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Argumentative L2 text in context:

An exploratory study in Australia


and Hong Kong

Grace H. Y. Wong
RESEARCH REPORTS
General Editor: Gregory James

VOLUME FIVE

Argumentative L2 text in context:


An exploratory study in Australia
and Hong Kong

Grace H. Y. Wong

LANGUAGE CENTRE
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
This report is a shortened, edited version of the authors thesis, Argumentative L2
text in context: An exploratory study in Australia and Hong Kong for which she
was awarded the degree of PhD at Macquarie University, Sydney, 2002.

Language Centre
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Copyright November 2003. All rights reserved.
ISBN 962-7607-22-3

Postal Address: Language Centre,


Hong Kong University of Science and Technology,
Clear Water Bay,
Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR, CHINA

Telephone: (852) 2358 7880

Facsimile: (852) 2335 0249


Contents

Editorial Foreword ix

Acknowledgements xi

Synopsis xiii

Chapter One: Introduction 1

Chapter Two: Language learning in context: Australia and Hong Kong 3

Second language competence 3


Competence versus performance 3
Defining language proficiency 3
Contexts of developing second language competence 6
The place of SLC and the socio-cultural factors it presents 6
Personal/psychological factors 9
ESL versus EFL language learning 9
Learning English in Hong Kong 10
Learning English as an International student in Australia 11
Background of international students in Australian universities 11
Problems faced by international students 11
English proficiency 11
Relationships 13
Implications for the present study 14

Chapter Three: Teaching and assessing academic writing 15

Students academic writing needs 15


Research on students academic writing 16
Contrasts between good writing and poor writing 16
Rhetorical functions identified in students academic writing 16
Recurrent rhetorical functions in good essays 16
Problematic rhetorical functions 17
Academic conventions 17
Referencing 17
Critical attitudes toward published work 18
Cultural differences in discourse patterns 18
Assessing academic writing 19
Reliability of holistic rating 19
Validity of holistic rating 19
Extrinsic factors 20
Content/subject matter 20
Grammatical accuracy 20
Organisation 21
Questions and issues 22
Chapter Four: The structure of argumentative text and the study of 23
rhetorical relations

The structure of argumentative text 23


Global structure 23
Local structures 25
Segmentation of text 28
Using the sentence as the unit of segmentation 28
Using the T-unit as the unit of segmentation 28
Using the proposition as the unit of segmentation 29
Using the F-unit as the unit of segmentation 30
The hierarchical integration of argument and the study of rhetorical relations 31
Rhetorical Structure Theory Analysis 33
Functional Role Analysis 34
Communicative Function Analysis 36
Synthesis of previous approaches of studying rhetorical relations 37
Categorisation of rhetorical functions 37
Previously used categorisation systems of rhetorical functions 37
Categorisation system for this investigation: Rhetorical Function Analysis 40
Categorisation at the lower levels 43
Categorisation at the upper levels 44

Chapter Five: Research design and methods for analysis 45

Data collection 45
Research questions 45
Rhetorical Function Analysis (RFA): Method for investigating
the hierarchical integration of argument (Research Questions 1 and 3) 47
Segmentation of text 47
Categorisation of rhetorical functions 47
Graphic representation of Rhetorical Function Analysis 47
Summary of the findings of Rhetorical Function Analysis 51
Validation of Rhetorical Function Analysis 56
Grammatical Accuracy Analysis (GAA): Method for investigating
syntactic accuracy (Research Questions 2 and 4) 56
Previously used methods for studying grammatical accuracy in student
writing 56
Categorisation system for this investigation: Grammatical Accuracy
Analysis 57
Validation of Grammatical Accuracy Analysis 59
Hypotheses of the present investigation 60

Chapter Six: Results and discussion: Rhetorical Function Analysis 61

Introduction 61
Hypothesis 3 61
The hypothesis 61
Results 62

vi
Integration of rhetorical relations at Functional Unit/Simple
Sentence/Complex Sentence Level into rhetorical relations at
Propositional Segment Level 62
Integration of rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment Level
into rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level 62
Integration of rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level into
rhetorical relations at Macrostructure Level 63
Discussion 64
The most frequently occurring relations in the high-rated essays 64
The most frequently occurring relations in the low-rated essays 65
Sequences of three rhetorical functions 67
Match with the Argumentative Response Structure 67
Adherence to academic conventions 69
Hypothesis 1 71
The hypothesis 71
Results 72
Integration of rhetorical relations at Functional Unit/Simple
Sentence/Complex Sentence Level into rhetorical relations
at Propositional Segment Level 72
Integration of rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment
Level into rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level 72
Integration of rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level into
rhetorical relations at Macrostructure Level 73
Discussion 74
The most frequently occurring relations and macrostructures
identified in the Australian and Hong Kong essay groups 74
Language environment for the Australian subjects 75

Chapter Seven: Results and discussion: Grammatical Accuracy 77


Analysis

Introduction 77
Hypothesis 4 77
The hypothesis 77
Results 77
Discussion: Similarities and differences in error types between
the high-rated and low-rated essays 78
Hypothesis 2 81
The hypothesis 81
Results 81
Discussion 82
Similarities in error types between the Australian and
Hong Kong essays 82
Differences in error types between the Australian and
Hong Kong essays 83
Plagiarism in the Hong Kong low-rated essays 85
Further implications of Grammatical Accuracy Analysis 86
Conclusion 86

vii
Chapter Eight: Conclusion 89

Synthesis of findings 89
Comparison between Rhetorical Function Analysis and Grammatical
Accuracy Analysis 90
Implications for teaching 91
Reactive measures 91
Proactive measures: Towards a model for the teaching of local
and global coherence 91

References 95

Appendix 1: Taxonomy of Rhetorical Function Analysis 105

Rhetorical Functions at the Lower Levels 105


Rhetorical Functions at Paragraph Level 109
Rhetorical Functions at Macrostructure Level 111

Appendix 2: HKH4 Text and Rhetorical Function Analysis 115

Appendix 3: Taxonomy of Grammatical Accuracy Analysis 121

Appendix 4: Frequency of rhetorical functions identified at the


lower and upper levels of Australian/Hong
Kong high-/low-rated essays 123

Appendix 5: Frequency of grammatical errors identified in Australian/


Hong Kong high-/low-rated essays 131

Appendix 6: Comparison of frequencies and relative rankings of


error types: High-rated essays versus low-rated
essays/Australian essays versus Hong Kong essays 135

viii
Editorial Foreword

Readable writing must not only be clear in what it communicates, but must also satisfy the
demands of the discipline. While academics have an intuitive knowledge of what consti-
tutes good academic prose, this knowledge is seldom articulated explicitly and much less
often brought to the attention of students. Students are usually only instructed in general
terms, if at all, as to the requirements of their written work. These instructions usually ex-
tend to advice on the required content of macrostructural components such as the follow-
ing which might be required in an experimental report: Introduction, Methodology, Results
and Discussion. They may require that the arguments be logical and consistent but rarely
do they elaborate on how these instructions are to be carried out or advise on what kinds of
sentences can carry what sort of information or on the ordering of items of information.
(Kalder et al. 1996:1)

A key concept in the understanding of intersentential relations is that of rhetorical func-


tion. In this Report, Grace Wong uses Rhetorical Function Analysis as a tool to construct
a rhetorical map of a text to provide a diagrammatic network of the hierarchies of rela-
tionships, and thus show its patterns of coherence and cohesion.
With data from the writing of Hong Kong students in Hong Kong and in Australia,
she shows that the latter group, after three years away from their home environment,
were able to produce longer essays, with more accurate tense forms and idiomatic ex-
pressions . [T]heir increased exposure to English has helped them to advance along the
path of approximation toward the target language. Wong points out, however, that many
fossilised errors remain, and that the Hong Kong students in Australia still have difficul-
ties in structuring their writing. As an exploratory step towards a longitudinal study of
the interlingual acquisition of rhetorical functions, Wongs Report provides valuable
groundwork for further research of importance in language pedagogy.

Reference

Kaldor, S., Herriman, M. & Rochecouste, J. 1996. The academic teacher and the student writer:
Raising textual awareness across disciplines. Different Approaches: Theory and Practice in
Higher Education. Proceedings HERDSA Conference 1996. Perth, 812 July. [On-line]
Available at: www.herdsa.org.au/confs/1996/kaldor.html

ix
x
Acknowledgements

I would like to extend my thanks to my supervisor, Associate Professor Pam Peters, for
her guidance in helping me situate my research not only in the educational context, but
also in wider contexts social, cultural and psychological and hence make the enquiry
more meaningful and relevant than it would have been.
May I also take this opportunity to thank all my colleagues and students who have
rendered help to me. I am grateful to Professor Gregory James, Director of Language
Centre of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, for his pastoral care, in
being immensely interested in my research and giving me support in many ways. I would
also like to thank Dr Man Yu Wong of the Mathematics Department for helping me with
the compilation and interpretation of statistics. Special thanks also go to Pionie Foo, Joyce
Lee, Li Po-lung, Ellen Tsang and Flavia Lai for validating the two methods used in this
research. Thanks are due, too, to my student helpers, Ada Hui, Ace Hung and Penny Yu,
for their hard work. The help from all these colleagues and students has made me realise
that completing a thesis is not just a matter of personal growth, but also a collaborative
effort, in which many friends play an active part.
Last but not least, I extend my deepest gratitude to my family: my parents, husband
and sons. Without their understanding, patience and forbearance, the completion of this
work would not have been possible. I am especially indebted to my husband for
supporting my study and self-actualisation wholeheartedly throughout all these years. The
unfailing support from my family is indeed another collaborative effort I have witnessed
in the process of my own personal growth.

Grace H. Y. Wong
Hong Kong
November 2003

xi
xii
Synopsis

Many ESL/EFL learners find it difficult to write argumentatively, because unlike L1 stu-
dents, who usually only have to attend to the quality and organisation of the arguments,
L2 students also have to ensure that their language is grammatically correct and accurate.
Since it is difficult for L2 learners to improve their accuracy quickly, the question ex-
plored here is whether the use of an effective argumentative structure and/or a favourable
language environment can be conducive to successful L2 writing. The objectives were
threefold: firstly, to explore how effectively L2 tertiary students build up their universe
of argumentative discourse, from the lowest discourse level to the highest; secondly, to
examine whether compared with an EFL setting, an ESL environment can bring im-
provement in organisation and grammatical accuracy to students writing; and finally, to
test the correlation between the holistic grades awarded to essays and their quality as de-
termined by analytical measures of argumentative coherence and grammatical accuracy.
All the subjects of this study were Hong Kong Chinese, first-year EAP students at
Macquarie University, Australia, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Tech-
nology, thus studying in an ESL and EFL environment respectively. The data set con-
sisted of twenty-four essays written on an argumentative topic, six high-rated and six
low-rated from each group.
Two tools were used to investigate the differences between the high-rated and low-
rated essays, and also those between Australian and Hong Kong essays: Rhetorical Func-
tion Analysis (RFA) was devised to investigate the hierarchical integration of argument,
and Grammatical Accuracy Analysis (GAA) was used to study syntactic accuracy.
RFA showed that the high-rated essays displayed effective argumentative structures
at different textual levels, with appropriate in-depth development of ideas, which all con-
tribute to the development of arguments. The low-rated essays, however, were character-
ised by plagiarism and contextually unidentifiable relations. Their macrostructures did
not contribute to the scaffolding of arguments, as these are unclear, contradictory, or
even lacking.
GAA revealed a surprising similarity in the types of error made by the Australian and
Hong Kong subjects, suggesting that not a great deal of development had taken place in
the Australian subjects English after they had left Hong Kong. Yet there were signifi-
cant differences in the frequency of some categories of error, showing that the Australian
subjects were able to produce more accurate tense forms and idiomatic expressions.
There was also less plagiarism in their texts. Though they may not have taken full advan-
tage of the ESL environment, their increased exposure to English seemed to have helped
them achieve better approximations toward the target language norms.
The findings also showed that independent measures of argumentative coherence and
grammatical accuracy correlated significantly with each other, and also with teachers
holistic assessments of essay quality. This supports the view that pragmatic competence
and grammatical competence are interrelated. Effective argumentative structure and
grammatical accuracy complement each other; either one of them is a necessary but not
sufficient condition for writing success. The fact that increased exposure to everyday
English could help the Australian subjects advance a little in grammatical accuracy, but
not in organisation, supports the hypothesis that it takes longer to develop L2 learners
writing competence than oral competence. It also suggests that L2 students need to be
taught argumentative structures explicitly. Once they master these, they can concentrate
on grammatical accuracy, and become better able to produce essays which are organisa-
tionally and linguistically sound, to convey their arguments.

xiii
xiv
Chapter One: Introduction

In recent years, there has been a great deal of interest in second language writing. It is
not easy for learners to become proficient in a second language, and among the four lan-
guage skills, the writing skill can be said to be the most difficult to acquire. As a pro-
duction skill, it is intrinsically more demanding than the reception skills of reading and
listening (Biggs & Watkins 1996:278), and as a more permanent form of communi-
cation than speech, it requires lengthy formal training and sustained attention to detail.
My interest in the teaching of second language writing stems from the facts that I am
an L2 speaker of English on the one hand, and an L2 English teacher on the other. When
I started teaching a class of Form Six science students (the equivalent of Year 12 in Aus-
tralia) in a secondary school in Hong Kong in the 1980s, one of the worrying facts was
that these students could not write in an acceptable manner at all. Their grammar was
faulty; their tone was inappropriate; their register was wrong; but above all, they did not
know how to construe or organise their ideas. This was because throughout their study at
all levels, they had been given notes to memorise and to reproduce, so as to get high
marks in the internal and external examinations. Yet the Advanced Level (A/L) Use of
English (UE) Examination is very demanding. There are five sections, two of which deal
with writing: Section A is a conventional paper, asking students to express their personal
opinions in an argumentative manner toward current events or topics of local relevance,
and Section E, entitled Practical Skills for Work and Study, is an integrated paper
which requires the reading of several documents, summarising them and responding to
them. The demands of the UE Examination thus go beyond the thinking and organisation
abilities of most candidates.
However, UE is the all-important subject because even if students should get Grade
A in all the other subjects, if they fail in the UE Examination, they cannot enter univer-
sity, except in very rare circumstances. The onus of helping students pass the UE
Examination is thus put on the shoulders of English teachers. If they fail to help their
students get a pass, they have to bear the blame from students, parents, other subject
teachers and their principals.
In 1993, I started teaching at a new university in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Uni-
versity of Science and Technology (HKUST), where undergraduates major either in Sci-
ence, Engineering or Business Studies, all taught in English. In the first and second years
of its foundation, the university was a genuine English-medium university, with all lec-
tures and tutorials conducted in English. But most first-year students had difficulty in
following them. From its third year, the size of the student population increased. Tutori-
als grew in size, and in many situations became mini-lectures, which were designed to
supplement, or even to repeat part of, the main lectures. These were often given in Can-
tonese. Therefore using Cantonese in tutorials was a win-win situation, and this has
continued until now.
Among the four language skills in English, reading can be said to be the skill most
commonly practised among first-year students. However, when the students read, they
do not always aim at thorough understanding or application. Sometimes they aim only at
passing a test or examination. Continuous assessment has been part of HKUSTs assess-
ment policy. This has three implications for teachers and students: first, the lecturers
have a heavy load in setting and marking examinations. To find a solution, some lectur-
ers make use of multiple-choice questions as part of their assessment tool. Students soon
find that they are back in their good old days of secondary school, skimming over
books to look for information to memorise in order to get high marks in examinations.

1
When the students have such a heavy study load already, they find that they cannot spare
time to work hard in improving their language skills. Some of them feel that they do not
really need to study English for academic purposes. Others realise that they need Eng-
lish after graduation. However, since life is usually dictated by urgency rather than prior-
ity, many students do little to improve their English.
Secondary students may lack proficiency in English to tackle the learning, but they
still have the motivation to develop it, at least in order to pass the Use of English Exami-
nation. However, at university, students may still lack language proficiency, and their
motivation to improve may in fact wane.
On going to Australia in 1995, I found that some of the ethnic Chinese students, who
had come from Hong Kong and studied there for several years, seemed to be truly bilin-
gual. The education system in Australia also seems to encourage more independent en-
quiry and critical thinking. Students are given the freedom to write in a creative way. All
these phenomena seem very encouraging, and it is the expectation of many migrant fami-
lies, including Chinese from Hong Kong, that such a language environment will be con-
ducive to helping L2 learners to develop their language competence much more than if
they finish their schooling in a foreign language environment like that of Hong Kong.
However, when I had a chance to teach the Writing Skills class organised by the
Linguistics Department of Macquarie University and audit their EAP lessons, I soon dis-
covered that the English learning situation at tertiary level in Australia was not a homo-
geneous as that at the primary and secondary levels. There were, of course, students who
had a high proficiency in English; on the other hand, there were some whose English
writing ability was surprisingly low, as reflected in the grades they received in their EAP
assignments. Their spoken English was acceptable, but they spoke little English outside
the classroom. All these students shared a similar background, having come from Hong
Kong to study in Australia about three years previously.
Confronted with seemingly conflicting pictures at different educational levels, I was
motivated to find out whether there was any difference in the level of English proficiency
between the Australian students whose EAP lessons I audited, and their Hong Kong
counterparts at HKUST. I was particularly interested in investigating their performance
in writing, to determine whether there was any difference in the organisation and gram-
matical accuracy in the argumentative writing of these two groups.

