Second Language Writers' Text: Linguistic and Rhetorical Features

Second Language Writers' Text: Linguistic and Rhetorical Features

Second Language Writers' Text: Linguistic and Rhetorical Features

Second Language Writers' Text: Linguistic and Rhetorical Features


This comprehensive and detailed analysis of second language writers' text identifies explicitly and quantifiably where their text differs from that of native speakers of English. The book is based on the results of a large-scale study of university-level native-speaker and non-native-speaker essays written in response to six prompts. Specifically, the research investigates the frequencies of uses of 68 linguistic (syntactic and lexical) and rhetorical features in essays written by advanced non-native speakers compared with those in the essays of native speakers enrolled in first-year composition courses. The selection of features for inclusion in this analysis is based on their textual functions and meanings, as identified in earlier research on English language grammar and lexis. Such analysis is valuable because it can inform the teaching of grammar and lexis, as well as discourse, and serve as a basis for second language curriculum and course design; and provide valuable insight for second language pedagogical applications of the study's findings.


Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral [philosophy], grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.

(Sir Francis Bacon, 1561—1626, Of Studies)

Some fifty years ago, when I was an undergraduate at a small liberal arts college, I was asked one day by the then Dean of Students whether I would mind rooming with the institution's first three foreign students—a Czech, a Frenchman, and a German. All had the equivalent of high school diploma. All were worldly and courageous; or they would not have attempted what has come to be called International Educational Exchange. The reason for the Dean's invitation grew from the fact that I was a bit older than most of my classmates, had traveled a bit, and spoke French and Russian reasonably well; I was delighted with the opportunity. (There was as yet to be an ESL course at the institution; indeed, there were few such courses besides the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan. Of course, I had no knowledge of the Michigan ELI.) The Dean had specifically charged me with helping these foreign students learn English, especially with the writing of academic English, about which my knowledge was comparable to that of any other undergraduate—my writing was, as my English professor remarked, very good and very original, but where it was good it was not original, and where it was original it was not good.

Once ensconced together in our dorm room, our conversations were astonishing tours deforce. The Czech student spoke Russian and German, so he could translate for the German student; I spoke Russian, so I could converse with the Czech student; and I spoke French, so I could converse with the French student and could relay information from the French student . . .

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