A Corpus-based Study on Shell Nouns in “N + that” Construction in Popular Science Discourse: Rachel Carson’s Works as Example
By adopting the corpus-based approach, the present study compares the frequency of use, semantic distribution, and stance expression of shell nouns in the “N + that” clause in popular science discourse compared with academic writing. The results show that, firstly, the frequency of use of shell nouns in the “N + that” clause in popular science is lower than that in academic discourse. Secondly, the semantic coverage of shell nouns in popular science discourse is smaller than that in academic discourse, but its semantic proportion distribution is roughly the same, mainly including mental and linguistic shell nouns. Thirdly, in popular science discourse and academic discourse, the proportion of shell nouns with epistemic stances occupies an absolute advantage, while the proportion of shell nouns with attitudinal stances is less. The proportion of shell nouns expressing attitudinal stance in popular science discourse is greater than that in academic discourse.