2
Chapter Two: Language learning in context: Australia
and Hong Kong

SECOND LANGUAGE COMPETENCE

There is no blueprint for acquiring competence in a second language. As Gass &


Selinker (2001:329) maintain, [o]ne of the most widely recognized facts about second
language learning is that some individuals are more successful in learning a second lan-
guage than other individuals. According to Ellis (1994), such differences are in part so-
cially determined and in part explained by psychological factors.

Competence versus performance

A distinction is made by Chomsky (1965) between linguistic competence and per-


formance. Competence is the mental representation of linguistic rules which constitute
the learners internal grammar. Performance, on the other hand, consists of the use of this
grammar in the comprehension and production of the language.
For Ellis (1994:13), the main goal of second language acquisition research is to
characterize learners underlying knowledge of the L2, i.e. to describe and explain their
competence. However, learners mental knowledge is not open to direct inspection; it can
only be inferred by examining samples of their performance. This is the approach taken
here, in the investigation of the actual written output of tertiary students. However, al-
though researchers can make inferences about the underlying linguistic knowledge a
learner possesses, these are largely untestable. The focus of this investigation is therefore
on the writing proficiency level of learners as displayed in their product, in terms of their
text organisational strategies and grammatical accuracy. In this work, the term compe-
tence is used interchangeably with the term proficiency.

DEFINING LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY

Just what constitutes language proficiency is the centre of debate. Oller (1976) suggests
that proficiency is unitary and calls the essential character of proficiency Expectancy
Grammar, which sequentially orders linguistic elements in time and in relation to extral-
inguistic elements in meaningful ways (Oller 1979:34). Cummins (1979:198), however,
distinguishes two types of proficiency: Cognitive/Academic Language Proficiency
(CALP) and Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS). He observes that it takes
language minority students a much longer time to attain grade- or age-appropriate profi-
ciency levels in academic skills than it does for them to acquire face-to-face communica-
tion skills in English, as well as sociolinguistic appropriateness (Cummins 1983/1986:
152). Canale & Swain (1980) extended Cummins model, by proposing that apart from
sociolinguistic competence, communicative competence also consists of grammatical
and strategic competence. Grammatical competence includes knowledge of pronuncia-
tion, spelling, vocabulary, as well as rules of word or sentence formation, while strategic
competence involves the use of a repertoire of coping strategies to avoid communica-
tion breakdown. In a revision, Canale (1983) added a fourth element, discourse compe-
tence, to the 1980 model. This includes the mastery of cohesion (use of appropriate con-
junctions) and coherence (logical sequencing and effective organisation).

3
The components of language proficiency have therefore been expressed in increas-
ingly specific ways, for example, from being viewed as a single concept (Oller) to a two-
fold concept (Cummins), a threefold concept (Canale & Swain) and a fourfold concept
(Canale). In 1994, Ellis seemed to swing back to the dichotomy, by remarking that com-
municative competence entails both linguistic (or grammatical) competence and prag-
matic competence (Ellis 1994:13). Yet Ellis definition of pragmatic competence actu-
ally encompasses the knowledge of using language to construct discourse and to perform
speech acts in socially appropriate ways. It seems that the term has been used as an um-
brella term to incorporate sociolinguistic competence, strategic competence and even
discourse competence.
There is thus no apparent consensus as to what communicative competence exactly
entails: a definitive analysis of communicative competence is just as elusive as was lan-
guage proficiency (Larsen-Freeman & Long 1991:38), although it is generally agreed
that communicative competence consists of the knowledge users of a language have in-
ternalised to enable them to understand and produce messages in that language.
The discussion of language proficiency which is most relevant to the present work
derives from a reflection of Cummins (1983/1986:152), that a division of language profi-
ciency into two categories, BICS and CALP, is an oversimplification. He proposes a new
framework which interprets language proficiency along two continua (ibid.:153; Figure 1
refers).

Cognitively
undemanding

A C

Context- Context-
embedded reduced

B D

Cognitively
demanding

Figure 1: Range of contextual support and degree of cognitive involvement in communicative


activities.

The horizontal continuum expresses how much contextual support is available in the
communication of meaning. Context-embedded communication derives from personal
interaction in a shared reality, such as the everyday world outside the classroom, in
which the participants negotiate meaning actively. On the other hand, in context-reduced
communication, such as the interaction which takes place in the classroom, the shared
reality cannot be assumed. In order to minimise the risk of misinterpretation, the mes-
sages must be put across precisely and explicitly. Examples of communicative events
along this continuum, from left (context-embedded) to right (context-reduced), include
engaging in a discussion, writing a personal letter, and writing an academic essay.
The vertical continuum addresses the developmental aspects of communicative profi-
ciency in terms of the level of active cognitive involvement. The upper end indicates

4
communicative activities in which the linguistic tools are proficiently mastered. Little
cognitive involvement is therefore required. At the lower end are communicative tasks in
which the tools are not yet automatised, and thus require active cognitive involvement.
Examples of tasks which necessitate active cognitive involvement include writing an es-
say, or persuading another person to accept a viewpoint.
Since this study is about argumentative writing at tertiary level, it falls within quad-
rant D in Cummins model, that is, a communicative event which takes place in a con-
text-reduced situation, and is cognitively demanding. Cummins (1983/1986:156) re-
marks that [t]he more context-reduced a particular task the longer it will take L2
learners to achieve age-appropriate performance. Coupled with the fact that academic
writing is cognitively demanding, it would take L2 learners a longer time to acquire this
skill than it does for them to master face-to-face oral skills, according to Cummins
model. In this study, I examine whether this hypothesis is valid or not in the development
of the writing skills of the Chinese students in Australia and Hong Kong.
Another point which is worth further examination here is the relationship between
grammatical competence and communicative competence. For Ellis (1994:13), commu-
nicative competence entails both grammatical competence and pragmatic competence,
and the level of a learners grammatical competence is closely related to that of his/her
pragmatic competence. This viewpoint is different from the findings of Swain
(1985/1986). Her subjects were children whose first language was English, and who
were studying Grade 6 in a French immersion programme. Both oral and literacy based
tasks were assigned for the subjects to complete (cf. Table 1):

Table 1: Types of tasks for testing different linguistic traits, from Swain (1985/1986:118).
Traits
Grammar Discourse Sociolinguistic
Structured interview Film retelling and - requests
Oral production argumentation - suggestions
- complaints
Multiple choice 45 items 29 items 28 items
2 narratives 2 notes
Written production directive
2 letters

The results showed that although the immersion students had learnt French for seven
years, their grammatical competence was not equivalent to that of the native speakers.
Only their levels of discourse and sociolinguistic competence were similar to those of the
latter. Swain (ibid.:135) concludes that discourse and sociolinguistic competence do not
rely heavily on grammar for their realisation.
The present investigation is fundamentally an enquiry into a special type of prag-
matic competence, that is, the writing competence (CALP) of L2 learners. An analysis of
the subjects grammatical competence is incorporated as a means of triangulation for the
main focus of the study, how tertiary students organise their arguments in extended es-
says. The design allows us to investigate the relative validity of both Ellis viewpoint and
Swains findings in the context of learning academic writing at tertiary level, that is,
whether academic writing competence and grammatical competence are interrelated.

5
CONTEXTS OF DEVELOPING SECOND LANGUAGE COMPETENCE

The place of SLC and the socio-cultural factors it presents

Social and cultural factors influence the choice of languages to be learned, as well as the
differences in the level of language proficiency learners achieve (Berns 1990:3).
A number of social factors, such as gender and age, may affect the acquisition of a
second language. Various studies (e.g. Burstall 1975; Slavoff & Johnson 1995) have
found that females are better language learners than males. In Boyles (1987) study of
490 ethnic Chinese university students in Hong Kong (257 males and 233 females), the
female subjects achieved significantly higher means in ten tests of general L2 proficiency.
The main reason might be that females have more positive attitudes to learning a second
language than males (cf. Gardner & Lambert 1972; Spolsky 1989).
As for age differences, it is commonly believed that children are more likely to attain
native-like proficiency in an L2 than are teenagers and adults. According to the Critical
Period Hypothesis (Gass & Selinker 2001:335), there is an age-related point, which is
usually set at puberty, beyond which it generally becomes difficult or even impossible to
gain full mastery of a second language.
Apart from the age of onset of learning, the age of arrival in the country of the target
language is also an important factor. In a study reported in 1989, Johnson & Newport
investigated learners acquisition of syntax based on different ages of arrival in the L2
country, ranging from 3 to 39. Their finding was that learners proficiency was linearly
related to the age of arrival only up to puberty.
Another important factor in learning an L2 is the length of stay in the country of the
target language. Slavoff & Johnson (1995) examined the acquisition of English by differ-
ent groups of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese children, who arrived in the
United States between the ages of 7 and 12. They found that length of stay, as opposed to
age of arrival, was an important variable in predicting knowledge of English syntax.
Similar findings were obtained by Bialystok (1997) in two studies, one of which investi-
gated the learning of English syntax by Chinese speakers. However, for a group of for-
eign workers in Germany, the length of stay in the new country functioned as a major
factor in their L2 acquisition only during the first two years. After that, the acquisition
was overridden by other social factors such as

age at time of immigration,


professional training in the country of origin,
number of years of formal education,
contact with Germans during leisure time, and
contact with Germans at work. (Heidelberger Forschungsprojekt 1978)

While the first three factors listed here are social, the last two are cultural, which repre-
sent a different approach to understanding language learning. Cultural factors include
learner attitudes toward

the target language,


the target-language speakers,
the target-language culture,
the social values of learning the second/foreign language,
the particular uses of the target language,
themselves as members of their own culture. (Ellis 1994:198)

6
Such attitudes may influence how much effort a learner makes in learning a sec-
ond/foreign language, and this in turn has an impact on the level of language competence
he/she develops.
Several of the factors listed above are included in Schumanns (1978a, 1978b)
Acculturation Model, which predicts that if learners acculturate, they will learn, and vice
versa. The first social variable in the Acculturation Model is the extent to which a group
is or is not dominant over another. There may be two completely different situations: the
first in which the L2 group is dominant (as in a colonial context), and the second in
which the L1 group is dominant (as one in which emigrants find themselves). It seems
that in the former case, learning is less likely to take place. The second social variable in
the Acculturation Model is the extent to which a group integrates. If one fails to
acculturate, one cannot succeed in learning a second language.
For Ellis (1994:207), the extent to which a group integrates, or the degree of
acculturation, is related to the intersection of [their] views about their own ethnic
identity and those about the target-language culture. The combinations of positive
and/or negative attitudes predict the degree of success in mastering the L2 (cf. Table 2):

Table 2: Attitudes and L2 learning, from Ellis (1994:208).


Attitudes toward
Native culture Target culture
Additive bilingualism + +
Subtractive bilingualism - +
Semilingualism - -
Monolingualism + -

Key: + = positive attitudes; - = negative attitudes

The ideal outcome additive bilingualism is likely to occur when learners have a posi-
tive view of their own ethnic identity as well as the target-language culture. They thus
maintain their L1, adding the L2 to their linguistic repertoire, and become balanced bi-
linguals. The opposite is true in subtractive bilingualism, in which case the learners
have a low respect for their ethnic identity and are eager to assimilate in the target-
language culture. In the end they replace their L1 with L2. Semilingualism occurs when
learners fail to develop full proficiency in either their L1 or their L2, as they have nega-
tive attitudes towards both their own culture and the target-language culture. Finally,
monolingualism, or failure to acquire L2, is generally associated with a strong ethnic
identity and negative attitudes toward the target-language culture.

Table 3: HKCEE grade combination statistics for Chinese Language and English Language
(Syllabus B) in all day-school candidates (1993), n = 64,924. From So (1998:169).
English Language
Grades A/B/C Grades D/E Grade F
Chinese Language
Grade A/B/C 4,007 6.2% 8,093 12.5% 347 0.5%
Grade D/E 1,310 2.0% 20,269 31.2% 7,058 10.9%
Grade F 33 0.1% 4,462 6.9% 19,345 29.8%

The phenomenon of semilingualism can be seen in Hong Kong, except that it may be
more apt to describe the attitude of local citizens toward the Chinese and English cul-
tures as one of indifference, rather than that of negativity. Before 1997, when Hong

7
Kong was still ruled by the British, many local people were unable to identify themselves
with either the British or the Chinese authority. The end result was that many of them,
including students, were proficient neither in English nor Chinese. This is illustrated by
the norm-referenced results in English and Chinese Language achieved by Hong Kong
secondary students in 1993 and 1995 respectively in the two major local public examina-
tions, the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) and the Hong
Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKAL) (cf. Tables 3 and 4).
From Table 4 it can be seen that in 1993, of the 64,924 students who took HKCEE,
19,345, or nearly 30%, of the total number of candidates, attained a F grade in both
English and Chinese Language. Only a very small percentage (4,007, or 6.2%) obtained
Grade A/B/C in the same examination. The situation improved a little when the same
batch of students took the HKAL two years later, in 1995 (cf. Table 4).

Table 4: HKAL Examination grade combination statistics for Chinese Language & Culture and
Use of English in all day-school candidates (1995), n = 22,209. From So (1998:169).
English Language
Grades A/B/C Grades D/E Grade F
Chinese Language
Grade A/B/C 1,888 7.88% 2,425 10.12% 122 0.51%
Grade D/E 1,660 6.92% 11,721 48.88% 2,206 9.2%
Grade F 36 0.16% 1,371 5.72% 780 3.25%

Of the 22,209 candidates, 780, or 3.25%, were awarded Grade F, while 1,888, or 7.88%,
attained Grade C or above. However, in both 1993 and 1995, most candidates did not
perform well, since 31.22% and 48.88% of the total candidature obtained only a passing
grade (D or E) in both English and Chinese in HKCEE and HKAL respectively. The fig-
ures in the tables thus show that balanced bilingualism is not one of [the students]
characteristics (So 1998:168).
After the sovereignty of Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, the identity crisis
has become less severe for the local people. Yet many of them are still not keen on as-
similating the Chinese culture, not to speak of the English culture, now that the British
influence has faded. Their writing and oral skills in both English and Chinese remain
poor, as lamented by the erstwhile head of Hong Kongs Education Commission,
Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, in 2001 (as reported by Gary Cheung in the South China
Morning Post, 3rd May, 2001).
But it is possible that immigration to, or studying in, another country may change
learners attitudes towards their L1 and/or L2 learning, and hence their competence.
Some of them may be eager to assimilate into the target-language culture, and hence de-
velop subtractive bilingualism. Others may acquire a new perspective on their own eth-
nic identity, and in turn a more positive attitude toward their culture. If they become in-
terested in the L2 culture at the same time, they may develop additive bilingualism.
However, if they become alienated from the target-language culture, monolingualism
may persist. Of course, for some learners, studying abroad makes no impact on their atti-
tude. They may thus retain their semilingualism. In this study, we will investigate which
type of bilingualism our Australia-based subjects attained after they had left Hong Kong.

8
Personal/psychological factors

Besides sociological factors, language learning is also affected by a multitude of per-


sonal/psychological factors. Among those listed by Gass & Selinker (2001:32971) are
Aptitude, Anxiety, Locus of control, Personality, Learning strategies, and Motivation. Of
these, motivation is said to be the second strongest predictor of success, trailing only
aptitude (ibid.:349). According to Gardner (1985:50), motivation involves four aspects:
a goal, effortful behaviour, a desire to attain the goal and favourable attitudes toward the
activity in question. Ellis (1994:516) also supports this view: It is the need to get
meanings across and the pleasure experienced when this is achieved that provides the
motivation to learn an L2.
Motivation has already been mentioned as playing an important role in sec-
ond/foreign language learning for Hong Kong students. The interplay between this factor
and acculturation, as well as other psychological and socio-cultural factors affecting a
learners attitudes toward learning a second/foreign language will be further examined, to
determine their relative impact on students in Australia and/or Hong Kong.

