Xu, Ruiyun and Winser, Bill
Faculty of Education
The University of Wollongong

Ruiyun Xu and Bill Winser
Faculty of Education
University of Wollongong
Northfields Ave.
NSW Australia 2522


Strand: Discourse English

Title: Patterns in the Use of Cohesive Devices in Expository Writing by Chinese ESL Learners and Native English Speakers

Non-native speakers of English at the tertiary level often have difficulty in writing adequate English academic prose. Research in the field of English as a Second Language (ESL) writing in the past few years has been trying to find solutions for different problems. An interesting area to researchers is the field of contrastive rhetorics -- the study of English texts written by people with different language backgrounds. Its hypothesis is that, when speakers from non-English speaking cultural and language backgrounds write in English, their discourse may reflect the patterns employed in their cultures. This small corpus study, by analyzing some language factors associated with the concept of cohesion in discourse, examined some expository texts written in English both by native speakers of Chinese and by native English speakers in order to see whether there exist important differences in the use of cohesive devices between the two language backgrounds. Results of the analyses showed frequent co-occurrence of such certain cohesive devices as references, conjunction and lexical cohesion (with little evidence of ellipsis and substitution) that differed significantly between the two language backgrounds. This research has some significant implications for teaching ESL writing; with regard to information organization, it is important that we help students develop their pragmatic competence in writing English academic prose. They must learn to understand the expectations of the academic readers and to use both linguistic and rhetorical patterns that fulfil those expectations.