Journal of Second Language Writing


Volume 9 (2000)
[ No. 1 | No. 2 | No. 3 ]

Editorial Board
Table of Contents
Information for Authors
The JSLW Award
About the Editors
About the Publisher
| Comprehensive Abstracts |
| Vol. 1 (1992) | Vol. 2 (1993) | Vol. 3 (1994) | Vol. 4 (1995) |
| Vol. 5 (1996) | Vol. 6 (1997) | Vol. 7 (1998) | Vol. 8 (1999) |
| Vol. 9 (2000) | Vol. 10 (2001) | Vol. 11 (2002) | Vol. 12 (2003) |
| Vol. 13 (2004) | Vol. 14 (2005) |

Subscription information is available from Elsevier Science.
For information about obtaining a copy of
 JSLW articles, click HERE.

Volume 9, Number 1 (2000)

On the Future of Second Language Writing: A Colloquium

Humboldt State University
Temple University, Japan
University of California
Purdue University

Editors' note: Publishing the articles read at an L2 writing colloquium is new for the Journal of Second Language Writing. Furthermore, we would not normally publish our own work in this journal. However because of its focus on the future of L2 writing, we felt that JSLW readers would find this discussion particularly vital and asked Terry Santos to guest edit the articles read at the TESOL Colloquium she organized in order to include them in this first of the year/century/millennium issue of the JSLW. (Ilona Leki)

"On the future of second language writing" originated as a colloquium at the 1999 TESOL Convention in New York. The topic arose from what seemed to a few of us on the panel as an interesting, or even alarming, paradox: that on one hand, L2 writing has become an independent field in applied linguistics for the first time in 60 years, i.e., the modern history of TESOL. On the other hand, however, the number of L2 writing specialists with Ph.D.s in applied linguistics does not seem to be increasing; the major figures in L2 writing can be counted on the fingers of two hands, and of those, only a few teach in Ph.D. programs. If these facts are true, what will they mean for the future of the field? As the following articles make clear, the five of us were by no means of one mind on this question, and as we outlined our various positions, we tended to fall at different points along a continuum of pessimism to optimism, which became the basis for the order of presentation of our articles. In sharing our views with a wider audience, we would like to open the discussion to all of you and invite you to join it. (Introduction by Terry Santos)

Literature and L2 Composition: Revisiting the Debate

Ohio State University

The role of literature in the composition classroom has long been controversial. In this article, we examine the arguments both for and against the use of literature by, first, surveying the main stances taken in L1 composition pedagogical theory, which predate and have significantly influenced L2 composition, and then by reviewing L2 compositionists' own perspectives on literature. The L2 arguments can be seen as resonating, but at the same time, diverging from those of L I writing theory. Yet, all can be interpreted as responses to by now familiar themes in both L2 and L1 compositions, such as process versus product, academic discourse community initiation versus preparation for life, and hegemony of the established elite versus empowerment of the less privileged. Our goal in this review of the long-standing debate is not to encourage polarization for or against literature, but rather to provide, through the varied perspectives presented, a basis for informed decisions about the possible value of literature in particular contexts in which teachers and their students find themselves.

L2 Professional Writing in a US and South American Context

Ohio University

Using research methods that assess cross-cultural rhetorical differences at three levels, this study explores two cases of professional writing among US and South American personnel in one multinational organization in Quito, Ecuador. One major rhetorical difference was the pronounced need of many of the South Americans for historical and contextual information. In addition, the US writer consistently re-worked the concrete and particular patterns of the South Americans into more abstract and universal patterns for his US audiences. Finally, many of the South American documents exhibited accumulated logical structures, which the US writer revised to be more analytical for his US audiences. These differences in history, context, particularism, and accumulative logic seemed to reflect very predominant cultural patterns because they correlated closely with other cross-cultural studies. However, some rhetorical differences such as originality and hypercodification reflected local usage while others, such as distance and procedures, seemed based on personal choice and adaptation to specific audiences. Thus, this study exemplifies the larger, cultural and rhetorical patterns that seem central to basic theories of contrastive rhetoric, but it also highlights the exceptions and preferences that are based on local and individual needs.

