The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics

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Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 22

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Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 22, No. 0, pp. 40-54
Abbreviation: KASELL
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print) 2586-7474 (Online)
Print publication date 31 Jan 2022
Received 01 Oct 2021 Revised 22 Jan 2022 Accepted 27 Jan 2022

Causality in English Academic Writing: A Case of Research Articles in Applied Linguistics and Physical Chemistry
Sun-Young Oh
Professor, Department of English Language Education, Seoul National University, Tel: 02) 880-7675 (

© 2022 KASELL All rights reserved
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study examines how causality is conveyed in English academic writing, with a special focus on the comparison between two contrasting disciplines, i.e., applied linguistics (AL) and physical chemistry (PC). Two academic corpora were compiled with research articles from each discipline, and a total of 135 explicit causative devices were analyzed for their frequency and use in each corpus and compared with the finding from a corpus of general written English (Xuelan and Kennedy 1992, Expressing causation in written English. RELC Journal 23(1), 62-80). The results indicate that frequent representation of the relation of cause and effect is one of the defining characteristics of academic prose, irrespective of disciplines. Another common feature of English academic writing, in contrast to general written English, regarding the expression of causality was the heavy reliance on the nominal category. A careful inspection of the data revealed subtle differences between the two disciplines including some preferred causality markers and their divergent phraseology, which are associated with distinctive epistemic conventions of each discipline. These findings are discussed in terms of the nature of academic writing and of hard versus soft disciplines, with some pedagogical implications drawn for English for academic purposes.

Keywords: causality, cause, effect, academic writing, corpus, EAP


I would like to thank Ju Young Min for her help with data retrieval and coding and two anonymous reviewers for useful suggestions on an earlier version of this article.

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