Title: An anatomy of trilingualism: Cohesion in the English texts of Moroccan university students
How do non-native speakers create meaning in written English academic expository text? As in linguistics as a whole, the concentration of effort in Foreign Language pedogogy has until quite recently been centered around the sentence and the study of 'grammar'. As Halliday and Hasan said in their introduction to Cohesion in English (1975): "A relatively neglected aspect of the linguistic system is its resources for text construction . . . ." While linguists and composition specialists have increasingly recognized the importance of holistic textual analysis, practitioners within the university classroom still tend to focus their criticism of student texts at the local level.
This narrow perspective presents a particular problem for non-native writers; perhaps the biggest challenge for FL students composing in English is producing cohesive texts. This is certainly true for Moroccan students who come to English from a rich linguistic tradition that includes acquired written proficiency in Standard and Classical Arabic and French, as well as an oral background in Moroccan Arabic and sometimes Berber. This makes them sophisticated language learners with many linguistic resources available to them for composing text, but it does not mean that they are able to use these resources appropriately in English. As part of their English-language training, they are taught a set of transition words and phrases that they then rely on to connect sentences--and hopefully ideas.
Even when these transition words are used appropriately, however, their texts often remain incoherent. Why?
This research explores various cohesive devices in the English expository writing of first-year students at an English-medium university in Morocco. Linguistic patterns established by theme and thematic development, lexical cohesion, reference, transitivity, and conjunction will be analyzed from the point of view of appropriateness in terms of forwarding the intended meaning of the text.