Volume 9, Number 2 (2000)

Professional Writing and the Role of Incidental Collaboration: Evidence from a Medical Setting

Universite Laval, Quebec, Canada

Despite a long-standing interest in the workplace, research that explores how employees working in a second language develop competence in written genres is scant. Drawing on a 22-month qualitative study, which involved francophone nurses employed in an English-medium hospital, the present article reports on how incidental' collaboration played a significant role in enabling them to appropriate genre-specific language. Analysis revealed that interventions targeted three levels of text structure-linguistic, rhetorical and informational. Although most interventions were initiated by the nurses themselves (self initiated), colleagues also offered help (other-initiated). The pattern of interaction shows that nurses were most likely to interact with colleagues with whom they were linked in an official or semi-official capacity. The way in which more experienced colleagues provided support for new nurses and the nature of the support are discussed in relation to Lave and Wenger's notion of legitimate peripheral participation and activity theory. It is further suggested that the role of the writing instructor within the workplace be reconceived to take into account the socioculturally embedded nature of writing.

Using Computer-Tagged Linguistic Features to Describe L2 Writing Differences

Central Michigan University
Purdue University

This study examined the extent to which a computerized tagging program was able to capture proficiency level differences of second language (L2) learners' essays. A sample of 90 Test of Written English (TWE) essays, written at three levels of proficiency as defined by TWE ratings, were tagged for features of essay length, lexical specificity (type/token ratio and average word length), lexical features ( e.g., conjuncts, hedges), grammatical structures (e.g., nouns, nominalizations, modals), and clause level features (e.g., subordination, passives). The results indicate that computerized tagging can be used to reveal detailed differences among proficiency levels, but that additional coding into the program or tagging by hand is necessary to gain a more complete picture of differences in L2 students' writing.

Do Secondary L2 Writers Benefit from Peer Comments?

University of Hong Kong, People's Republic of China
Carmel Secondary School, People's Republic of China

The bulk of the studies conducted on the effectiveness of teacher comments and peer comments have been done with tertiary L2 learners, and conflicting findings have been obtained. While some found that peer comments were viewed with skepticism and induced little revision, others found that they did help learners to identify and raise awareness of their strengths and weaknesses in writing. This article reports on a study of the roles of teacher and peer comments in revisions in writing among secondary L2 learners in Hong Kong. Both quantitative and qualitative data were obtained and triangulated. The findings show that some learners incorporated high percentages of both teacher and peer comments, some incorporated higher percentages of teacher comments than peer comments, and others incorporated very low percentages of peer comments. While all learners favored teacher comments and saw the teacher as a figure of authority that guaranteed quality, only those who incorporated very low percentages of peer comments dismissed them as not useful. From the interviews with the learners, four roles of peer comments that contributed positively to the writing process were identified. Peer comments enhance a sense of audience, raise learners' awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, encourage collaborative learning, and foster the ownership of text. This suggests that even for L2 learners who are less mature L2 writers, peer comments do play an important part. The implications of the findings of this study for the writing teacher are also discussed.

Genres, Authors, Discourse Communities: Theory and Application for (L1 and) L2 Writing Instructors

University of California
Emeritus Professor

This article discusses ways in which disciplinary practices contribute to the simultaneously rigid and fluid nature of genres and the general importance of sensitizing (Ll and) L2 writing instructors to genre-stability and genre-change. Heightening genre awareness in L2 writing instructors is proposed as a possible "in" toward developing their meta-awareness. Making them reflect on social practices within their discourse communities that contribute to ways in which genres remain stable and evolve will give them a sharper sense of how they, through their participation in the communities, do/do not effect changes. Genre knowledge is best conceptualized as a form of situated cognition embedded in disciplinary activities (Berkenkotter & Huckin, 1993, p. 477). Meta-knowledge is power, because it leads to the ability to manipulate, to analyze, to resist while advancing. Such meta-knowledge can make 'maladapted' students smarter than "adapted" ones (Gee, 1990, pp. 148-149).