ESL VERSUS EFL LANGUAGE LEARNING

Many scholars make a distinction between (English as a Second Language) and EFL
(English as a Foreign Language). Two such, Crystal (1995) and McArthur (1996), con-
nect the distinction with the official status of a language. Hence, in his section, A Short
Glossary of EL Terms, Crystal (op. cit.:108) defines EFL as

English seen in the context of countries where it is not the mother tongue and has no spe-
cial status, such as Japan, France, Egypt and Brazil

and ESL as

English in countries where it holds special status as a medium of communication ... The
term has also been applied to the English of immigrants and other foreigners who live
within a country where English is the first language.

Others, such as Hartmann & James (1998:50), connect the distinction with whether the
language is dominant or not. They define ESL as

those varieties of English which are used by speakers for whom it is not the NATIVE LAN-
GUAGE, usually in a country where it is the endoglossic, or dominant language, or in coun-
tries where it has an acknowledged function

and EFL as

those varieties of English which are used by learners for whom it is not the NATIVE LAN-
GUAGE, usually outside a country where it is the dominant language. [caps sic]

Thus the distinction made between ESL and EFL provides contrasting contexts for learn-
ing, in which various socio-cultural and psychological factors, discussed earlier, are in-
volved. Hartmann & James definitions for ESL and EFL will be used as the basis of our
understanding of these two terms in this study.

9
LEARNING ENGLISH IN HONG KONG

The definition of ESL provided by Crystal does not mention Hong Kong, but he cate-
goryised Hong Kong under ESL Countries elsewhere in his book. This is not difficult
to understand, as Hong Kong seems to fit the first part of his definition for ESL as a
place where English holds special status as a medium of communication. This view is
shared by a number of researchers. However, Falvey (1998) argues against this view for
Hong Kong, and in so doing, challenges the definitions of both Crystal (1995) and Ellis
(1997). His distinction between ESL and EFL is as follows:

EFL [is] used to refer to language which is learned primarily in the classroom with little
assistance from the language environment. ESL, in contrast, [is] used to describe language
which is used by the majority of people in a country, or territory as their lingua franca, as
the language of the church, government, the press and judiciary. (Falvey op. cit.:75)

He goes on to argue that after the return of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997,
English was no longer used as a lingua franca in domains such as the judiciary in Hong
Kong. Falveys arguments are echoed by So (1998:168), who argues that [b]y demo-
graphic background Hong Kong is a largely monolingual society; it is only through a
twist of history and by design that a degree of individual bilingualism is in evidence in
our society. Not only is the degree of individual bilingualism limited, but also there is a
relatively high degree of social distance between the Chinese community and the mostly
English-speaking expatriate community in Hong Kong (Luke & Richards 1982:53). This
phenomenon has not changed since the return of the sovereignty of Hong Kong to China
in 1997, the year in which the Hong Kong data for this study was collected (cf. Pen-
nington 1998; Li et al. 2000). So (1998:161) also made this point very clear: Indeed,
even today, interaction between these two communities has remained minimal: Hong
Kong has always been a city with two identifiable and separate communities.
Falvey (1998:76) emphasised that very few people had in fact achieved genuine bi-
lingualism in Hong Kong. Although until 1997 more than 90% of secondary schools in
Hong Kong claimed themselves to be English-medium, this only meant that textbooks
and written examinations were in English. Most of the other components in teaching/
learning were conducted in Cantonese, or in a mixed code (by adding some English
words to Cantonese), which is thought to be the worst of all modes of instruction (Gib-
bons 1987) and is detrimental to students English attainment.
The massive expansion of tertiary education since the 1980s has further aggravated
the situation. In the past, only between 2% and 5% of the population could enter univer-
sity. From 1989, this proportion rose to as many as 18%. These young people are now
drawn from a much larger catchment area, including the poorer districts, where Canton-
ese is almost used exclusively (Falvey 1998:80). The expansion has tremendous implica-
tions for the use of English at the university. One year after the expansion took place,
Bruce (1990:19) remarked that academic staff had to simplify their lectures in face of
students language problems. In 1998, Falvey observed that Chinese was used as the me-
dium of instruction in many undergraduate classes (op. cit.:7980). A telephone survey
conducted in 2001, in which 547 young people aged 15 to 29 in Hong Kong were ques-
tioned, reported that 30% of the interviewees found that English was inherently difficult
to learn. Up to 20% of them even expressed fear of learning this language. Most respon-
dents indicated that they limited their use of English to the classroom; one-third claimed
to have no opportunity to speak English (Schwartz & Li 2001).
This discussion illustrates two points. First, the degree of multilingualism is small in
Hong Kong. This logically leads to the second point: As the population of Hong Kong

10
are almost all Cantonese speakers, English is used so little that few students have ac-
quired the level of fluency in the language which qualifies it as a second language
(Kember & Gow 1990:361). English is taught as a foreign language rather than a second
language. This is the basis for regarding Hong Kong as an EFL rather than ESL envi-
ronment for learning English, pace Crystal and others mentioned earlier.

LEARNING ENGLISH AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT IN AUSTRALIA

The status of learning English in Australia does seem to fit into the latter part of Crys-
tals (1995:108) definition for ESL in that it is the English of immigrants and other for-
eigners who live within a country where English is the first language. At first sight, this
looks less controversial than is the case of Hong Kong. However, the situation in Austra-
lian universities is complicated.

Background of international students in Australian universities

Australian universities provide education to many international students, who are now
an established component of the student body in these institutes (Brooks & Adams
2001:1). Macquarie University, where some of the data for this research were collected,
is no exception (cf. Table 5):

Table 5: International students as a percentage of enrolments in Macquarie University, from


Macquarie University (1999); Macquarie University (2000).
International students as a percentage International students as a percentage
of total enrolments of undergraduate enrolments
1998 1999 1998 1999
9.4% 11.4% 4.4% 6.3%

Most of these international students come from Southeast Asian countries, who represent
as many as 70% of the total number of international students in all programmes, and
even up to 80% of the total number of international undergraduate students (Macquarie
University 1999, Macquarie University 2000). These students face many difficulties,
such as undergoing acculturation, as well as facing challenges brought by changes in
study methods (Volet & Renshaw 1996). But their poor English proficiency (Nixon 1996)
is the most fundamental of all.

Problems faced by international students

English proficiency

In recent years, many university lecturers in Australia have expressed concern about the
low English standard of international students. Most Australian universities require a
level of 6.0 in all the four language skills of the IELTS (International English Language
Testing System). But Brooks & Adams (2001:4) believe that this requirement may be
problematic, as in the IELTS scale, 6.5 is the lower score for less linguistically de-
manding courses. Coley (1999:13) also remarks that Australian universities are pitch-
ing their IELTS entry requirements at language ability levels which are at best only
probably acceptable. He even draws the conclusion that it is indeed possible for

11
NESB [Non-English speaking background] students to be at an Australian university
without being able to speak, write, read or understand English at the required level
(ibid.:15).
English language proficiency has a great bearing on the international students aca-
demic work. Reid et al. (1998) argue that problems experienced by international students
may have more to do with levels of English language proficiency than with styles of
teaching and learning. University statistics indicate that when English language profi-
ciency is not an issue (for example, in courses such as Accounting), international stu-
dents tend to obtain better results than do local students (Volet & Renshaw 1996:217).
Volet and Renshaws study is complemented by that of Brooks & Adams (2001),
who investigated whether any relationship could be established between students fre-
quency of speaking English and their academic performance in a first-year Business
course. The first set of data, frequency of speaking English, was collected from a con-
venience sample of 144 students, which represented 51% of the class cohort. The sub-
jects were asked to respond to three questions:

1. Are you an overseas student or not overseas student?


2. Are you male or female?
3. How often do you speak English?

For the last question, students had four response options: All the time, Most of the
time, Some of the time and As little as possible. To Brooks & Adams (op. cit.:6),
this question served as a measure of the respondents ATE (Attitude toward English).
The responses were converted to a four-point Likert-type scale, with All the time = 4,
and As little as possible = 1. The second set of data, academic performance, was
taken from the final results of the 285 students enrolled on the course, which were meas-
ured as a mark out of 100, and linked to whether they were international or local students.
Finally, statistical tests were used to see if there were differences between international
and local students in terms of their ATE, as well as their academic performance.
The results from the first set of data, frequency of speaking English, show that the
international students speak English only occasionally (cf. Table 6):

Table 6: ATE response frequency of international students, from Brooks & Adams (2001:7).
ATE (Attitude Toward English)
Gender of
N As little as Some of Most of the All of the
international students
possible the time time time
Male 14 0% 43% 36% 21%
Female 18 22% 50% 28% 0%

From the table it can be seen that 43% of the male international students indicated that
they spoke English some of the time, and another 36% of them said that they spoke
English most of the time. Only 21% of them reported that they spoke English all of
the time. The situation of the female respondents was even worse. As many as 22% of
them indicated that they spoke English as little as possible, and not a single one of
them said that they spoke the language all of the time. This does not support earlier
findings that compared to their male counterparts, females have more positive attitudes
learning an L2 and are thus better language learners.
According to Brooks and Adams, the correlation between frequency of speaking
English and academic performance was confirmed in the contrasting results for local

12
and international students (see Table 7 for comparative statistics on their ATE and course
results graded out of 100 marks):

Table 7: International and local students compared in terms of ATE and marks, from Brooks &
Adams (2001:9).
ATE Mark
Category of students
Mean N Std dev Mean N Std dev
International 2.8 14 0.8018 53.0 27 11.2817
Male
Local 3.8 53 0.4945 61.4 98 6.3059
International 2.1 18 0.7254 53.6 29 6.1930
Female
Local 3.7 59 0.5587 61.6 131 5.9732

Key:
Range of ATE scores: 14
1 = As little as possible 2 = Some of the time 3 = Most of the time 4 = All the time

Statistical correlations were however not shown in Brooks & Adams table, so no causal
relationship can be established. The relatively small number of international students ef-
fectively prevents tests of significance being carried out. There were also problems in
Brooks and Adams third survey question: while the first three options given to students
(all the time, most of the time and some of the time) refer to frequency, the last
option, as little as possible, is a comment on attitude. The grounds on which Brooks &
Adams interpreted subjects frequency of speaking English as Attitude toward Eng-
lish (ATE) are also unclear. Despite these issues, the research raises the question as to
what makes these international students so reluctant to speak in English. This in turn
leads to another legitimate question: What sort of relationship do these students have
with the L1 English-speaking population in Australia?

Relationships

International students have great difficulty in establishing friendships with L1 speakers.


This was pointed out as early as 1984 by Bradley & Bradley in the report entitled Prob-
lems of Asian students in Australia:

On the issue of friendship with Australians, nearly every overseas student who had been in
Australia for any length of time felt unable to form close friendships with Australians, es-
pecially Anglo-Australians. (p. 261)

Few changes in this domain seemed to have taken place in the 1980s and 1990s. A large-
scale survey of students study-related and personal experiences involving 1,250 under-
graduates (436 international and 814 local students) enrolled in three universities in
South Australia (Adelaide, Flinders, and the University of South Australia) found mix-
ing with Australians ranked the ninth most often cited problem (Mullins et al.
1995:218). While two-thirds of the international students surveyed indicated that it was a
minor or serious problem, another 15% of them rated it as a serious problem. This find-
ing is relevant to the present investigation, as a sizeable number of the international stu-
dent respondents of Mullins et al.s study came from Hong Kong.
Some international students put the blame for their difficulty of establishing friend-
ship on Australians alone, while others felt that both groups had shared responsibility:

13
Some Australians are snobby or just dont like Asians. Some attribute these difficul-
ties to a communication problem and shyness on both sides, as well as strangeness caused
by cultural differences. It seems clear that the expectations and obligations of friendship
are different in Southeast Asia. (Bradley & Bradley 1984:2612)

Another reason why some of the international students, notably those coming from Hong
Kong, are not keen to establish friendships with the local people is because they intend to
return to their own countries once they have obtained their qualifications (Ballard &
Clanchy 1991:21.
Barker et al. (1991:83) amplify the kinds of context in which Asian students have the
greatest difficulty: taking the initiative in conversations, dealing with angry people, and
interacting with the opposite sex. This is echoed in Hellmundt et al.s (1998:333) ob-
servation that many international students in Australia are isolated, non-participating
and under-performing. Although the last part of their comment is not true for all (cf.
Volet & Renshaw 1996), these students are often isolated from fellow Australian stu-
dents, a problem reported by many researchers.

Implications for the present study

According to the literature we have examined, learners in a majority language context


(such as Chinese students at Australian universities) vary enormously in the extent to
which they approximate to the target language proficiency, and classroom learners
(such as the Hong Kong subjects) often fail to develop much functional language ability.
While there is still opportunity for the former to attain native-speaker-like proficiency,
the chance for the latter to do so is very slim. However, the Australia-based students do
not necessarily take advantage of the language environment. In theory, they should be
able to speak, as well as to write, better than their Hong Kong counterparts if immersion
takes place. Yet our survey of the Australian research has presented us with a not-so-
positive picture of the international students there. The students English proficiency is
often less than satisfactory, and their tendency to mix with students from their own
places of origin may well jeopardise their chances of improving spoken English as well
as written English. The benefits of the ESL environment cannot be taken for granted.
Faced with these conflicting views of the ESL environment, the former based on
theory and the latter seemingly on reality, this study aims to investigate the writing
performance of Chinese students in Australia, as compared with their Hong Kong coun-
terparts. The questions to be addressed are:

1. whether the argumentative essays written by these Australian students are


better than those written by their Hong Kong counterparts in terms of organi-
sation; and if this is not so, what the factors accounting for this are;

2. whether the argumentative essays written by these Australian students are


better than those written by their Hong Kong counterparts in terms of the de-
gree of grammatical accuracy; and if this is not so, what the factors ac-
counting for this are.

From these questions stem two of the hypotheses of the present investigation. Together
with two others, these will be presented and developed in Chapter 5.

14
Chapter Three: Teaching and assessing academic writing

STUDENTS ACADEMIC WRITING NEEDS

At university, students are required to submit a number of written assignments, including


essays, reports, projects, case studies and research papers. Such tasks make many de-
mands on ESL students, because they require a high level of argumentative skills and
writing proficiency, as well as an understanding of the academic writing conventions.
This is vividly expressed by a subject in Briguglios 1998 study:

[N]ot just [assistance with] writing, but expressing myself in intellectually mature lan-
guage, in academic language. Because sometimes, thats what I think is a bit difficult for
non English-speaking background people, to make a distinction between, for example,
academic language, non-academic language, and slang. (p. 6)

This students remark echoes the findings of a large-scale study of international and local
students conducted in Australia (Mullins et al. 1995), which revealed that Writing as-
signments/reports was a serious problem for only six per cent of the local Australian
respondents, and thus ranked as low as fifteenth in their list of serious problems. In
contrast, 17% of the international students considered academic writing a serious prob-
lem. It ranked eighth in their list. This problem was also a persistent one; some students
who had attended university for over a year still reported that they found it difficult to
write assignments or reports (ibid.:213).
Tertiary students in Hong Kong also report that they find academic writing difficult.
In an investigation I conducted in the Spring semester of 2001, all the first-year Engi-
neering students who attended the English for Academic Purposes course at HKUST
and Technology were required to write a portfolio to evaluate their own writing skills.
Among the 108 students I taught, 99% indicated that they found they lacked the writing
skills to cope with the requirements of their university study (Wong 2001a). They identi-
fied three areas which needed most improvement: organisation, grammar and vocabulary.
The first of these is itemised by Jordan (1997:7). He notes that successful academic writ-
ing involves a set of study skills including:

planning
writing drafts, revising
summarising, paraphrasing and synthesising
continuous writing in an academic style
organising writing appropriately
using quotations, footnotes, bibliography, and
finding and analysing evidence; using data appropriately.

Among these skills, the ones most important for successful academic writing are organi-
sation, referencing (e.g. the use of quotations from secondary sources), as well as appro-
priate use and analysis of data.

15
RESEARCH ON STUDENTS ACADEMIC WRITING

Contrasts between good writing and poor writing

Research into good and poor academic writing shows that they differ in two ways: firstly,
they differ in their development of ideas, and secondly, in the degree to which they con-
form to the conventional global and local structures of argumentative text.
Witte (1983) found that good essays have more parallel progression than poor essays,
that is, proficient writers elaborate on a few crucial ideas only. Poor writers, on the other
hand, use more sequential progression. They keep on introducing new topics, includ-
ing irrelevant ones. Wittes finding was echoed by Lindebergs (1985a:339), who dis-
covered that in-depth idea movement is associated with good writing, and vice versa:

Poor writers keep to a very limited range of levels of generality, or make a long-
winded dive into depths of detail. [G]ood writers tend to have fairly orderly patterns of
neat descent, whereas poor writers reveal ragged, inconsistent patterns.

