Speaking and writing in the university

A multidimensional comparison

Douglas E Biber, Susan Conrad, Randi Reppen, Pat Byrd, Marie Helt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

135 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The dozens of studies on academic discourse carried out over the past 20 years have mostly focused on written academic prose (usually the technical research article in science or medicine) or on academic lectures. Other registers that may be more important for students adjusting to university life, such as textbooks, have received surprisingly little attention, and spoken registers such as study groups or on-campus service encounters have been virtually ignored. To explain more fully the nature of the tasks that incoming international students encounter, this article undertakes a comprehensive linguistic description of the range of spoken and written registers at U.S. universities. Specifically, the article describes a multidimensional analysis of register variation in the TOEFL 2000 Spoken and Written Academic Language Corpus. The analysis shows that spoken registers are fundamentally different from written ones in university contexts, regardless of purpose. Some of the register characterizations are particularly surprising. For example, classroom teaching was similar to the conversational registers in many respects, and departmental brochures and Web pages were as informationally dense as textbooks. The article discusses the implications of these findings for pedagogy and future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-48
Number of pages40
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2002

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speaking
textbook
university
study group
student
medicine
linguistics
classroom
discourse
Teaching
language
science
Textbooks
US Universities
Multidimensional Analysis
TOEFL
Academic Language
Language Corpora
Academic Lectures
Campus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics

Cite this

Speaking and writing in the university : A multidimensional comparison. / Biber, Douglas E; Conrad, Susan; Reppen, Randi; Byrd, Pat; Helt, Marie.

In: TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2002, p. 9-48.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Biber, Douglas E ; Conrad, Susan ; Reppen, Randi ; Byrd, Pat ; Helt, Marie. / Speaking and writing in the university : A multidimensional comparison. In: TESOL Quarterly. 2002 ; Vol. 36, No. 1. pp. 9-48.
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