Volume 9, Number 3 (2000)

Writing English as a Foreign Language: A Report from Ukraine

Dnepropetrovsk State Technical University of Railway Transport, Ukranine

This report investigates teaching writing in English in Ukraine. The past and present situations in teaching writing and the reasons for avoiding teaching communicative writing skills in English courses in that country are considered. The results of Ukrainian EFL students' needs analysis are presented, these results indicating the necessity of introducing writing into EFL courses. The process-genre approach is postulated as a foundation for elaborating an effective writing course for Ukraine, and the first version of the course based on such an approach is analyzed. Causes of the failure of this course are reported. It is demonstrated that a successful EFL writing course has to be not only communicative but also state-of-the-art. To motivate students, it also has to involve them from the beginning level in activities, making writing itself fun. The second (successful) version of the course, with a great part of learning organized as writing for fun, is presented, and its advantages are shown.

Patterns of Teacher Response to Student Writing in a Multiple-Draft Composition Classroom: Is Content Feedback Followed by Form Feedback the Best Method?

Komazawa Junior College, Japan

In this study, four different patterns of teacher feedback were given to foreign language students producing a first draft (D1), a second draft (D2), and a final version (D3) of a single composition. The pattern usually recommended within a process writing approach of content-focused feedback on D1 followed by form-focused feedback on D2 was compared with the reverse pattern, another pattern in which form and content feedback were mixed at both stages, and a control pattern of zero feedback. It was found that the recommended pattern of feedback did not produce significantly different results from the other two patterns in which feedback was given in terms of gains in formal accuracy or in terms of content score gains between D1 and D3. A post-hoc analysis of changes made by students revealed that students may have relied heavily on form feedback and that content feedback had only a moderate effect on revision. Explanations for these findings are put forward and the implications for the classroom are drawn.

Toward an Empirical Model of EFL Writing Processes: An Exploratory Study

Nagoya Gakuin University, Japan

The present study investigated EFL learners' writing processes using multiple data sources including their written texts, videotaped pausing behaviors while writing, stimulated recall protocols, and analytic scores given to the written texts. Methodologically, the study adopted a research scheme that has been successfully used for building models of Japanese L1 writing. Three paired groups of Japanese EFL writers (experts vs. novices, more- vs. less-skilled student writers, novices before and after 6 months of instruction) were compared in terms of writing fluency, quality/complexity of their written texts, their pausing behaviors while writing, and their strategy use. The results revealed that (a) before starting to write, the experts spent a longer time planning a detailed overall organization, whereas the novices spent a shorter time, making a less global plan; (b) once the experts had made their global plan, they did not stop and think as frequently as the novices; (c) L2 proficiency appeared to explain part of the difference in strategy use between the experts and novices; and (d) after 6 months of instruction, novices had begun to use some of the expert writers' strategies. It was also speculated that the experts' global planning was a manifestation of writing expertise that cannot be acquired over a short period of time.

Topical Structure Analysis of Academic Paragraphs in English and Spanish

Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia

The present study examines 40 paragraphs selected from articles published in academic journals in English and Spanish from within the context of cultural differences in writing. Based on earlier findings by Lux and Grabe, Montaņo-Harmon, Reid, and Reppen and Grabe, among others, that paragraphs composed in English and Spanish by children and adolescents are different, an analysis was conducted of 40 paragraphs written by adult academics and published in academic journals, focusing on the physical structure and the topical structure. The physical characteristics of the paragraphs included the number of words, sentences, and clauses. Results of this quantitative analysis reflect findings from earlier studies describing English-Spanish differences. The topical structure analysis (TSA), an analysis of coherence derived by examining the internal topical structure of each paragraph as reflected by the repetition of key words and phrases, provides insights into the organizational patterns favored by professional writers in these two languages. The results of the TSA show that English paragraphs tend to have a high use of internal coherence, while Spanish paragraphs do not generally tend to use immediate progression as a device for coherence.


On Second Language Writing