Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Cohesive Devices in Argumentative, Descriptive, and Expository Writing Produced by Iranian Efl University Students

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Cohesive Devices in Argumentative, Descriptive, and Expository Writing Produced by Iranian Efl University Students

Article excerpt


Using Halliday and Hasan's (1976) taxonomy of cohesive devices and their framework for analysis, this study investigated the use of cohesive devices in 180 compositions (argumentative, descriptive, and expository) produced by Iranian EFL university students. It was found that the students were able to use a variety of cohesive devices in their writing, among which lexical devices formed the largest percentage of the total number of cohesive devices, followed by references and conjunctions. The scores of writing were also revealed to significantly co-vary with the number of reference devices and the total number of cohesive devices used. Besides, mode of composition has some effect in the frequency of using cohesive devices. And topic of composition accounted for variation in using cohesive devices. Moreover, certain problems such as misuse, overuse, and restriction were identified in the compositions due to the use of reference, conjunction, and lexical devices.

Keywords: Cohesive features, Argumentative writing, Descriptive Writing, Expository Writing, Reference device, Conjunction device, Lexical device

1. Introduction

There is no doubt that writing is the most difficult skill for L2 learners to master. The difficulty lies not only in generating and organizing ideas, but also in translating these ideas into readable text (Richards and Renandya, 2002) Cohesion and coherence, two important textual elements (Halliday and Hasan, 1976 and 1989), have long been recognized as important features of "good" writing. As a result, a person needs to write not only coherently but correctly, which requires much more time and skills. This is especially in EFL context, where exposure to English is limited to a few hours per week (Shokrpour & Fallahzadeh, 2007).

Research on cohesion and coherence in writing has been increasingly done since the publication of Cohesion in English (Halliday and Hasan, 1976). Halliday and Hasan propose that in any language, such grammatical and lexical devices as reference, ellipsis, substitution, conjunction and lexical cohesion create "texture" or coherence- the property of being a text. These devices form cohesive relations between sentences and elements in sentences, thus contributing to the coherence of the text.

2. Literature Review

A lot of studies about cohesion and coherence in ESL/EFL writing and even in English itself (Jafarpur, 1991, Johns, 1980, Johnson, 1992; and Zhang, 2000 and Hartnett, 1989 cited in Johnson, 1992) have been done by using of Halliday and Hasan's (1976) framework. However, the findings of these studies have been somewhat contradictory. Some have found that there is no difference in the deployment of cohesive devices in "good" and "weak" writing (Johnson, 1992 and Zhang, 2000). Others indicate that highly rated essays differ from low rated ones in the use of cohesive devices (Jafarpur, 1991). Some researchers found that compositions scored holistically high contain more cohesion than those scored low (Jafarpur, 1991). On the other hand, Zhang's (2000) study of cohesion in 107 expository compositions created by Chinese English majors showed there was no difference in the frequency of using cohesive devices between "good" and "weak" compositions. Johnson' (1992) findings also showed there was no difference in the degree of cohesion between "good" and "weak" compositions written in Malay by native speakers or in English by native and Malay speakers. In addition, it is generally agreed that highly rated essays contain more lexical collocations than do low rated essays (Johns, 1980 and Zhang, 2000). The researchers also hold that lexical cohesion is the most common category in both good and weak essays, followed by conjunction and reference (Johns, 1980 and Zhang, 2000).

At the same time, some peculiar features have also been identified in the writing of ESL/EFL learners (Olateju, 2006; Khalil, 1989; Wikborg, 1990; Dueraman2007). …

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