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To weep perilously or W.EAP critically: the case for a corpus-based critical EAP

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Chapter Summary

As English increasingly functions as the lingua franca of international business and the transfer of technology and skills, universities in the ‘inner circles’ have become knowledge providers to an expanding students population that have English as an Additional Language (EAL). In the Pacific region, Australian and New Zealand universities in particular have seen their EAL student intake increase manifold. Accordingly, programmes and support services in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) have sprouted in the last ten years to help bridge the gap in knowledge many EAL students experience when first confronted with the learning, language and research requirements of higher institutions in these ‘inner circle’ countries. In teaching and learning EAP at the postgraduate level, such as thesis writing, a specialised corpus can serve as a useful intellectual resource for unravelling the ‘mysteriousness’ of academic writing whilst simultaneously assessing conventional academic practice. Critics of corpus linguistics, however, warn that a corpus approach may contain the hidden message that the native speaker knows best, hence representing elements of linguistic imperialism. It could indeed be argued that providing students with a narrow corpus based on the norms and values of the native speaker elite is pragmatic in its perpetuation of the status quo that marginalises non-native speakers of English. Moreover, such provision is likely to impede the role modern universities hold of being fair, open and accessible to all ‘stakeholders’ irrespective of their gender, race, class and linguistic background. In the context of English as an International Language (EIL), the paper argues that EAP corpora need to reflect the dynamic nature of English as an international medium of communication, and be guided by a critical pedagogy that empowers EAL students and presents prevailing conventions in academic writing as social and historical constructions open to negotiation and transformation. In this paper, the author discusses the importance of EIL oriented corpora from the perspective of university education in bicultural New Zealand, argues the need for such corpus tools, and presents activities which incorporate a corpus-based critical EAP that allows EAL students to make informed choices and negotiate space in Writing English for Academic Purposes (W.EAP) and EAP in general. A brief analogy is further drawn to the position of W.EAP in the European Union.



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