Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Loretta Gray

Second Committee Member

Charles X. Li

Third Committee Member

Penglin Wang


This study identified the patterns that represent the unconventional ways that students used how in academic essays, determined the frequency of each pattern, and for the sake of comparison, searched for those patterns in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), in both the spoken and academic written registers. The results showed that a sample of first-year students at Central Washington University (CWU) used the complementizer how as that in their essays, a usage more common in spoken registers. However, there was some evidence of how as that in academic COCA searches, showing that the usage may be in the early stages of becoming acceptable by academic standards. Additionally, students misused how semantically in some sentences and misused how both semantically and syntactically in others. Finally, students also used how to mean the fact/opinion that. Students may have used how in these different ways because separating academic and spoken register conventions is difficult, because they lack an understanding of verb and prepositional complement patterns, or because they used synonyms provided by a thesaurus without realizing that the synonyms required different complement patterns.