The ELFA project

Academic research blogs

The research blog subcorpus consists of a sample of posts from 40 different research blogs, all of which are maintained by L2 users of English. Eight complete posts with any accompanying comments were collected from each blog, with the exception of The Reference Frame (TRF) string physics blog. Only four complete blogs were compiled from this site due to their length, and especially due to the large number of comments. It became clear that TRF was exceptionally active in terms of discussion among the blogs in our sample, and thus a unique source of interactive data.

As the 40 blogs overall yielded less discussion data in the comments than we had hoped, an additional subcorpus of only discussion text (i.e. not including the original posts) was collected from TRF. This data included discussion from 26 physics-related posts published in Jan.-Feb. 2011. These additional 67,390 words of text further skew the blogs corpus toward the natural sciences, but there was never a question of balancing this subcorpus; the genre of research blogging is far more active in the sciences, and only five blogs were found from the social sciences or humanities that met our compilation principles. By adding this TRF discussion material, the percentage of total words by outside commenters on the blogs rose to 22%:

Calculated differently, all the discussion in comments (including bloggers and commenters together) amounts to 35% of words (129,912) in the blogs subcorpus with 65% of words (241,979) coming from the original blog posts. Due to the overrepresentation of natural sciences (and especially physics) in the sample and in the genre as a whole, the overall distribution of texts is heavily skewed toward the Sci category, with 89% of words in the blogs subcorpus:

The additional SSH texts in the other components of the corpus help balance this additional material from natural sciences, and the overall distribution of Sci texts throughout WrELFA is therefore reasonably well balanced at 55% of total words. It should be kept in mind, however, that the concentration of blog texts in the natural sciences will likely affect some results due to the more dialogic nature of the genre, and this should be taken into account when interpreting findings.

Due to the large amount of text in the corpus that is provided by visitors to the blogs, the largest L1 category in the blogs subcorpus is “unknown”. In addition to the 18 L1s identified among the bloggers, there are 180 unique commenters in The Reference Frame data alone, and this is an international mix of authors from unknown backgrounds, in varying degrees of anonymity, and with L1 English in the lingua franca mix. Overall, the top 10 L1 categories in the blogs subcorpus subsume 31 of the 40 blogs and 87% of words:

Concerning the authors’ academic roles, we find a reverse situation to the PhD examiner reports. While those were centred on senior staff, more than half of the data in the blogs subcorpus come from PhD students (11 blogs, 19% of words) and junior academic staff (12 blogs, 40% of words). Senior staff at the professorial level account for only eight blogs in the corpus:

For more information on the composition of the research blog subcorpus, see this post from the ELFA project research blog.


Suggested citation

WrELFA 2015. The Corpus of Written English as a Lingua Franca in Academic Settings. Director: Anna Mauranen. Compilation manager: Ray Carey. http://www.helsinki.fi/elfa/blogs.html. (last access).

News

  • For research blogging on ELF, see the ELFA project blog.
  • Anna Mauranen has published a chapter on academic ELF in New Frontiers in Teaching and Learning English, edited by Paola Vettorel (Cambridge Scholars).
  • An intensive course on ELF is offered by researchers from the ELFA project in the Helsinki Summer School, Aug. 4–20, 2015. For description of the course, see the ELFA blog.
  • Niina Hynninen has published an article in the Journal of English as a Lingua Franca 3(2) entitled "The Common European Framework of Reference from the perspective of English as a lingua franca: What we can learn from a focus on language regulation".
  • Svetlana Vetchinnikova has defended her PhD thesis, Second language lexis and the idiom principle. Read the abstract and download the full text from Helsinki's E-thesis service.
  • Maria Kuteeva & Anna Mauranen have edited a special issue of the Journal of English for Academic Purposes 13: Writing for publication in multilingual contexts. Find their introduction here.
  • Kaisa Pietikäinen has published an article entitled ELF couples and automatic code-switching in the Journal of English as a Lingua Franca 3(1).