North China Electric Power University (CHINA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 6362-6369
ISBN: 978-84-608-5617-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2016.0494
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract noun could be traced back to general noun proposed by Halliday & Hasan in 1976, which is usually used to express complicated idea and unspecific meaning. Compared with Chinese language that usually choose concrete words to describe abstract concepts, one of the distinct features of English is the extensive use of abstract nouns. As Charles summerized in her study of two corpora of theses, the ability to handle nouns shall be an important skill for writers because the successful encapsulation of information led to an argument which could be clearly structured and more convincing. According to Cai Jigang, abstract nouns could be classified into three major categories by their formation sources, namely verbal nexus-word (transformed from verbs), predicative-word (transformed from adjectives) and intrinsic abstract nouns.

The present paper studied the writings done by Chinese learners of English as Foreign Language (EFL). Based on the data and corpus analysis, the general frequency of abstract noun and abstract noun structure were found on an extremely low level. Among the three categories, verbal nexus-word was the least used by Chinese English learners. Intrinsic abstract noun and predicative-word were only found among the top 50 most frequent used nouns. The result indicated the insufficient usage of abstract nouns among EFL students. Previous studies showed that students who performed better in EFL studies tended to use more abstract noun structures in their academic writing. The paper then put forward practical ways to integrate abstract noun usage with writing practices for academic writing purpose, based on specific abstract noun groups, namely idea group, argument group, evidence group, possibility group, etc. For further research, different teaching methods of vocabulary input on University level could be put into comparison to test their effectiveness.
Abstract noun, EFL writing, corpus study.