The suggestion that in-depth idea development contributes to writing success was echoed
by the results of an investigation carried out in Venezuela (Villegas 1998, 1999), in
which a group of first-year college students were taught the macrostructure of argumen-
tative text. In the post-test, their use of organisational strategies (such as the elaboration
strategy) had helped them write more coherent essays.
Other kinds of research have focused on the degree to which good and poor academic
essays conform to the conventional global and local structures of argumentative text.
One example of this type of study is Connor (1987). It was found that the high-rated es-
says contained more of these conventional argumentative structures, such as the Prob-
lem-Solution macrostructure and the local structure Claim + Justification + Induction.

Rhetorical functions identified in students academic writing

Recent research into discourse structure has focused on rhetorical functions in texts, that
is, the semantic relations between sentences and propositions, or larger discourse units.
Through them the arguments are developed continuously in better texts. By the same to-
ken, the sequence of rhetorical functions in poor writing is problematic, disrupting the
flow of the discourse. These findings are most relevant to the current investigation, as the
methodology of studying organisation, one of our focuses, involves the examination of
rhetorical functions (cf. Chapter 4).

Recurrent rhetorical functions in good essays

The research into the most prevalent rhetorical functions identified in academic writing
has divergent findings. While Lindebergs (1988, 1994) study found that Evaluate was
the most common rhetorical function in academic writing, Stuart-Smith & Busbridge
(1996) found that Elaboration and Evidence were the most frequent relations in their
data set. On the other hand, Lindebergs second finding that the Assert-Specify-
Evaluate-Cause pattern recurs in good academic writing was very similar to that of
Connor (1987), who discovered that Claim + Justification + Evaluation was a common
pattern in student essays.

16
At the global level, Stuart-Smith & Busbridge discovered that good essays display
the same pattern, that is, CENTRAL NUCLEUS in the INTRODUCTION with the BODY of the
essay relating to the CENTRAL NUCLEUS or the whole INTRODUCTION by the relations
of ELABORATION or EVIDENCE (op. cit.:26; caps sic). Poor essays, however, display a
smaller frequency of these patterns at both local and global levels.

Problematic rhetorical functions

Lindeberg (1988, 1994) discovered that poor essays contain a higher frequency of non-
functional units, that is, units with no identifiable rhetorical role in the context. She
noted various underlying causes, such as problems of logic, cohesion, vocabulary, and/or
syntax. Stuart-Smith & Busbridge (1996), on the other hand, looked at unsuccessful rela-
tions from the perspective of communicative effects, where the student writer intended
a particular relation yet the corresponding effect was not achieved (ibid.:28). In their
data set, only one Unsuccessful Relation was discovered in the good essays, but there
were ten such in the poor essays. Kaldor et al. (1998:51) also identified problems in rhe-
torical relations in student writing:

Often signalling will be inconsistent with the information contained in the sentence, or the
reader may not be able to establish relationships with earlier sentences because they may
not be there or may be too distant.

The problematic categories of rhetorical functions identified by all these researchers thus
often signal a break in coherence. The presence of such problematic, or unsound, rhetori-
cal relations is not conducive to further integration of arguments.

Academic conventions

Apart from the discoursal challenge in organising an argumentative text, L2 writers often
have problems in the academic conventions of university writing. Jordan (1997) points
out that the convention of being critical toward published work, as well as referencing
conventions, are areas in which students experience particular difficulties when writing
academic essays.

Referencing

In many countries in Asia, including China, there has historically been a great respect for
the printed word, as well as for authoritative figures. Biggs & Watkins (1996:278), for
example, point out that acknowledging sources is not always required or expected by
Chinese teachers. However, they quickly cite yet another reason for plagiarism, or failure
to acknowledge the source :

[W]hat appears to be plagiarism often occurs as a result of writing in a second language.


Students who want to make a point particularly clearly see paraphrasing the source as a
strange thing to do when the source itself makes the point better than they ever could re-
word it in an imperfectly mastered language. (ibid.:2789)

17
In other words, plagiarism may be the result of students diffidence about their own lan-
guage proficiency. When they go to study in the English-speaking world in places such
as Australia, North America or Britain, they face considerable difficulty, as plagiarism is
considered a serious academic crime. Rather, the ability to provide citations and to ref-
erence ones discussion is crucial in academic writing, since it establishes ones aca-
demic credentials (Jordan 1997:115).

Critical attitudes toward published work

Chinese students reverence for published work has also brought to some of them
another difficulty in writing academic discourse. The educational traditions in China and
those of the Western world are very different:

College teachers in Western institutions assume that their duty is to develop their students
as independent learners . The traditions of [Chinese] scholarship attest to knowledge as
wisdom there is no scope for critical questioning and analysis
(Ballard & Clanchy 1991:24)

In writing academic essays, many Chinese students merely include citations from books
or articles without critiquing or commenting on them (Cortazzi 1990), and thus often fail
to fulfil the analytical task required of them. Richards & Skelton (1991:40) draw the fol-
lowing conclusion: Overseas students evaluate less, and evaluate less critically. This
remark has been echoed by those who have studied the attitudes of Asian learners in
Australia (cf. Ballard & Clanchy 1991). Smith et al. (1998:273) believe that such an ap-
proach reflects the students anxious reaction to the different Western teaching envi-
ronment. One further reason which has not been suggested above is a learners poor
language proficiency. Their non-critical approach may reflect a lack of language rather
than thought.

Cultural differences in discourse patterns

Some researchers link the phenomenon of the non-critical attitude of the Asian students
with the global structure of the argumentative essays these students produce. For exam-
ple, Kaplan (1966:48, 10) suggested that the Anglo-Saxon pattern, often termed linear,
places great value on the writer taking a stance, analysing evidence and finally arriving at
an evaluation. The Oriental pattern, on the other hand, is described as circular, since the
topic is discussed from all perspectives, with no clear conclusion or recommendation
made at the end of the essay.
Kaplans finding about the direct approach to argumentation of the Anglo-Saxon pat-
tern found support in the studies of Clyne (1981) and Connor (1987). Malcolm & Honjio
(1988) also discovered that in writing problem-solution essays, English L1 speakers
typically followed a pattern with clearly marked sections:

18
Brief introduction to the topic

Identification and discussion of important issues and problems

Possible solutions

Evaluation of solutions

Chinese students, by contrast, produce this pattern:

Lengthy introduction to the topic



Presentation of the facts related to the topic

Presentation of the facts which oppose the view just given

Indefinite conclusion

The Indefinite conclusion in the Oriental pattern shows that Chinese students are not
predisposed to settle the issues raised. Kaplan (1966:2) believes that the pattern reflects
the students own cultural background. Perhaps the students investigated had been influ-
enced by the scholarly tradition of their own country, where there is no requirement to
argue [nor] to reach clear-cut conclusions (Ballard & Clanchy 1991:323).

ASSESSING ACADEMIC WRITING

An aspect closely related to the teaching of academic writing is the issue of assessment.
Holistic rating, defined as any procedure which stops short of enumerating linguistic,
rhetorical, or informational features of a piece of writing (Cooper 1977:4), is a popular
tool in assessing writing. Yet many teachers are concerned with two issues, scorer reli-
ability and construct validity.

Reliability of holistic rating

One of the assumptions underlying holistic rating is that given a scale which describes
the characteristics of a text at all levels, trained raters will assess the texts in the same or
similar ways every time, i.e. holistic rating should have reliability. Yet scorer reliability
is much affected by differences in the perceptions and attitudes of the raters and the kind
of training they receive (Milanovic et al. 1995:93).

Validity of holistic rating

Milanovic et al. (ibid.) maintain that marking is not simply a matter of reliability, but
also concerned with the issue of construct validity. The validity of holistic rating is in-
terconnected with a whole range of textual properties such as content, sentence structure

19
and organisation, as well as external aspects like its length, layout and appearance. Other
extrinsic factors in holistic rating are associated with the raters themselves.

Extrinsic factors

Some raters base their judgements on the appearance of the papers, rather than essay
quality. Stewart & Grobe (1979:213), for example, found that the results of holistic
judgement were positively correlated with essay length. Layout also seemed to lead to
prejudices in some raters even before they had looked at the content (Milanovic et al.
1995:106). On the other hand, papers in poor handwriting can generally receive lower
holistic ratings (Charney 1984:75; Vaughan 1991:114). Charney (loc. cit.) comments that
these aspects of texts are easy to pick out but are irrelevant to true writing ability.
Some extrinsic factors come from the context of marking itself, and might also turn
out to be hindrances to judgement of true writing ability. One such factor is the ran-
dom sequencing of essays (Vaughan 1991:121; Milanovic et al. 1995:106). Another is
the background of the raters. Newcomb (1977) also found that holistic judgements could
be affected by the raters nationality and sex. The first finding, concerning nationality,
was echoed by Connor-Linton (1995), who discovered that while Japanese EFL teachers
valued word choice, Americans focused more on intersentential discourse. Newcombs
second finding, sex as a variable in holistic rating, was confirmed by Vann et al.s (1991)
study, which found that compared with their male counterparts, female raters were less
likely to attribute errors to carelessness, or be irritated by erroneous language.
Lexical density is another characteristic which affects holistic rating. Nold & Freed-
man (1977), Grobe (1981), Neilson & Piche (1981), Laufer (1994) and Laufer & Nation
(1995) have all found that teachers give better grades to texts with high levels of lexical
density, that is, essays which contain a larger number of low-frequency words. Yet the
factors which attract most attention from raters are content/subject matter, grammatical
accuracy, and organisation.

Content/subject matter

In several investigations, content has been found to be the most important rating criterion.
For example, in Vaughans (1991:114) study, a number of English teachers, all experi-
enced in holistic rating in the same university system, were asked to grade six essays ho-
listically, as well as make verbal comments on them. It was found that raters made most
comments in regard to content. This supports Freedmans (1981) finding, in which prob-
lems with content emerged as the most frequent issue raised by assessors. Content is not
only valued by some English teachers; it is also an important rating criterion to many
subject specialists.

Grammatical accuracy

Grammatical accuracy is a further aspect which was found to be emphasised by English


teachers. Stewart & Grobe (1979), for instance, discovered that good writing was associ-
ated with the mechanics, that is, freedom from spelling errors and other surface errors.
This result was supported by Sparks (1988), who investigated whether grammatical ac-
curacy had a bearing on raters perception of ESL writing quality. His findings, based on

20
the holistic ratings of 30 ESL essays by two experienced teachers, revealed that high-
rated writing was correlated with grammatical accuracy. In Lukmanis (1995) study, it
was discovered that English teachers valued grammatical accuracy more than did subject
specialists, who paid more attention to coherence. These results differed from those of
Bridgeman & Carlson (1983) and Hamp-Lyons (1988), who found that in rating essays,
English teachers placed most attention to text organisation.
Comparatively, grammatical accuracy is relatively easier to judge. Ballard & Clanchy
(1991:33) include spelling, grammar, idiom, register, format and styles of referencing in
a set of objective criteria by which an assignment can be assessed. Although the no-
tions of what constitute an excellent piece of writing and a very poorly written essay dif-
fer from one rater to another, very few will mistake a grammatically accurate essay for
an inaccurate one, or vice versa.

Organisation

Organisation undoubtedly plays an important role in judgements of writing quality. In


Connor & Lauers (1986) investigation, it was found that organisation had the highest
correlation with the holistic scores. This confirmed the earlier findings of Lautamatti
(1978, 1980), Connor (1984) and Connor & Farmer (1985).
The differing focuses of English teachers and subject specialists in assessing aca-
demic writing have been examined in other studies (e.g. Bridgeman & Carlson 1983;
Keller-Cohen & Wolfe 1987; Hamp-Lyons & Reed 1990). In Bridgeman & Carlsons
study, the evaluation criteria for written work used by English teachers at university were
compared with those used by subject specialists. Organisation was the most important
rating criterion for the English teachers. However, the subject specialists placed paper
organisation only sixth. They viewed quality of content as the most important, though
it was ranked only ninth in importance by the English teachers. Similar findings were
obtained by Hamp-Lyons (1988).
To explore whether English teachers and subject specialists in Hong Kong also put
divergent emphases on what counts as writing quality, I interviewed the programme co-
ordinator and three assessors of the Writing and Speaking through the Curriculum Pro-
gramme at HKUST (Wong 2001b). The staff noted that while Business lecturers placed
great importance on content, they themselves found content and organisation equally im-
portant. At first glance, their view seemed to differ from that of the English teachers we
examined earlier, who ranked organisation much more highly than content. However,
when asked to elaborate, the interviewees said that for them, content embodies all as-
pects of essay quality, except grammar. Two of the assessment criteria they set for con-
tent are that an essay should be well-developed and well-organised, and include an ef-
fective introduction and conclusion. These two criteria are, in fact, related to organisa-
tion, rather than content.
This investigation highlights a serious problem in the validity of different language
constructs in holistic rating. It is possible that teachers judgements of one aspect of a
text, such as content, are confounded with others, such as organisation. In any case the
organisation of a text is inherently difficult to judge. Assessors may respond differently
to it, as noted by Hoey (1991:166):

The same text may be found coherent by one reader and incoherent by another, though an
overwhelming consensus can be achieved for most naturally-occurring texts.

21
The problem results from the fact that the unity of text is not identifiable with a combi-
nation of linguistic features and will never be absolute (Falvey 1993:42). Therefore the
validity of the rating of organisation poses a major question for teachers, and test admin-
istrators within the field of language assessment.
Yet another problem in the appraisal of organisation and textual coherence emerged
in the study of rating reported by Wong (1995), in which some raters admitted that they
confused the concept of coherence with that of cohesion. This tallies with the findings
of some researchers (e.g. Field & Yip, 1992; Field 1993, 1994; Milton & Tsang 1993;
Milton 2001) that in Hong Kong, a great deal, if not too much, attention is paid to the
teaching of cohesion, and on the use of cohesive devices. The emphasis on micro-
organisation and on grammatical accuracy tends to mask the importance of the
macro-organisation of discourse. Some raters indicate that they tend to assume that a
script which is full of errors is badly organised as well (Wong 1995:157). Thus the valid-
ity of holistic rating could be questioned, because raters may be using different rating
criteria. This confirms Vaughans (1991:120) observation that [d]espite their similar
training, different raters focus on different essay elements and perhaps have individual
approaches to reading essays.

Questions and issues

The preceding discussion has reviewed some of the problems in holistic rating and how
its validity can be questioned. This suggests the need to investigate whether organisation,
as well as the coherence and integration of arguments, go together with grammatical ac-
curacy in contributing to writing quality, and whether these qualities can be found in es-
says which receive a high grade in holistic rating. Apart from the two research questions
raised at the end of Chapter 2, two more can be formulated:

Question 1

Do the high-rated essays display a higher level of coherence and integration of


arguments than the low-rated essays; and if this is/is not so, what are the factors
accounting for this?

Question 2

Do the high-rated essays display a greater degree of grammatical accuracy than


the low-rated essays; and if this is/is not so, what are the factors accounting for
this?

The discussion also highlights the importance of analysing grammatical accuracy sepa-
rately from textual organisation, though both are involved in successful writing. Com-
pared to grammatical accuracy, discourse organisation in general, and the structure of
argumentative texts in particular, are much less understood. Systematic ways of analys-
ing argumentative discourse will be discussed and developed in Chapter 4, with the im-
mediate aim of developing a method for investigating the integration of arguments. The
ultimate aim is to devise a model for judging and/or teaching coherent writing.

22
Chapter Four: The structure of argumentative text and
the study of rhetorical relations

THE STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENTATIVE TEXT

A text is a structural equivalent of language in real use which conveys meaning in all four
senses of Hymes (1972) communicative competence (whether a text is: possible, feasible,
appropriate, and performed), and which suggests a topic of discourse
Grabe & Kaplan (1996:40)

A text is thus a communicative event, whose message must be conveyed successfully


from the writer to the reader. Grabe & Kaplan (op. cit.:42) suggest that the text structure
has a major role to play in ensuring successful communication, and it should be exam-
ined at different levels:
texts convey information to the reader on many different levels. Any theory of writing
will, therefore, have to provide explanations about such multilevel communication
This principle is central to the design of the present study.

Global structure

Grabe & Kaplan (1996:42) suggest that understanding and producing texts will not only
require knowledge of the surface structuring of texts but also of the underlying textual
structuring. The underlying structure of a text was earlier defined by Grabe (1985:110)
in terms of coherence as the underlying relations that hold between assertions (or
propositions) [which] contribute to the overall discourse theme. He also notes the
one thing that various well-known text analysis models have in common is the idea that
there are three interacting features essential to a coherent text:

a discourse theme (or thesis);


a set of relevant assertions relating logically among themselves by means of
subordination, coordination and superordination ; and
an information structure imposed on the text to guide the reader in under-
standing the theme or intent of the writer

Cooper & Matsuhashi (1983:12) state, Any discourse of more than a sentence or two
requires a global plan about the purpose for the writing and about the readers for
the writing. This view is supported by several others, who have chosen to use alterna-
tive terms for the global plan, such as schema (Callow & Callow 1992), frame
(Frederiksen 1986) and discourse structure (Meyer 1992). The main argument of these
researchers regarding the global structure is that it is useful for guiding the writer to write
and the reader to understand the message.
The global structure of discourse is also important in distinguishing one genre from
another:

Logic, conception, and execution all differ as a writer shifts from one of these [discourse]
types to the other. The major difference is not at the sentence level, though it is there
as well, but at the discourse level; at the level of the global structure or plan of the piece.
(Cooper & Matsuhashi 1983:1415)

23
Linguists generally categorise texts as narrative, expository or argumentative. It is the
argumentative genre we are investigating in this study.
Many linguists link the text type and structure of a piece of writing with its audience
and purpose. As Cooper & Matsuhashi (1983:12) note, a particular purpose, audience
and occasion for writing lead to a certain discourse type with its characteristic structure.
Their argument is that the discourse structure can only be learned through extensive ex-
perience with each discourse type as a reader and writer (ibid.:15). Meyer (1992:80)
further points out that if the writer selects an appropriate structure to convey the message
and also cues the readers into this structure, it will help the reader in constructing a cog-
nitive representation of the text which is similar to what is intended by the writer.
Meyers view is supported by Grabe (1996:1), who states that the text provides
strong guidelines for the coherent interpretation that is intended by the writer, and that is
typically well perceived by the reader. He elaborates (ibid.:10):

Genres begin as functional conventions that serve meaningful purposes, because they pro-
vide defaults for recognizing basic background information about text while letting a
reader focus on the newer more-specific information.

This is in line with Longacres (1992:110) observation that [a] schema is discourse-type
specific but is not discourse specific in terms of the content of a particular text.
Some researchers emphasise that the global structure also contributes to the coher-
ence of the text. McCutchen & Perfetti (1982) maintain that the global structure, or what
they call text form constraint (genre), is important in that it actually constitutes one of
the four major sources of discourse coherence. (The other three are topic knowledge,
topic coherence and local connectedness.) Lautamatti (1990), on the other hand, believes
that the global structure creates a special type of coherence, called Propositional Coher-
ence, achieved by developing the discourse topic with the aid of cognitive frames, by
storing information relating to different objects, events etc. in a hierarchical, and thus
maximally economical, way (ibid.:35). Meyer (1992:80) also considers discourse struc-
ture of paramount importance, as it is the organization that binds [the text] together, and
delivers its overall organization, by specifying the logical connections among ideas, as
well as the subordination of some ideas to others.
The global structure thus seems to contribute to the integration of the text in several
ways. Tirkkonen-Condit (1989:417) states that the dominant global structure in argumen-
tative text should be an Argumentative Response Structure. Such a structure manifests
itself in the argumentative text as three types of sequence: Question-Answer, Remark-
Response and Problem-Solution. She observes that the usual sequences at the global
level are Remark-Response and Problem-Solution, and in particularly the latter. She be-
lieves that it is ideal for the description of the argumentative text to be embedded in the
description of the argumentation process, which is described as an instance of the cog-
nitive process of problem-solving (Kummer 1972:29): the writer/speaker (S) assumes
that the reader or hearer (H) has an undesirable initial position in a state of affairs. Ss
goal is to change the initial position in Hs mind so that it finally approaches Ss own
position. This goal is achieved via a number of sub-goals the single arguments, or the
claims, of the argumentation. The end product, the text, is a constellation of miniature
texts which all contribute to the ultimate goal, the solutions (Tirkkonen-Condit
1984:224). The miniature texts themselves are in turn organised into three global units,
the Topic Unit, the Elaboration Unit and the Conclusion Unit.
But apart from the Problem-Solution sequence, the Remark-Response sequence is
indeed a recurrent structure in the argumentative text, since argumentation is often trig-

24
gered as a response to a remark, an assertion, or a claim. Guba & Lincoln (1989) suggest
that argumentative inquiry often takes place in value-laden contexts, and that in selecting
an issue, values are involved. If indeed values are involved in argumentation, it is evident
that a certain position is to be taken:

[T]he function of argumentation is to put forward possible reasons and then to test those
reasons. The possible belief is embodied in the position . The possible reasons for the
belief are embodied in the arguments given. (Meiland 1989:1878)

The argument which conveys the position taken by a speaker/writer in response to a re-
mark/claim typically embodies its own argumentative structure.
In fact, the element claim not only forms the structural key to an argument. It may
appear at other levels of the text, as the argument is further developed. That is why Tirk-
onnen-Condit (1989:447) believes that the typical sequence of functions in argumenta-
tive text is Claim + Justification + Induction, which she terms as the interactive pattern
in the Problem unit in the Problem-Solution Structure (Tirkonnen-Condit 1984:230).
She is thus in effect saying that there are local structures in argumentative text. Linde-
berg (1994:139) makes this point very clear, when she refers to these structures as local
rhetorical functions: A well formed sequence of local rhetorical functions form a
global rhetorical structure. In other words, theoretically speaking, the arguments at the
global level, and those at the levels beneath it, should be integrated.
The interplay of higher and lower levels of argument can also be seen in writers use
of evaluation. Evaluation is one of components in the sequence Situation-Evaluation, a
variant of the Fundamental Information Structure (FIS) (Winter 1976). This variant re-
sembles Tirkkonen-Condits Remark-Response sequence in presenting first the back-
ground to the discussion, followed by an evaluative response. But evaluation is often
used in the lower levels of discourse as well, when writers make a judgement on what
they themselves, or other people, have said earlier in the text.

Local structures

So far we have been reviewing what we might call top-down approaches to text organi-
sation, starting with the global structure, and finding structured components within it.
Other text linguists have developed bottom-up approaches to discourse structure, to en-
hance our understanding of how arguments are built up from the local structures. The last
thirty years have witnessed parallel approaches in discourse analysis which are largely
intuited analyses of the relations according to a limited set of predetermined proposi-
tions (Winter 1992:139). Such approaches include:

(a) Clause Relation Theory: Winter (1971, 1976, 1977, 1992), Hoey (1979, 1983,
1991) and Jordan (1984, 1992),
(b) Rhetorical Structure Theory: Mann & Thompson (1986, 1987, 1988) and
Thompson & Mann (1987),
(c) Functional Role Theory: Lieber (1979), Lindeberg (1988) and Albrechtsen et al.
(1991); and
(d) Communicative Function Analysis: Wong (1993).

In respect of Clause Relation Theory, which provides a foundation for understanding lo-
cal structures, Winter believes that the clause is the basis of discourse structure. Yet his
use of the term is not simply that of traditional grammar. His clause relations are a way

25
of referring to local semantic relations: A clause relation is how we interpret the infor-
mation of one clause in the light of other clauses. (Winter 1974:59) Jordan (1992:179)
makes a similar point: A clause relation is the meaning between two coherent stretches
of text. Earlier, in 1983, Hoey, another proponent of the Clause Relation Theory, related
the concept of clause relation to the hierarchical structure of discourse: a discourse
may be made up of clause relations which are themselves members of larger clause rela-
tions which are in turn members of an overall relation (ibid.:32). In other words, the
overall clause relation of a text (be it Situation-Evaluation, or the other variants of the
Fundamental Information Structure) is built up from smaller clause relations. This is
echoed by Albrechtsen et al. (1991:91), when they expound the concepts of local coher-
ence and global coherence:

local coherence applies to formal, semantic and pragmatic relations between neighbouring
clauses or functional units, and global coherence relates to higher order units dominating
such interclausal relationships.

Albrechtsen et al.s definition for local coherence as formal, semantic and pragmatic
relations between neighbouring clauses or functional units elaborates what Hoey re-
ferred to as clause relations. What is more enlightening is that in saying that there are
higher order units dominating [the] interclausal relationships, Albrechtsen et al. are
providing an explanation here of how clause relations can be members of larger clause
relations which are in turn members of an overall relation. The higher order units re-
fer to the global structure of discourse, which we discussed in the last section.
Other linguists have also commented on the rhetorical relationship between particular
textual segments at the lower discourse levels. Aston (1977:487), for example, stated,
one of the expectations as to the development of argumentative discourse is for state-
ments to be followed by explanations, assertions by justifications. In more general
terms, Lindeberg (1994:139) maintained that the choice of local rhetorical structures is
closely related to the discourse structure at the global level. She further (ibid.:141)
stressed the significance of examining the local structures: The sequences of functions
essentially reflect the strategies that the students used to build up their universe of dis-
course, to develop the topics, ideas, concepts or arguments they introduced. It was from
Lindebergs statement that one of the objectives of this study was derived: to investigate
how effectively L2 tertiary students build up their universe of argumentative discourse,
from the lowest level to the highest; that is, to study the argumentative structure not only
at the global level and the clausal/sentential level, but also at the levels in between the
two.
While the actual shape and size of the local rhetorical structures are left open, their
function is clear. Lindeberg (1985b:85) suggests that local structures, like the global
structure, are constrained, or guided, by the specific writing task, as well as the discourse
type: different tasks call for different development strategies, and hence different coher-
ence patterns. Enkvist (1990:23) also states that [m]any kinds of texts have conven-
tional patterns and hence conventional strategies, in them, optimal coherence results
from conforming to the optimal strategy. These postulates regarding the local structures
being guided by the genre and the writing task will be investigated in the present study.
As for the local structures of argumentative text, researchers believe that these are
also guided by the task and/or the genre. Toulmin et al. (1984:14) maintain that argu-
mentation is the whole activity of making claims, challenging them, backing them up by
producing reasons, criticising those reasons, rebutting those criticisms, and so on.
Three elements, Claim, Data and Warrant, are included in Toulmins (1958) model

26
of informal logic. Claims are assertions put forward publicly for general acceptance
(Toulmin et al. 1984:29); Data are the facts we appeal to as a foundation for the
claim; and Warrants are general, hypothetical statements, which can act as bridges
(ibid.:978).
Aston (1977), on the other hand, connects local rhetorical structures with speech acts,
believing that the analysis of speech acts is essential in uncovering larger communicative
units, or speech events. He quotes Widdowson (1973:74):

certain combinations of acts such as definitions, classifications, generalisation, qualifica-


tion, and so on, which in many cases constitute larger communicative units like
explanations, descriptions and reports, and which may be said to reflect the actual
methodology of scientific enquiry.

He also cites Sinclair & Coulthard (1975) with respect to acts combining to form
moves, moves to form exchanges, exchanges to form transactions, and transac-
tions to form speech events. To apply this to argumentative discourse, Aston (1977:
474) postulates that acts combine to realise famigerated activities, such as the evalua-
tion of hypotheses and the accounting for observed phenomena. He states that evaluation
is related directly to a frequent activity in argumentative text, the discussion of hypothe-
ses (ibid.:487). This is because when a writer introduces a reported assertion, the reader
will expect the writer to go on to evaluate the assertion. The two acts (Reported Asser-
tion-Evaluation) combine to form a Claim. Aston points out that sometimes the Evalua-
tion may be inferred if it is omitted. He gives an example to illustrate this: According to
Chomsky, generative and interpretative semantics are notional variants. He ignores the
fact that (ibid.:496). His conclusion is that the reporting of an assertion in argu-
mentative discourse entails an evaluation of it, whether this is done explicitly or not
(ibid.), reminiscent of Aristotles use of enthymeme, [whose] commonest contempo-
rary sense is that of an argument in syllogistic form, in which one premise is unstated,
and implied by the conclusion (James 2001:70).
In elaborating on the accounting for phenomena, Aston suggests that there is a re-
cursive possibility of explanatory relationships in extended discourse. He states that an
Observation can be realised by a Claim-Justification. Since Justification is in turn real-
ised by Observation, recursion occurs (Aston 1977:490). Figure 2 refers:

Observation Claim

Justification Observation Claim

Justification etc.

Figure 2: Explanatory relationships in extended discourse: recursion.

It was Tirkkonen-Condit (1984) who took a step further to develop what Toulmin and
Aston had explored, particularly the notions of Claim and Justification into Claim +
Justification + Induction. She calls this the typical sequence of functions in argumenta-
tive text. Her postulation was confirmed by Connors (1987). Tirkkonen-Condit too

27
linked this typical sequence with the global structure of argumentative text. Thus the in-
terrelation between local and global structures of argumentative text has ample theoreti-
cal and empirical foundation. In the models for the local structures of argumentative text
described above, there are two common elements: Claim and Justification. The third
element, although termed differently by Toulmin (Warrant) and Tirkonnen-Condit
(Induction), refers to the element of Evaluation made on the basis of the justification.
Therefore although the models look different, they are essentially similar.

SEGMENTATION OF TEXT

There are divergent methods for segmenting text. Three of them are most commonly
used, which involve the use of

a grammatical unit (the sentence or the T-unit),


a semantic unit (the proposition), or
a grammatical/semantic unit (the F-unit).

as the basic unit of segmentation. In this section, each of these methods will be intro-
duced and evaluated, so as to justify the final decision made regarding the method of
segmentation used in the present study.

Using the sentence as the unit of segmentation

At first sight, the sentence might appear to be an appropriate segmentation unit because it
is easily identified as a syntactic structure. Yet its discoursal value is not to be assumed,
as pointed out by McCarthy (1991:152):

a number of things in clause and sentence grammar have implications for the discourse as
a whole, in particular, word order, cohesion, and tense and aspect the sentence will
have no special status other than a grammatical and orthographic unit.

Earlier, in 1983, Hunt had already raised objections to using the sentence as a segmenta-
tion unit for analysing student writing, on the basis that some students are weak in punc-
tuation. Furthermore, the indiscriminate use of and by some writers in co-ordinated sen-
tences makes this unit of segmentation even more problematic. Hunts view is particu-
larly relevant to our own data, i.e. student writing, which has often been criticised for
misuse of punctuation and overuse of cohesive devices. For all these reasons, the ortho-
graphic sentence is unsatisfactory as the basis of segmentation.

Using the T-unit as the unit of segmentation

Hunts own solution was to use the T-unit as the unit of text segmentation. He (1970:4)
defined the T-unit as one main clause plus any subordinate clause or nonclausal struc-
ture that is attached to or embedded in it, and argued that segmenting a text into T-units
means segmenting it into its shortest grammatically feasible (i.e. grammatically inde-
pendent) units. Consider this example (from Hunt 1983:101):

28
I like the movie we saw about Moby Dick the white whale the captain said if you can kill
the white whale Moby Dick I will give this gold to the one that can do it and it is worth
sixteen dollars they tried and tried but while they were trying they killed a whale and used
the oil for the lamps they almost caught the white whale.

According to Hunt, this long sentence consists of six T-units:

1. I like the movie we saw about Moby Dick the white whale.
2. The captain said if you can kill the white whale, Moby Dick, I will give this gold to
the one that can do it.
3. And it is worth sixteen dollars.
4. They tried and tried.
5. But while they were trying they killed a whale and used the oil for the lamps.
6. They almost caught the white whale.

Other analysts agree that the T-unit has several advantages as a segmentation unit. T-
units can be identified objectively, in terms of simple and complex sentences, or co-
ordinated sentences with subject deletion (ODonnell 1976:32; Watson 1983:129130).
Secondly, they are not affected by poor punctuation. Lastly, since T-unit length incorpo-
rates the mean words per clause and the number of clauses per T-unit, it is a useful index
of syntactic complexity (ODonnell 1976:32; Hunt 1977; Witte & Davis 1980:6).
However, the T-unit does not seem to be an appropriate unit of segmentation for the
current study. For one thing, it is generally used as an index for measuring syntactic ma-
turity, which is not our focus here. For another, since it is one main clause plus any
subordinate clause or nonclausal structure that is attached or embedded in it, the T-unit,
compared with the F-unit, to be introduced in the next section, is less delicate in reveal-
ing the development of the argumentative discourse. It may also bring confusion to the
calculation of the ratio of the number of units to the number of functions, as some T-
units may consist of only the main clause while others may have a subordinate clause or
a nonclausal structure attached or embedded in them.
Indeed, Hunt (1983:107) himself suggests that it may well be that, among high-
school and college students, clause length is a better index of maturity than is T-unit
length, for the reason that in the early grades both clause length and number of clauses
increase but for full maturity it is clause length that will grow, not the other index. This
suggestion is relevant to the current study, as the data sets were produced by college
students. For this and other reasons, the T-unit was not chosen as our segmentation unit.

