A study of linguistic and rhetorical features in the writing of non -English language background graduates of U.S. high schools

Elisabeth I Levi, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Students from non-English language background (NELB) homes form a growing population in community colleges throughout the United States. At the placement level, they are often assigned to remedial writing classes intended for native English speaking basic skills (BS) writers based on their educational backgrounds or to ESL writing classes, because they have non-native accents in spoken English. As research on NELB students has revealed, however, they are distinct from BS and ESL students in their educational and linguistic experiences, pedagogical needs and classroom behaviors. Whether their writing is sufficiently different from that of these other groups to warrant more customized educational approaches has remained an empirical question. To address this question, this study was designed to describe the grammatical, lexical, and rhetorical features of NELB students' academic writing and to compare these features with those of their BS and ESL peers. Writing samples were collected from 75 NELB students, 42 BS students and 53 ESL students and morphosyntactic, lexical, and rhetorical features and errors were identified. ^ It was found that the NELB group differed more from the ESL group than from the BS group with respect to most types of morphosyntactic and rhetorical features and errors in their writing, suggesting that NELB students' writing reflected their educational background. The comparison also showed that the NELB group differed more from the BS group than from the ESL group in their total number of morphosyntactic errors and the extent of their productive lexicon, suggesting that NELB students writing was related to their language background. However, the distinction between features related to language background and those related to educational background was not borne out by comparisons within the NELB group. It was concluded that the NELB writing was sufficiently different from that of the other two groups to consider the NELB students a separate group of writers. These results suggest that the NELB students have instructional needs that might not be fully addressed in either BS or ESL programs. Additionally, the findings suggest that academic writing is a composite of skills based on language proficiency and educational background. ^

Subject Area

Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Language, Rhetoric and Composition

Recommended Citation

Elisabeth I Levi, "A study of linguistic and rhetorical features in the writing of non -English language background graduates of U.S. high schools" (January 1, 2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI3125856.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3125856

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