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Linguistic analysis of English texts for academic purposes and material design for Thai university students

Uthaipattrakoon, Kasama (1989) Linguistic analysis of English texts for academic purposes and material design for Thai university students. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The problems facing students of English as a foreign language in Thailand have received little attention, particularly at advanced levels. There is a desperate need for appropriate teaching materials taking account of students’ academic background and needs. Current linguistic and methodological theories should be applied to the preparation of appropriate syllabuses and course materials with full consideration of the realities of the teaching situation. At the decision-making level of Thai universities a vigorous argument is in progress as to whether English for Academic Purposes (EAP) should replace General English to what extent and at what levels.

This thesis aims to establish systematic and practicable criteria for applying linguistic analysis to the design and preparation of teaching materials. It attempts to resolve the problems relating to linguistic applications in particular situations. The current English teaching situation in Thai universities is described with a focus on Silpakorn University. A survey was first made of students’ language needs as perceived by teachers of a number of academic disciplines and by the students themselves. A questionnaire was designed to assess the students’ specific requirements faculty by faculty with a view to relating these to teaching objectives. This highlighted the need for sophisticated reading skills in the foreign langauge.

A detailed linguistic analysis of academic reading texts was then carried out to specify the most relevant problem areas. Halliday’s Systemic-Functional Grammar proved to be the most appropriate and sensitive linguistic model for taking account of the multidimensionality of language and pinpointing how language performs its communicative functions in various genres of academic texts. However, it is necessary to extend the analysis beyond sentence level to the larger patterns of written discourse structure. This is made possible by recent theoretical work in discourse analysis to which this thesis attempts to make a contribution. The linguistic and rhetorical patterns observed have been illustrated in diagrams which can be extended to help structure language teaching syllabuses as demonstrated in the design of a pilot EAP course based on scientific texts selected from among those recommended by subject specialists at the university. This incorporated the general characteristics of scientific texts and the dominant linguistic skills required for satisfactorily completing reading assignments.

A further important factor to be considered was students of English. A survey of recent research in contrastive analysis of Thai and English and of error analysis made it possible to pinpoint the most relevant features for practice in terms of students’ known difficulties.

The significance of such extralinguistic factors as grading, selection, organisation, the specification of learning situations and learning objectives was also taken into account in preparing the pilot materials. Four modules were designed and tested in a pilot teaching experiment carried out in normal teaching conditions at Silpakorn University. A detailed evaluation of this pilot project indicated that the adopted approach holds promise for the future design of teaching materials for EAP although a number of significant modifications will be required in longer term work to be carried out by a team of linguists and teachers in the Silpakorn English Language Department.

The thesis demonstrates the appropriacy of a functional linguistic analysis for the design of language teaching materials as long as due regard is paid to the specific features of the learning situation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): O'Toole, Michael
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