Using the proposition as the unit of segmentation

A proposition is a statement expressing a judgement or opinion. Crombie (1985:13) ex-


plains that the semantic relations involved in text analysis are, minimally, two proposi-
tions. Each member of a semantic relation is often encoded as a separate clause, since
this is frequently the linguistic unit used to encode a single proposition. However, a se-
mantic relation may also be encoded as a group of clauses; cf. her illustration (ibid.):

Johns playing squash and Marys weeding the garden while Tims chopping wood and
Sams preparing the dinner but Jane isnt doing anything.

Alternatively, a semantic relational member may be encoded as a proposition embedded


in a single clause, for example:

29
Her exaggerations make him furious.
(i.e. she exaggerates (reason)
Reason Result
he becomes furious (result)

This suggestion of using propositions as the segmentation unit is however criticised by


Lindeberg (1988:64): even a very short text contains a considerable number of proposi-
tions. Thus a whole essay broken down into sets of propositions would soon become
quite cumbersome to handle Using propositions as the unit of segmentation would
indeed be cumbersome for the analysis of a large number of essays. What is more impor-
tant, if the principle of segmentation relies solely on semantic content, it is not very reli-
able, as too much subjective judgment may be involved in the process. Therefore the
proposition will not be used as the unit of segmentation in the present study.

Using the F-unit as the unit of segmentation

For Lindeberg (1988), the most appropriate unit of segmentation is the functional unit of
discourse, or F-unit, a suggestion first put forward by Lieber in 1979. Interestingly, the
F-unit involves using both grammatical and semantic notions in text segmentation. It is
defined as the set of clauses or clause equivalent serving an identifiable rhetorical func-
tion in written discourse (Lieber 1979:Abstract:i). A variety of grammatical structures,
such as co-ordinate structures and subordinate structures, can constitute F-units. Liebers
segmentation principles (1979:935) are presented below:

1. Coordinate structures
1.1. Full clauses joined by coordinating conjunctions or marks of punctuation
constitute separate F-units.
e.g. a. John broiled the steak,
b. and Bob made the salad.

1.2 Clauses exhibiting gapping in a non-initial member constitute separate F-


units.
e.g. a. Nick prepared the main course,
b. and Tony the desert [sic].

1.3 Clauses containing conjoined verbal structures will be segmented into


more than one F-unit.
e.g. a. He finished his work
b. and left immediately.

1.4 Conjoined nonverbal elements within a clause will be segmented into


separate F-units when an overt marker indicating a change of rhetorical
function is present (i.e. but, except, or an adverbial marker or preposi-
tional phrase).
e.g. a. She is highly qualified
b. and therefore suitable for the position.

30
2. Subordinate structures
2.1 Adverbial subordinate clauses and clause equivalents, with the exception
of temporal and locative structures
e.g. a. They had to hire new teachers
b. (in order) to handle the expected increase in enrollment.

2.2 Nonrestrictive relative clauses and sentence relatives


e.g. a. The set of F-units includes reduced non-restrictive relatives,
b. which are generally called appositives.

2.3 Nonrestrictive appositives (i.e. reduced nonrestrictive relative clauses)


e.g. a. The latest procedure can be found in Professor Wirths new book,
b. Airport Management in Developing Countries.

2.4 Nonrestrictive appositives of exemplification, identification and


renaming
e.g. a. Hes made all his arrangements with the new managing
company,
b. namely, Walter and Samuels.

2.5 Absolute constructions related to adverbial clauses or non-restrictive


relatives
e.g. a. The day being sunny,
b. he decided to play golf.

The F-unit, compared to the T-unit, is a more appropriate unit for discourse segmentation
since it is defined not by grammar alone, but by rhetorical functions as well. Hunt
(1970:4) notes that [a]ny complex or simple sentence would be one T-unit, but any
compound or compound-complex sentence would consist of two or more T-units. Yet in
the case of the F-unit, a complex sentence would consist of two or more F-units, just like
a compound sentence. Therefore in using the F-unit, the potential problem of confusion
of calculations connected with the T-unit can be avoided.
Another strong reason for our adopting the F-unit as our segmentation unit lies in the
aim of this study, which is close to Lindebergs objective of tracing propositional coher-
ence and thus the integration of arguments in student text (Lindeberg 1988:63).

THE HIERARCHICAL INTEGRATION OF ARGUMENT AND THE STUDY OF


RHETORICAL RELATIONS

We have seen how the global structure and local structures of text in general, and those
of argumentative text in particular, are closely related. This is an important notion, be-
cause if these structures are not integrated, the final product will not be a coherent text.
Thus, a coherent text must satisfy the requirements of both local and global coherence:

The requirements of global coherence say, Given the overall goals I am trying to accom-
plish, what can I say next that will serve them? Local coherence says, Given what I just
said, what can I say that is related to it?. (Agar & Hobbs 1982:7)

Thompson & Mann (1987:80) suggest that texts are not just strings of clauses, but rather

31
consist of hierarchically organised clauses which relate to one another in different ways.
They are, in effect, saying that the clauses in a text are hierarchically integrated. Earlier,
Hoey (1983:32) also asserted, discourses are organised at least in part in a hierarchi-
cal manner. Jacobs (1990:154) further relates this to academic discourse and states that
academic prose has a hierarchical structure, tall rather than wide.
The concept of hierarchical blocking was introduced by Lindeberg (1988:158), who
maintained that there are large semantic blocks in the text. To support her view, she
cited Hoeys (1983:32) observation that a discourse is made up of clause relations which
are themselves members of larger clause relations. She also noted that hierarchical block-
ing had been discovered in Tirkkonen-Condits (1985) study of Problem-Solution struc-
ture in L1 professional argumentative articles in English, and in Thompson & Manns
(1987) as well as Mathiessen & Thompsons (1988) studies of professional expository
writing in English. However, she added,

hierarchical blocking in the modeling of a text is not so simple, and it is often impossible
in less well-formed or less structured essays. It is rare for student essays to be so
clearly organised into hierarchical blocks. (Lindeberg 1988:1589)

The reason for this is explained by Albrechtsen et al. (1991:89):

[I]n transferring ideas to paper, basically hierarchical cognitive structures have to be trans-
lated into basically sequential linguistic form. It is very difficult to carry out this process in
such a way that both sequential (local) and hierarchical (global) coherence are taken care
of simultaneously by one linguistic sequence.

They present these ideas graphically in a Dynamic Model for Written Communication:

SENDER TEXT RECEIVER


COGNITIVE GLOBAL TOP-DOWN
HIERARCHY COHERENCE PROCESSING

= = =

SEQUENCE LOCAL BOTTOM-UP


COHERENCE PROCESSING

Figure 3: Dynamic model for written communication, from Albrechtsen et al. (1991:90).

In the figure, the problems experienced by the receiver in top-down and/or bottom-up
processing are presented by the broken lines. What the solid lines mean the authors do
not make clear, however. Albrechtsen et al. (op. cit.:8990) suggest that L2 student writ-
ers develop different coherence strategies (associative, focal and hierarchical) to cope
with the requirements of local and global coherence at different stages of their learning.
Yet they offer no explanation as to how the L2 writers at fairly advanced levels, such as
our subjects, can be helped to develop hierarchical coherence in their texts. An adapta-
tion of their model will be made in Chapter 8, to make suggestions as to how tertiary
students can be helped to improve the local and global coherence in their writing.

32
Since it is relatively more difficult to analyse hierarchical blocking, or the hierar-
chical integration of argument, in student text, finding the appropriate model, or method,
is important. We will now review three discourse analysis methods used for analysing
rhetorical relations within texts, namely Rhetorical Structure Theory Analysis, Func-
tional Role Analysis, and Communicative Function Analysis. These three methods repre-
sent two different approaches to discourse analysis, bottom-up and top-down. From
another perspective, they also represent two divergent ways of studying text, studying it
at the local levels only, and studying it at local and global levels.

Rhetorical Structure Theory Analysis

Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) Analysis adopts a bottom-up approach to analysing


text, from the local levels to the global level. The analysis at the local levels reveals the
relationship between individual units, whereas that at the global level shows how large
segments of a text are built up from smaller textual segments below.
The first and second steps of RST Analysis are similar to many methods of discourse
analysis. The first involves segmenting the text into units for analysis, or text spans,
which can be clauses, or a cluster of units at higher levels (Stuart-Smith & Busbridge
1996). The second step entails the categorisation of the units according to the rhetorical
functions they perform in the discourse. In other words, the semantic relations between
clauses, sentences or larger discourse units are studied. In fact the term relations is used
by Mann & Thompson (1987:3) to refer to rhetorical functions.
Mann and Thompson have a unique view of identifying rhetorical relations: their
starting point is nuclearity. They believe that the text can be broken down into pairs of
text spans, in each of which there is a member which is more essential to the writers
purpose than the other (op. cit.:31), labelled the nucleus, while the other member
which is incomprehensible if independent of the other, [and] is more suitable for
substitution than the other (ibid.) is labelled the satellite.
To perform RST Analysis, they propose using a set of relations, which are listed in
full in the next section. These rhetorical relations are presented through diagrams, which
consist of two basic elements, vertical lines and arcs. The vertical lines are used to indi-
cate the nuclei, while the arcs are utilised to connect units held together by a certain rela-
tion, and are labelled with rhetorical functions. The following is Thompson & Manns
(1987:9597) illustration of RST Analysis, operating on a gardening text:

Bouquets in a basket with living flowers


1. There is a gardening revolution going on.
2. People are planting flower baskets with living plants,
3. mixing many types in one container for a full summer of floral beauty.
4. To create your own Victorian bouquet of flowers,
5. choose varying shapes, sizes, and forms, besides a variety of complementary colors.
6. Plants that grow tall should be surrounded by smaller ones and filled out with others
that tumble over the side of a hanging basket.
7. Leaf textures and colors will also be important.
8. There is the silver-white foliage of dusty miller, the feathery threads of the lotus vine
floating down from above, the deep greens, or chartreuse, and even the widely varied
foliage colors of the coleus.

33
The RST diagram of this text is as follows:
18
background

13 48
elaboration purpose

4
1 23 58 elaboration
elaboration
elaboration

2 3 5 6 78
elaboration

7 8

Figure 4: RST analysis of the Bouquets in a Basket text, from Mann & Thompson (1987:97).

At the most general level, this text provides background information about the garden-
ing revolution (Units 13). The rest of the text describes the method of arranging flower
baskets with living plants. The description is achieved by the infinitive clause of purpose
in Unit 4 ([t]o create your own Victorian bouquet of flowers), together with the
elaboration relations found in many parts of the text. This illustrates how RST Analysis
identifies hierarchic structure [and] describes the relations between text parts in func-
tional terms, identifying both the transition point of a relation and the extent the items
related (Mann & Thompson 1987:2). Such an analysis method thus recognises the need
to understand the intermediate structures in an argument, and how they connect into the
hierarchy. However, it does have limitations.
The first is that although RST Analysis can be used for diagnosis at local, intermedi-
ate, as well as global levels, the distinctions between these levels are fluid. This does no
harm to its graphic representation of individual texts, but it means that the method does
not provide a means for text analysts to compare the findings at a specific level. The sec-
ond limitation lies in the graphic representation. With its many lines and arcs, and the
labelling of relationships in an extremely small font size to save space, the graphic repre-
sentation is not user/reader-friendly.

Functional Role Analysis

Functional Role Analysis is another bottom-up approach to text analysis, which focuses
on text relations at the local levels. Lieber (1979:Abstract:i) defines functional units as
the set of clauses or clause equivalents serving an identifiable rhetorical function in
written discourse. The first two steps of Functional Role Analysis are similar to those of
RST Analysis: the text is first segmented into functional units, which are then catego-
rised according to their rhetorical functions. Yet while RST Analysis can be used to trace
rhetorical relations from the local levels to the global level, Functional Role Analysis
only focuses on local structures (Lindeberg 1988:160). Her sample analysis provides an
illustration of the local nature of her method:

34
Text BPSD9 Sequences of
Functional Roles
1. Is the British parliamentary system democratic? 1. Question
2. Every democratic country in the western world have some kind 2. Assert
of parliament.
3. People can vote as they like 3. Assert
b. and if they are not satisfy decisions made by the parliament. b. Qualify (3c)
c. is it very easy to vote in the next elections for a new c. Result (33c)
candidate.

Figure 5: Sample analysis using Functional Role Analysis, from Lindeberg (1988:1478).

Although this method concentrates on the local level, it has the potential to be extended
to the global level. Such an idea was suggested by Lindeberg (1988) herself as well as by
Albrechtsen et al. (1991), her co-researchers in the NORDWRITE Project. Since the
analyses carried out on the pilot data of the Project did not produce consistent results,
Albrechtsen et al. suggested that a more global approach seemed to be the key to an im-
provement of the discriminatory power of the analysis. They gave an illustration (op.
cit.:86):

Extract from an essay rated high


11: A large advantage in the modern world is that we have doctors and hospital,
b: so that we can get medical help
c: if we need that.
12: Before many children died a short time before they were born,
b: because they were ill and couldnt get any help.
13: Many people couldnt afford to pay a doctor.
14: If you got cancer e.g.,
b: there wasnt anything the doctor could do for you.
15: Now they have got more knowledge,
b: and you can live a long, normal life,
c: even if you get cancer.

11: ASSERT
b: RESULT (11)
c: QUALIFY (11b)
12: ASSERT
b: CAUSE (12)
13: ASSERT CONTRAST
14: QUALIFY (11-11c)
b: ASSERT SPECIFY (11-11c)

15: CONTRAST (14b)


b: RESULT (15) CONTRAST
c: QUALIFY (15b) (14-14b)

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3

By adding Columns 2 and 3, Albrechtsen et al. claim that they have extended the Func-
tional Role Analysis from a local to a global analysis. Yet from their demonstration, we
can see that what they have actually done is extended their method only up to the inter-
mediate level, where the bigger meaning clusters lie, but not really up to the global
level, where paragraphs connect with one another to form the macrostructure. Therefore,

35
although this idea of conducting discourse analysis beyond the local levels was adopted
in the present investigation, the method suggested by Albrechtsen et al. was adapted to a
great extent to serve the specific purposes of our study, and to make it a method which
really analyses rhetorical relations from the local levels to the global level.

Communicative Function Analysis

A third method used to analyse rhetorical relations is Communicative Function Analysis


(CFA) (Wong 1993). Interestingly, this method combines both RST and Functional Role
analyses, and studies texts at both the local and global levels. A totally different ap-
proach, the top-down approach, was taken: The understanding of the text begin[s]
with a top down approach instead of assigning a communicative function to a functional
segment by relating it to segments in close vicinity. (Wong 1993:76)
The procedure of CFA is first to divide the text at the global level (labelled as Mac-
rostructure in CFA), to match with problem-situation-solution-evaluation macrostruc-
ture. This is followed by segmentation of the text at the local levels (labelled as Sub-
sentence Level and Sentence Level). The next step involves the compilation of an
analysis table by assigning communicative functions to the functional segments (Wong
op. cit.:75). Then statistical information is compiled. Finally, RST diagrams are drawn
according to the analysis table. The first three steps are illustrated in Table 8:

Table 8: Communicative Function Analysis, from Wong (1993:App. p. 8).


Sub-
Sentence
Sent. Sentence Macro-
Para Text 13 Level
No. Level structure
Functions
Functions
1 1a Hong Kong, a fast-moving city, Qualify Assert Problem
1b The pressure of life are forcing
Hong Kong people
1c To forget their traditional roles Qualify
1d By neglecting their old people, Specification
1e In the sense that the senior are Comparison
not enjoying the same authority
as before.
Gone are the days when having
2a an old in family Temporal Affirmation
Was regarded as a blessing and Overlap (1)
2b source of pride.

Wong justifies his method by saying that if the bottom-up approach (such as RST Analy-
sis) is taken, the assignment of functional roles will be extremely difficult, chaotic, as
well as localized, instead of having a global view (ibid.:76). Yet RST Analysis can be
used to analyse the local as well as global levels. When, on the contrary, an analyst be-
gins text analysis with a top-down approach, s/he might project too much individual in-
terpretation of the macrostructure of the text. This relies on subjective analysis of large
blocks of text. Another drawback of Wongs system is that unlike approaches such as
RST, it cannot reveal clearly how local functions are ultimately built up into global ones,
because in CFA there is no level between the Sentence Level and Macrostructure Level.

