UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Acceptability and authority in chinese and non-chinese english teachers' judgment of language use in english writing by chinese university students Heng Hartse, Joel


This study solicits Chinese and non-Chinese English teachers’ judgments of linguistic (un)acceptability in writing by presenting teachers with essays by Chinese university students and asking them to comment on unacceptable features. Studies of error and variation in first and second language writing studies have often focused on errors in writers’ texts (see Bitchener & Ferris, 2012), but recent sociolinguistic perspectives used in this study take a broader view, considering variations from standard written English in light of the globalization of English. These perspectives, including world Englishes (Canagarajah, 2006; Matsuda & Matsuda, 2010), English as a Lingua Franca (Horner, 2011; Jenkins, 2014), and translingual (Canagarajah, 2013; Horner, Lu, Royster, & Trimbur, 2011) approaches to L2 writing, are applicable to academic English writing in international contexts. This study thus adopts a non-error-based approach to teachers’ reactions to nonstandard language use in Chinese students’ English writing, using the construct of “acceptability” (Greenbaum, 1977). The study includes two parts: first, it solicits a group (n=46) of Chinese (n=30) and non-Chinese (n=16) English language teachers’ judgments of (un)acceptability by presenting teachers with seven essays by Chinese university students and asking them to comment on unacceptable features. Second, in follow-up interviews (n=20), the study examines teachers’ explanations for accepting or rejecting features of students’ writing and the ways in which they claim the authority to make these judgments. Using these methods, the study is able to determine which lexical and grammatical features of the texts the Chinese and non-Chinese participants judge to be unacceptable, how participants react when they encounter putative features of Chinese English and English as a Lingua Franca, and how they describe their authority to make judgments of linguistic unacceptability. The study finds wide variation in the features of the texts that participants judge as unacceptable, and identifies some possible differing priorities in the Chinese and non-Chinese teachers’ judgments. It also describes how participants from both groups claim authority in judgments, variously positioning themselves as mediators, educators, and language users. The study adds to a body of scholarship which suggests that the identification of “errors” in writing is highly variable and contextual.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada