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Importance marking in EMI lectures: A comparative study
Deroey, Katrien; Johnson, Jane Helen
2021International Online Spring Conference, Higher Education in Israel Network of English Teachers


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Keywords :
EMI; lecture discourse; importance marking
Abstract :
[en] In this presentation we focus on how lecturers mark important information in their lectures. Being able to identify important information is fundamental to the learning process (Benson, 1989, p. 437), and the different levels of information in a lecture may be highlighted through a careful choice of language, including explicit macro markers (Chaudron & Richards, 1986; Allison & Tauroza, 1995; Jung, 2003; Titsworth & Kiewra, 2004). Previous research has focussed particularly on importance markers in native speaking (NS) lecturer discourse (e.g. Crawford Camiciottoli 2004; Deroey & Taverniers 2011, 2012; Deroey 2012, 2014, 2015). Our study expands this research to compare the use of lexicogrammatical importance markers in both NS and non-native speaker (NNS) lectures. A specially compiled corpus of about 365,000 words of Physical Science lectures was used in our study, featuring a balanced number of words from lectures in Italy (Johnson & Picciuolo, 2020; Picciuolo & Johnson, 2020) as well as in New Zealand, the UK and Malaysia (‘Engineering Lecture Corpus’ ). A qualitative analysis was done to annotate all instances of markers evaluating the importance of lecture content. These included verb, adjective or noun phrases containing an evaluation of importance. Assessment-related expressions were also marked. 378 separate instances were identified. More delicate analysis of the importance-marking phrases was done, with distributions and variations in frequent patterns identified in both NS and NNS lectures. While Verb phrases were found to be the most frequent in both NS and NNS lectures (62%), there was variation in the type of Verb patterns according to NS and NNS, as well as in verb choice. In general, though importance markers were distributed evenly over NS (=191) and NNS (=187) lectures, NS showed more variety than NNS in the type of pattern used, with adjective, metanoun and assessment-related expressions as well as idiomatic expressions figuring more frequently than in NNS, although there were significant differences also within the NS and NNS sub-corpora themselves. Whether these findings show that NNS are more aware of the risks of misunderstanding among their international student audiences (House, 2003; Mauranen, 2006), and thus use a smaller variety of less ambiguous importance markers, or that NNS have fewer language resources to draw on in the first place, awareness-raising among EMI lecturers is vital when preparing teacher training materials, given the expansion of ELF in international academic contexts where both lecturers and students are non-native speakers. References Allison, D., & Tauroza S. (1995). The effect of discourse organisation on lecture comprehension. English for Specific Purposes 14: 157-173. Benson, M.J. (1989). The Academic Listening Task: a case study. TESOL quarterly, vol. 23(3) 421-445. Chaudron, C., & Richards J. C. (1986). The effect of discourse markers on the comprehension of lectures. Applied Linguistics, vol. 7 (2) 113-127. Crawford Camiciottoli, B. (2004). Audience-oriented relevance markers in business studies lectures. In Del Lungo Camiciotti, G. & Tognini Bonelli, E. (Eds.), Academic Discourse: New Insights into Evaluation. Peter Lang, pp. 81–98. Deroey, K. L. B. (2012). What they highlight is: the discourse functions of basic wh-clefts in lectures. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11/2: 112–24. Deroey, K.L.B. (2014). ‘Anyway, the point I'm making is': lexicogrammatical relevance marking in lectures. In Vandelanotte L., Kristin, D. Caroline G. & Ditte K. (Eds.), Recent advances in Corpus Linguistics: Developing and exploiting corpora, Amsterdam/New York, Rodopi, 265-291. Deroey, K. L. B. (2015) Marking importance in lectures: Interactive and Textual Orientation. Applied Linguistics 2015: 36/1: 51-72. Deroey, K. L. B., & Taverniers, M. (2011). A corpus-based study of lecture functions. Moderna Sprak 105/2: 1–22. Deroey, K. L. B., & Taverniers, M. (2012). Just remember this: Lexicogrammatical relevance markers in lectures. English for Specific Purposes. 31 (4) 221-233. House, J. (2003). Misunderstanding in intercultural university encounters. In House J., Kasper G and Ross S. (Eds.), Misunderstanding in social life: discourse approaches to problematic talk, London: Longman, 22-56. Johnson, J. H., & Picciuolo, M. (2020). Interaction in spoken academic discourse in an EMI context: the use of questions. Conference proceedings of the Congress UPV 6th International Conference on Higher Education Advances (HEAd’20) Domenech, J., Merello, P., de la Poza, E. & Peña-Ortiz, R. (Eds.), Editorial Universitat Politècnica de València, pp. 211-219. Mauranen, A. (2006). Signalling and preventing misunderstanding in English as a lingua franca communication. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 177: 123-150. Picciuolo, M., & Johnson, J. H. (2020). Contrasting EMI lecturers’ perceptions with practices at the University of Bologna. In Miller, D.R. (Ed.), Quaderni del CeSLiC. Occasional papers. Bologna: Centro di Studi Linguistico-Culturali (CeSLiC), Università di Bologna. AlmaDL, p. 23. http://amsacta.unibo.it/6399/ Titsworth, S. B., & Kiewra, K.A. (2004). Spoken organizational lecture cues and student notetaking as facilitators of student learning. Contemporary Educational Psychology 29: 447-461.
Disciplines :
Languages & linguistics
Author, co-author :
Deroey, Katrien ;  University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (FHSE) > Department of Humanities (DHUM)
Johnson, Jane Helen;  University of Bologna
External co-authors :
Language :
Title :
Importance marking in EMI lectures: A comparative study
Publication date :
23 February 2021
Event name :
International Online Spring Conference, Higher Education in Israel Network of English Teachers
Event organizer :
Higher Education in Israel Network of English Teachers
Event date :
Audience :
Focus Area :
Educational Sciences
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since 04 March 2021


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