PhD Research School in Linguistics and Philology

Bård Uri Jensen

Syntactic variables in pupils' writings: A comparison of handwritten and PC-written texts

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The aim of this project is to compare the distribution of syntactic variables in pupils’ texts that are hand-written and PC-written, respectively. Texts written in Norwegian by Norwegian pupils will be tagged for morphological and syntactic variables and analysed quantitatively.

Not much work has been done on the syntactic properties of pupils’ texts. The theoretical foundation of the project is therefore based on research on syntactic variation across different genres of spoken and written language. Halliday suggests that time constraints on utterance production affect the syntax in that the increased time pressure results in less information dense and more syntactically complex constructions in speech than in writing. Quantitatively, this typically results in more subordination, a lower type/token ratio and a lower lexical density. Biber emphasises production constraints over text mode and finds correlations between spontaneous language production and a number of syntactic variables. Moreover, a study from the 1960’s concludes that faster writing/typing modes correlate with variables often associated with speech.

My hypothesis is that for pupils whose typing is faster than their hand-writing, typing will produce texts which display properties which e.g. Halliday and Biber assign to the more spontaneous genres, given that the time for the writing is relatively short, and thus not providing for extensive editing.

Uri Jensen works at the Hedmark University College.