Noun Phrase Complexity in Academic Writing: A Comparison of Research Proposals Written by Chinese EFL and Malaysian ESL Postgraduates

  •  Yao Peng    
  •  Nur Amalia Athifah Binti Azmi    


An increasing body of scholars have investigated noun phrase complexity in L2 English writing from varied perspectives, but few of them focus on the differences of the English writing produced by EFLs and ESLs. Thus, the study explored how three international postgraduates from China and three local Malaysian postgraduates in a top university of Malaysia differ in noun modification. The noun modifiers in their research proposals were coded, categorized, counted, and compared. Based on the findings, the EFLs used premodifiers more frequently than the other group, especially for attributive adjectives and nouns as premodifiers, while the ESLs made more frequent use of advanced postmodifiers, including prepositions other than ‘of’ as postmodifiers to express both concrete/locative meanings and abstract meanings, and multiple prepositional phrases with levels of embedding. The findings highlighted the need to implement explicit individualized instruction for the students with different L1 backgrounds but within the same classroom. 

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