners demonstrate with regard to preposition usage in their academic writing. After taking a look at the types of errors learners make with regard to prepositions, this study examines native speaker usage of N + P clusters in a 500,000-word corpus of freshman essays at a four-year, tier-one research university in the southeastern U.S. N + P clusters designate those nouns that are commonly post-modified by prepositional phrases functioning adjectivally. An N + P cluster then consists of a preposition plus its most frequent and robust nominal left colligates as in access to, amount(s) of, increase(s) in, and effect(s) on. N + P clusters used with high frequencies by native speakers in the academic register of expository writing are found with the aid of a concordancer software program by first targeting the ten most frequent prepositions in the Corpus and then determining their most frequent nominal left colligates. The degree of attraction between particular nouns and prepositions is determined through a proportional analysis, and a semantic taxonomy of the most robust N + P clusters is then applied as an aid to functional presentations of academic vocabulary. It is suggested that the teaching of such N + P clusters in a lexico-grammatical approach would benefit L2 learners in their efforts to achieve native-like fluency and accuracy with regard to preposition usage and nominal density in second language writing. Included are implications for the further investigation of N + P clusters in academic writing for EAP materials design, especially for content-area vocabulary.