36
Synthesis of previous approaches to studying rhetorical relations

In the preceding paragraphs, we have examined three methods for studying rhetorical
relations. Each of them seems to have limitations, which can bring considerable difficul-
ties to text analysis. It was therefore decided that a new discourse analysis method, Rhe-
torical Function Analysis (RFA), would be devised for the purposes of the present inves-
tigation. This method addresses the problems discussed above. First, it analyses text from
the local levels to the global level, and can therefore be used to investigate the hierarchi-
cal integration of argument. In adopting this method, the analyst first identifies the rhe-
torical relations of neighbouring units at the lowest level of discourse and traces the de-
velopment of these relations through intermediate propositions to the paragraph. Finally
the macrostructure is reviewed, to determine whether the relations at the highest dis-
course level match the conventional global argumentative structures, such as the Argu-
mentative Response Structure (Tirkkonen-Condit 1989). It thus keeps the merits of the
bottom-up approach, of being more objective, without losing sight of the overall perspec-
tive of the text. Also, RFA is superior to RST Analysis in that the exact level of analysis
can be specified. A further advantage is that the graphic representation of RFA is much
clearer than that of RST Analysis. RFA shares the same preliminary steps with many
discourse analysis methods, namely:

Step 1: Segmentation of text


Step 2: Categorisation of segmented units according to the rhetorical functions
they perform in developing ideas in the discourse
Step 3: Text analysis.

CATEGORISATION OF RHETORICAL FUNCTIONS

Previously used categorisation systems of rhetorical functions

The six categorisation systems to be reviewed here were devised to examine argumenta-
tive text, but they differ in four respects. The first difference is related to the nature of the
study each taxonomy was designed for. Most of these taxonomies were devised to inves-
tigate student writing: Crombie (1985), Lindeberg (1988), Wong (1993) (closely mod-
elled on Crombie) and Kaldor et al. (1998). Mann & Thompsons (1986) framework, on
the other hand, was designed for the investigation of professional expository prose, while
Cooper & Matsuhashis (1983) taxonomy was mapped out with a combination of targets
(that is, student text and professional text) in mind.
A second kind of difference lies in the format of the taxonomies. All these systems,
except Crombies, contain only freestanding functions. In Crombies system, both free-
standing and paired-up functions exist. Examples of the former include Chrono-logical
sequencing and Simple comparison, and of the latter, Reason-result and Conces-
sion-contra-expectation. Crombies system is the only one to contain broad categories of
semantic functions, such as Temporal Relations, Cause & Effect and Truth & Valid-
ity.
A third difference lies in the elaborateness of categorising the rhetorical functions.
There is a large range, from the least elaborate system, Cooper & Matsuhashi (containing
only fourteen functions), to the most elaborate, Kaldor et al. (containing 37 functions).
This disparity in elaboration is related to what each of these researchers interprets as

37
the most important rhetorical functions in argumentative text. In the following, the six
categorisation systems are tabulated for easy comparison:

Table 9: Six existing categorisation systems of rhetorical functions.


Cooper & Mann &
Crombie Lindeberg Wong Kaldor et al.
Matsuhashi Thompson
(1985) (1988) (1993) (1998)
(1983) (1986)
Motivation Question Initiation Query
Evaluate Evaluation Evaluate Evaluation
Cite
Solutionhood Solution
Background Background
Circumstance Circumstance
Summarise Summary Summarise Summary
Justification Justify/
Support
Predict
Propose
TEMPORAL
RELATIONS
Narrate Temporal Temporal
Overlap Overlap
Chronological Sequencing Sequencing
Sequencing
MATCHING
Compare Simple Comparison Compare
Comparison
Contrast Simple Contrast Contrast
Contrast
CAUSE &
EFFECT
Cause| Reason- Volition/ Cause- Reason| Cause of
Result Result Non-volition Result Result Conse-
Cause|Result quence
Means-result Specify- Means|
Result Result
Conclude Grounds- *|Conclude Specify| *|Conclusion Conclude/
Conclusion Conclude Generalise/
Consolidate
Means-purpose *|Purpose Specify|* Means|
Purpose
Condition- Condition| Qualify| Condition| Condition of
Consequence Result Result Result Conse-
Otherwise Qualify Hypothesis quence
TRUTH &
VALIDITY
State|* Statement/ Assert * Assert| Introduce
Affirmation Affirmation
State|* Statement- Assert|* Assert|Denial
Denial
Denial-correction Denial|
Correction
Concession Concessive * Concession
Contra-
expectation

38
Cooper & Mann &
Crombie Lindeberg Wong Kaldor et al.
Matsuhashi Thompson
(1985) (1988) (1993) (1998)
(1983) (1986)
ALTERNATION
Contrastive Contrastive
Alternation alternation
Supplementary Supple-
Alternation mentary
Alternation
BONDING
Coupling Joint Co-specify Coupling
Contrastive Coupling
Coupling
State| Statement- Evidence Assert| Assert Exemplify
Exemplify Exemplification Specify Exempli-
fication
Statement- Assert| Qualify Qualify/
Exception Qualify Refine
List
Classify
Neutralise/
Distinction
PARAPHRASE
Paraphrase Restatement Restate Paraphrase Paraphrase/
Recapi-
tulate/
Restate
AMPLIFICA-
TION
Define Term Enablement Specify Specification Define
Specification
Add Predicate Elaboration/ Specify Specification Augment/
specification Enablement Counter/
Expand on/
Restrict
Label
SETTING
Qualify/ Event/ Qualify Qualify Localise
Describe State-location
Qualify/ Event-direction Qualify Qualify
Describe
Qualify/ Event-manner Qualify Qualify
Describe
Bridge
Zero
Component
Zero Rela-
tion/
Function

Key:
BOLD Categories of semantic functions (Crombie 1985)
* indicates the absence of a corresponding term (Cooper & Matsuhashi 1983; Mann &
Thompson 1986; Lindeberg 1988; Wong 1993)
- indicates interacting rhetorical functions (Crombie 1985)
| indicates two separate rhetorical functions (Cooper & Matsuhashi 1983; Lindeberg 1988)
/ indicates (an) alternative rhetorical function(s) (Mann & Thompson 1986; Kaldor et al.
1998)

39
The table shows that the systems devised by Cooper & Matsuhashi and Lindeberg are
not as complex as others, with rather too few categories for analysing argumentative dis-
course. On the other hand, the categorisations of Crombie, Wong and Kaldor et al. are
too elaborate. It may be hard to locate incidence of the less common ones (such as in the
case of Denial-correction and Event-direction in Crombie), and this will render part
of the tool useless. Some of the categories in Kaldor et al. overlap with each other in ap-
plication, for example, Restrict and Specify (Kaldor et al. 1998:47):

RESTRICT: Links earlier general statement to a specific case


SPECIFY: Focuses on one member (hyponym) of a previously mentioned larger class
or specify a particular aspect relating to the task

Though the definitions make clear the distinction, in their applications the two are not
necessarily distinguishable.
Among the six systems examined, Mann & Thompsons (1986) scheme seems to be
the most appropriate in terms of relative elaborateness (neither over- nor under-
elaborate). Yet the definitions of some of its categories are rather obscure, e.g. Enable-
ment (R[eader] comprehending S[atellite] increases Rs potential ability to perform the
action presented in N[ucleus]) (Mann & Thompson 1987:546), which cannot be easily
applied.
The appropriateness of the rhetorical function inventory for the type of text is an im-
portant issue. Since professional text was the only focus in Mann & Thompsons study
and part of the focus in Cooper & Matsuhashis, their taxonomies are less relevant to the
research of students writing. That of Kaldor et al. was not selected because some cate-
gories which are important for analysing tertiary student writing, such as Evaluation,
were not included in it. The categorisation systems of Lindeberg and Crombie seem to be
most relevant, as the genres they studied were closest to that of the present study.
Neither Lindebergs nor Crombies taxonomy could however be directly adopted in
this study, as Lindeberg was found to be under-elaborate and Crombie over-elaborate.
It was therefore decided that a new taxonomy would be adapted from Lindeberg and
Crombie, to keep the merits of both systems, and at the same time strike a balance in
terms of elaborateness. Another reason for the adaptation was that the analyses of Linde-
berg and Crombie were only local in nature, which made it impossible for us to rely on
them alone to examine hierarchical integration of argument.

Categorisation system for this investigation: Rhetorical Function Analysis

Rhetorical Function Analysis (RFA) allows us to analyse the rhetorical function of each
discourse unit from the lowest up to the highest textual level. In this system, four lower
levels are distinguished. They include Functional Unit/Simple Sentence (FU/SS) Level,
Complex Sentence (CS) Level, as well as Propositional Segment (PS) Level. The upper
levels comprise Paragraph (P) Level and Macrostructure (M) Level. The categorisation
of these levels is in accordance with the theories presented earlier. By identifying the ar-
gumentative structures at different textual levels and connecting them with the macro-
structure, RFA extends the local approach taken by existing systems.
The Functional Unit (FU) is the basic unit of analysis employed in this study, and
hence Functional Unit/Simple Sentence (FU/SS) Level is also the lowest level of our
analyses. A Functional Unit refers to either a clause or a simple sentence. In the case of
the former, the clause either subsumes, or combines with, (an)other clause or clauses to

40
form a complex sentence. As an example of subsumption from a Hong Kong student
text, consider:

HKH2 Paragraph 1
S1a Nowadays, television are common in every family
b and they become a necessity in peoples daily life.

In this extract, the writer makes an Assertion in S1a, and presents the Result in S1b. Thus
S1b is subsumed by S1a to form a complex sentence, whose rhetorical function is also an
Assertion.
Let us now examine an example of combination from a low-rated text written by an
Australia-based student:

AL1 Paragraph 3
S16 He says that these studies vary in terms of the role of prior anger is important in
determining aggressive behaviors.
S17a If prior anger is a precondition of aggressive
b then the effects to T.V. violence are in doubt.

S17a is the Condition of S17b, while S17b is the Result of S17a. Yet when these two
clauses combine, they serve the rhetorical function of elaborating S16, so in the graphic
representation, the sign will be used in the graphic representation of RFA to em-
brace these two clauses to show that they have formed a new rhetorical function (i.e.
Elaboration (16)) at Complex Sentence Level.
These examples show that no matter whether subsumption or combination takes
place, a complex sentence results. Thus the second level in our categorisation is Complex
Sentence (CS) Level. The concepts of subsumption and combination of rhetorical
functions are important in our method of analysis, as these take place not only at the
lowest discourse level (FU/SS), but also at every other level up to the paragraph.
The Proposition Segment (PS) Level is the next level in our hierarchy. A sentence
(either simple or complex) may subsume, or combine with, a neighbouring sentence or
sentences to form a meaning cluster (or a propositional segment) inside a paragraph,
or an orthographic paragraph itself. In the case of the former, further subsumption(s) or
combination(s) between propositional segments may in turn take place, to form a para-
graph. The PS Level may therefore consist of several sub-levels, or only one level.
At the upper textual levels, a distinction is made between the rhetorical function at
Paragraph Level and that of Macrostructure Level, because they stand for different rela-
tions. The Rhetorical Function at Paragraph Level refers to the rhetorical relationship
between two or more (usually neighbouring) paragraphs. These may feed into a distin-
guishable macrostructure, that is, the global structure. In this case, we take the further
step of judging the roles of all the paragraphs in the text (labelled as Rhetorical Func-
tions at Macrostructure Level) from the perspective of how well they match up with one
of the conventional global argumentative structures, the Argumentative Response Struc-
ture identified by Tirkkonen-Condit (1989).
The taxonomy of RFA is presented on the following page. The definitions and exam-
ples of the rhetorical functions included in this taxonomy are presented together with the
abbreviated forms used in the graphic representation, in Appendix 1.

41
Rhetorical Function Analysis (RFA)

Functions at the Lower Levels: Functions at the Upper Levels

FU/SS/CS/PS Level Paragraph Level

TRUTH & VALIDITY TRUTH & VALIDITY

*Assertion (Ass) *Evaluation (Eval)

Justification DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT

Concession (Conc) Background (Back)


*Evaluation (Eval) *Metatextual Statement (MeS)
Reported Evaluation (RepE) *Elaboration (Elab)

CAUSE & EFFECT OTHERS

Cause (Cau) *Unidentified Rhetorical Function (UNID)

Result (Resu) *Unfulfilled Rhetorical Function (UNFU)


Condition (Cond)
Purpose (Purp)

DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT

*Elaboration (Elab)
Exemplification (Exem) Macrostructure Level
Comparison (Comp) TRUTH & VALIDITY/
Coupling (Coup) DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
Alternation (Alt) *Assertion (Ass)
Summary (Sum) *Evaluation (Eval)
Restatement (ReS) Question (Ques)
Logical Conclusion (LCon) Answer (Ans)
Chronological Frame (ChF) Problem (Pro)
*Metatextual Statement (MeS) Solution (Sol)

OTHERS OTHERS

*Unidentified Rhetorical Function (UNID) *Unidentified Rhetorical Function (UNID)


*Unfulfilled Rhetorical Function (UNFU) *Unfulfilled Rhetorical Function (UNFU)

Key:
* Rhetorical Functions used for analysis purposes in both lower and upper levels.

42
Twenty-one rhetorical functions are used for the purpose of analysis at the lower textual
levels. At the upper levels, six relations are employed at the Paragraph Level, and eight
at the Macrostructure Level. A few of the functions for the lower levels are used recur-
sively up to the paragraph, and in some cases above it, depending on the particular mac-
rostructure. These include Assertion, Evaluation, Elaboration, Metatextual Statement,
Unidentified Rhetorical Function and Unfulfilled Rhetorical Function, all marked with
an asterisk in the foregoing list. At all levels, the rhetorical functions are grouped under
Broad Categories, since the Broad categories of semantic functions, first introduced by
Crombie (1985), are the most useful for organisational purposes. All these rhetorical
functions are freestanding relations, which, compared with paired-up ones, provide more
flexibility to the categorisation.

Categorisation at the lower levels

Because the genre under study is argumentative EAP essays, the two Broad Categories
which are most relevant, namely, Truth & Validity and Cause & Effect, are included
at the lower levels. Besides these two Broad Categories, the category Discourse Devel-
opment is also included, as it is important for any genre. Rhetorical functions which
cannot be included in any of the three Broad Categories mentioned above are grouped
under Others. These include Unidentified Rhetorical Function (UNID) and Unfulfilled
Rhetorical Function (UNFU). The term Unidentified Rhetorical Function is used to refer
to a discourse unit whose rhetorical function cannot be worked out from the context. The
following example is taken from AL1, an Australian low-rated essay. The discourse unit
which has an unidentifiable rhetorical function has been bolded:

S6a The responsible parents are worried their childrens future,


b factors which raises related to this subject.

The expression in S6b makes it impossible for the reader to guess what this clause
means, and in turn to work out from the context the rhetorical relation of S6b with, for
example, S6a. Therefore S6b was categorised as Unidentified Rhetorical Function
(UNID). This problematic function is parallel to the Non-function Units and Zero Re-
lation/Function in the categorisation system of Lindeberg (1988, 1994) and Kaldor et al.
(1998) respectively.
The key factor which helps us to understand the concept behind Unfulfilled Rhetori-
cal Function (UNFU) is also the context. An Unfulfilled Rhetorical Function is a dis-
course unit which signals to the reader through contextual clues that it is intended to
serve a certain rhetorical function. The rhetorical function signalled has not been fulfilled,
and thus cannot meet the expectation of the reader. This might be due to an erroneous
choice of vocabulary, or a grammatical error, which causes a communication breakdown.
A further example comes from essay AL1:

S4 Because children confronted too much time watching T.V.


S5 The alarm was causes is T.V. violent effects on children are the issue.

Sentence 4 starts with the causal conjunction, Because. This gives the reader the expecta-
tion that this sentence is the Cause of Sentence 5. Yet the wrong lexical choice of con-
fronted in S4 makes the Cause incomprehensible. Therefore S4 was categorised as
UNFU [Cause (5)], that is, an Unfulfilled Rhetorical Function, which is presumably
the Cause of S5. This problem is referred to as Unsuccessful Relations in Stuart-Smith

43
& Busbridges (1996) categorisation system, and Semantic/rhetorical mismatch in Kal-
dor et al.s (1998) scheme.

