Academic writing as a locus of grammatical change The development of phrasal complexity features

Bethany Gray, Douglas E Biber

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Based on large-scale corpus analysis, this study challenges the notion that academic writing is conservative and resistant to change by documenting linguistic innovations that have emerged in academic writing over the past 200 years. The study explores the dramatic patterns of change that have culminated in the present-day phrasal discourse style of academic writing. The study demonstrates that academic writing today employs a dense use of phrasal complexity features which were minimally used in earlier historical periods. Cross-register comparisons show that these features have largely not been adopted in other spoken and written registers, and none to the extent as in academic writing. The results, which illustrate that these changes have been both quantitative and functional in nature, thus challenge not only the view that academic writing is resistant to change, but also the claim that grammatical innovation originates primarily in speech.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationStudies in Corpus Linguistics
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages30
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Education
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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