Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language

First Advisor

Ute Roemer

Second Advisor

Diane Belcher

Third Advisor

Stephanie Lindemann

Fourth Advisor

Anna Mauranen


Recent English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) research has started to document the general characteristics of academic writing by international scholars from different linguistic (similectal) and disciplinary backgrounds, as well as the complex patterns of variation that shape these characteristics. However, not only is this line of research in its infancy, studies are also generally small-scale, resulting in a limited understanding of the complexities of ELF academic writing. Adopting a Construction Grammar (CxG) approach, this study aims to comprehensively examine the distinctive constructions, here defined as multi-word sequences with discourse-functional properties in three corpora of academic writing from 50 disciplines in the social and natural sciences. These corpora are: (1) an unedited ELF corpus of 140 texts by non-native scholars from nine different similects (L1s) in the social and natural sciences; (2) an edited ELF corpus that matches the similects and disciplines in the unedited ELF corpus; and (3) an edited English as a Native Language (ENL) corpus that matches the disciplines in the ELF corpora. A range of corpus analytic methods were used to identify distinctive constructions around key function words. The target constructions were first analyzed in terms of forms and functions across corpora. Then, similectal and disciplinary variation in the use of these constructions were investigated via robust multivariate statistical tests.

The findings support previous research in that ELF writers use conventional features of academic writing such as nominals, and passives more often than ENL writers. Their use of constructions including low-frequency prepositions with nominal complements, predicative adjectives, and determiners, however, show remarkable disciplinary and similectal variation. As a result, conventionality and simplification are argued to be two important “universals” of ELF, that is, general features across different disciplines and similects, regarding high-frequency constructions. However, the high degree of similectal and disciplinary variation in the use of the low-frequency constructions points to the complexity inherent in ELF as the only “universal” characterizing their usage. Implications of the study for future research on the diversity of written scientific communication and pedagogy are discussed in light of the findings.


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