Categorisation at the upper levels

The Paragraph Level consists of six rhetorical functions. Among them, Evaluation is the
only rhetorical relation grouped under Truth & Validity. Three functions are grouped
under Discourse Development: Background, Metatextual Statement and Elaboration.
Unidentified Rhetorical Function and Unfulfilled Rhetorical Function are also included
at Paragraph Level, grouped under Others. This is because in some essays, the rhetori-
cal function of a paragraph in relation to the other paragraphs cannot be worked out from
the context, or the paragraph does not perform the rhetorical function the reader may ex-
pect from the context.
The categorisation at Macrostructure Level is based on the three sequences of Ar-
gumentative Response Structure (ARS) (Remark-Response, Question-Answer and Prob-
lem-Solution) (Tirkonnen-Condit 1989). As mentioned earlier, argumentation can be
triggered as a response to a remark, an assertion, or a claim. Assertion has thus been
added as a descriptor at this level. The use of Evaluation at Macrostructure Level re-
flects the Situation-Evaluation structure identified by Winter (1976). Hence the follow-
ing rhetorical functions have been devised for the analysis at Macrostructure Level in
this investigation: Assertion, Evaluation, Question, Answer, Problem and Solution. Simi-
lar to Paragraph Level, Unidentified Rhetorical Function and Unfulfilled Rhetorical
Function are included at Macrostructure Level, as some paragraphs fail to contribute to
the formation of a distinguishable and/or appropriate macrostructure.

44
Chapter Five: Research design and methods for analysis

DATA COLLECTION

The data for the present study were collected between 1996 and 1997 from two groups of
subjects: first-year students at Macquarie University, Sydney, who were enrolled in an
English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course in the Spring Semester, 1996, and their
counterparts in Hong Kong, who took an EAP course at the Hong Kong University of
Science and Technology (HKUST) in the Fall Semester, 1997. Thus the study took place
in the first semester of each subjects university life. There were both male and female
subjects, aged between 18 and 21, and majoring in various fields of study. All the sub-
jects, both in Sydney and Hong Kong, were ethnic Chinese, born and mostly schooled in
Hong Kong. While the HKUST group was studying in Hong Kong (an EFL environ-
ment), the Macquarie group had gone to Australia (an ESL environment) and begun to
study at high school there three years prior to the present study. A three-year period of
study in Australia was made one of the criteria for selecting the subjects because this cor-
responds with the duration of time a student needs to spend to complete senior secondary
education in Australia. This ensured that the Sydney-based students had all had equal
duration of exposure to the ESL environment.
The data collected comprised argumentative essays written by the subjects outside
class, that is, not written under any time constraint. The essay question was: Does
watching violence on television have any effect on childrens behaviour? The reference
materials used by the subjects to answer the question were three articles, Freedman
(1988), Milavsky (1988) and Singer & Singer (1988). The essay question was originally
assigned for the Australian subjects as part of their course requirements. The help of the
teacher who taught the EAP course at HKUST was enlisted to integrate the same as-
signment into the course there. The groups of essays were not equivalent in length, the
Australian ones averaging around 1,200 words, and those from Hong Kong some 600 to
800 words. This disparity was unavoidable, because of the conditions under which the
data were collected and the different requirements of the courses. Since the essays in
each cohort were different in length, in carrying out the statistical analyses, the percent-
ages relative to the length of each script, instead of the raw number of occurrences, are
compared.
The essays collected were rated holistically, in each case by an independent L1 rater,
who was the course tutor of the Australian and Hong Kong groups respectively. From
each of these two groups, six high-rated (Grade A) essays as well as six low-rated
(Grade C) ones were identified. The whole data set thus consisted of twenty-four es-
says. The coding identifies each script by its place of origin, as well as the grade it has
received from the rater, high versus low. Thus AL1, for example, stands for Australian
low-rated script 1, and HKH6 Hong Kong high-rated script 6.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

There were three objectives in the current study. The first was to examine how L2 terti-
ary students build up their universe of argumentative discourse, from the lowest to the
highest. To carry out this investigation, Rhetorical Function Analysis (RFA), as de-
scribed in Chapter 4, was devised. A comprehensive demonstration of the method is pro-
vided below. The method was validated by four independent raters.

45
A different kind of control on the method was to employ triangulation, the findings
validated by reference to those of an independent method, Grammatical Accuracy Analy-
sis (GAA), described and demonstrated below. An analysis of the students grammatical
accuracy is also highly relevant to each ones overall writing competence. It was there-
fore of interest to investigate whether the results obtained from GAA complemented, or
conflicted with, those derived from RFA.
The second research objective involved comparisons to determine whether being
educated in an ESL environment would bring about differences in (i) argumentative
structuring and (ii) grammatical accuracy in the essays these students produced, when
compared with data from an EFL setting. The two research questions raised earlier in
Chapter 2 were rephrased as follows, based on the literature we surveyed in Chapter 4:

Question 1

Do the argumentative essays (both high-rated and low-rated) written by first-year


Australian L2 university students display a higher level of hierarchical integra-
tion of argument than those written by their Hong Kong counterparts?

Question 2

Do the argumentative essays (both high-rated and low-rated) written by first-year


Australian L2 university students display a greater degree of grammatical accu-
racy than those written by their Hong Kong counterparts?

The third objective of the study was to examine the correlation between the grades
awarded to students writing and the level of organisation and grammatical competence
evidenced in these essays. Similarly, the two research questions raised in Chapter 3 were
rephrased on the basis of the literature review presented in Chapter 4:

Question 3

Do the high-rated argumentative essays written by first-year Australian L2 and


Hong Kong university students display a higher level of hierarchical integration
of argument than the low-rated essays?

Question 4

Do the high-rated argumentative essays written by first-year Australian L2 and


Hong Kong university students display a greater degree of grammatical accu-
racy than the low-rated essays?

46
RHETORICAL FUNCTION ANALYSIS (RFA): METHOD FOR INVESTIGATING
THE HIERARCHICAL INTEGRATION OF ARGUMENT (RESEARCH
QUESTIONS 1 AND 3)

Segmentation of text

The Functional Unit was chosen as the segmentation unit for this study. For text analy-
sis to be carried out, each essay in the data sets was first segmented into sentences, and
numbered according to the student writers punctuation. The sentences were in turn seg-
mented into F-units, according to Liebers segmentation principles, presented in Chapter
4. Each of the F-units was assigned a letter (a, b, c, etc.) for identification purposes.
To illustrate the segmentation principles, part of Paragraph 1 of HKH4, has been
segmented into F-units as below. (The full text of HKH4 is included in Appendix 2.)

HKH4 Paragraph 1
1 The question whether TV viewing has a negative effect on childrens behaviour is
controversial.
2 There are two points of view.
3 One of these is that television viewing of violent programming leads to aggressive
behaviour of children.
4 This is extracted from Some Hazards Of Growing Up In A Television Environment
by Jerome L. Singer & Dorothy G. Singer.
5 And the other is that there is no direct relationship between TV viewing and aggres-
sive behaviour.
6 This is extracted from Television Violence And Aggression by Jonathan L. Freed-
man.

Categorisation of rhetorical functions

The second step of Rhetorical Function Analysis was to categorise the F-units according
to their rhetorical functions, using the taxonomy developed for this purpose presented in
Chapter 4. A sample analysis of rhetorical functions at all levels of HKH4, together with
the full text, is included in Appendix 2. In the next section, extracts from the full analysis
will be used to illustrate the graphic representation of RFA, whereas the complete
Summary of Rhetorical Function Analysis of HKH4 will also be shown.

Graphic representation of Rhetorical Function Analysis

To present the results of RFA graphically, after the rhetorical functions (RFs) at FU/SS
or CS Level had been identified checks were made to see whether these RFs were sub-
sumed by, or combined with, one another to form a RF at a higher level, PS Level, that is,
whether these RFs were members of larger rhetorical relations.
The RFA of Paragraph 6, HKH4, provides a good illustration:

HKH4 Paragraph 6
34 In conclusion, Singer & Singer suggested that heavy television viewing puts children
at risk of increased aggression and restlessness at least in the short run.
35a On the contrary, Freedman suggested that all the experiments have many variables.
b so we cannot conclude that there is a direct relationship between TV violence and
aggressive behaviour.

47
36 Above all, I will agree with Freedman.
37 It is because in different experiments, they have different outcomes.
38 Sometimes, the outcomes contradict our assumption.
39 Moreover, increased aggressive behaviour may be due to, let say, insufficient sleep.
40a Therefore, we cant even convince ourselves
b to draw a fair conclusion
c and prove that there is a causal link between TV violence and aggressive behaviour.

HKH4 Rhetorical Function Analysis

Level PARAGRAPH 6

M Ans (1)

P Eval
(135 : Para. 15)

PS Sum Eval
(133) (135)

CS Comp LCon
(34) (3639)

FU/SS Sum Just LCon Eval Just Elab Coup LCon Purp Coup
(135) (35b) (35a) (135) (36) (37) (38) (3639) (40a) (40b)

Sent 34 35a 35b 36 37 38 39 40a 40b 40c

Key:
Ans Answer Elab Elaboration Purp Purpose
Comp Comparison Eval Evaluation Sum Summary
Coup Coupling Just Justification Sent Sentence
LCon Logical Condition

Sentence 34 (S34) gives a summary of the view of Singer & Singer, made in Sentences
133. Since it is a simple sentence, it was categorised as Summary (133) at Simple
Sentence (SS) Level. S35, on the other hand, is a complex sentence, consisting of two
functional units, S35a and S35b. At Functional Unit (FU) Level, S35a provides a justifi-
cation for the logical conclusion made in S35b. Yet when these two clauses combine at
Complex Sentence (CS) Level, they serve as a contrast to S34, summarising the view of
Freedman, which opposes that of Singer & Singer. So the branching is used to em-
brace S35a and S35b to show that they have formed a new rhetorical function at CS
Level, i.e. Comparison (34). Since S35 is used to contrast to S34, it is subsumed by S34
to form the meaning cluster of Summary (133) at Propositional Segment (PS) Level.
Graphically, the subsumption is indicated by the brace.
S36 to S40 form a much bigger meaning cluster. In S36, the writer is evaluating
his/her earlier arguments. This sentence was thus categorised as Evaluation (135). S37
provides a justification for S36, while S38 and S39 elaborate S37. Finally, a logical
conclusion is made in S40. Therefore all these three sentences (S37 to S40) are

48
clusion is made in S40. Therefore all these three sentences (S37 to S40) are subsumed by
S36 to form Evaluation (135) at PS Level.
The next step of RFA is to check whether further subsumption takes place to form
the RF at Paragraph (P) Level, or yet another RF at PS Level. Since S36S40 provide an
overall evaluation to every argument presented so far, including the summary made in
S3435, they naturally subsume S3435. The whole paragraph thus serves the function
of Evaluation (135). In this paragraph, the rhetorical relations are found to be part of
larger rhetorical relations, which are in turn members of even larger relations.
The RFA of Paragraph 6 also illustrates the fact that the RF at P Level refers to the
rhetorical function of a paragraph in relation with one or more other paragraphs usually
neighbouring. For example, Paragraph 6 was categorised as Evaluation of S135, or
Paragraphs 15. Yet this paragraph is in turn a member of an overall relation, in its
attempt to answer the question raised at the beginning of the essay, whether TV viewing
has a negative effect on childrens behaviour is controversial (S1). Therefore its RF at
M Level was categorised as Answer (1), as we were judging the rhetorical function of
this paragraph from the perspective of the macrostructure of the text. Since no subsump-
tion or combination of rhetorical functions takes place at M Level, only the categorisa-
tion was put down, but not the signs for subsumption/combination.
The Paragraph Level is the level at which the categorisations for the lower and upper
levels connect. We will use the RFA of Paragraph 3, HKH4, to demonstrate this point:

HKH4 Paragraph 3
14 However, Freedman (1986) has a different opinion.
15 He said different laboratory experiments have different outcomes.
16 Some of them are based on some factors, like anger.
17a The aggression may occur
b just because the person is angry.
18 Anger is apparently necessary in some studies and not in others.
19a Therefore, he thought that we cant make sure the aggressive behaviour of chil-
dren is due to anger or actually the heavy TV viewing.
b so there is no direct causal link between TV violence and aggressive behaviour.

S14 is a Comparison of S11S13 (i.e. Paragraph 2), since it states that Freedman does
not agree with Singer & Singer. S15, which relates Freedmans opinion, is a Reported
Evaluation of S14. S16S17 elaborate S14 (by introducing the role played by anger in
some experiments), while S18S19 present Freedmans evaluation and conclusion re-
spectively. At PS Level, S15S19 combine together and form Elaboration (14) and are
thus subsumed by S14. Therefore, Paragraph 3 primarily provides a contrast with its
neighbouring paragraph (Paragraph 2). Yet if we trace further, we will find that Para-
graph 3 elaborates S1S10, especially S8S10, which state:

8 However, they all use similar experiments to do the research.


9 They are laboratory experiments, field experiments and natural experiments.
10a In this paper, I will compare these three types of experiments one by one
b and make a judgement at the end.

49
HKH4 Rhetorical Function Analysis

Level PARAGRAPH 3

M Ans (1)

P Comp = Elab
(1213) (110 : para. 1)

PS Comp Elab
(1213) (14)

CS Elab LCon
(16) (1517)

Comp RepE Elab Elab Cau RepE LCon LCon


FU/SS (17) (1517) (19a)
(1213) (14) (15) (16) (17a)

Sent 14 15 16 17a 17b 18 19a 19b

Key:
Ans Answer Elab Elaboration RepE Reported Evaluation
Cau Cause Eval Evaluation Sent Sentence
Comp Comparison LCon Logical Condition

Therefore in the graphic representation, the primary function of this paragraph, Com-
parison (1113: Para. 2), is linked with its secondary function, Elaboration (110:
Para. 1), by the = sign. Since this sign can indicate the connection between the categori-
sations for the lower/intermediate and upper levels, it is important in the graphic repre-
sentation of RFA. In compiling the frequency of RFs at P Level, only the secondary
function of a paragraph was counted.
The analysis at PS Level of Paragraph 3 provides illustration of a sign which was
used for graphic clarity: the signs and were used to indicate subsumption and
combination of rhetorical functions respectively. In Paragraph 3, a new sign, was
put above S14, to show that unlike S15S19, this rhetorical function has not combined
with, or subsumed, another function.

50
Summary of the findings of Rhetorical Function Analysis

The graphic representation of RFA can show clearly whether clause relations are mem-
bers of larger rhetorical relations. However, in order to compare one script with another,
we needed to find a method to summarise the findings of the RFA of each script. There-
fore, a Summary of Rhetorical Function Analysis was prepared for each. This summary
provides evidence or support for the analysis and presents the Macrostructure Analysis:

Part I: Basic information on Functional Units and Rhetorical Functions


Part II: Problems of Rhetorical Functions at Functional Unit/Simple Sen-
tence/Complex Sentence Level
Part III: Rhetorical Functions at Propositional Segment Level and Paragraph
Level
Part IV: Macrostructure Analysis.

Part I: Basic information on Functional Units and Rhetorical Functions

This section presents summary information from each script, including its total number
of words and sentences. Four tables are used to summarise the information of the rhetori-
cal units and rhetorical functions. The first shows the number of sentences respectively
consisting of 1 F-unit, 2 F-units, 3 F-units, and so on. The other three tables indicate
what sorts of rhetorical functions were identified at different levels. The following is the
set of summaries tabulated for HKH4, for illustration purposes.

Part I: Basic information on Functional Units and Rhetorical Functions: HKH4

Total number of words: 686


Total number of sentences: 40
Total number of Functional Units: 54
Table10: Make-up of sentences in terms of functional units, Script HKH4.
Types of sentence Number Percentage
Sentences consisting of 1 Functional unit 28 70%
Sentences consisting of 2 Functional units 10 25%
Sentences consisting of 3 Functional units 2 5%
Total 40 100%

Most of the sentences in this essay are simple sentences. Even the complex sentences
consist of only two clauses (cf. Table 11). Tables 12 to 14 show that all the rhetorical
functions at various levels in HKH4 are sound. Elaboration (28.4%) and Logical Conclu-
sion (11.11%) are the most frequently occurring functions at the lower levels, suggesting
that the writer is able to elaborate ideas and draw interim conclusions. The Elaboration
strategy is extended to Paragraph Level, as evidenced by the high percentage of Elabora-
tion there (57.14%). At Macrostructure Level, only two types of rhetorical functions
were identified, Question (16.67%) and Answer (83.33%). The macrostructure of the es-
say is thus Question-Answer, which matches one of the conventional global structures
of argumentative text.

51
Table 11: Frequency of rhetorical functions identified at the lower levels, Script HKH4.
Total
FU/SS CS PS
Rhetorical Function frequency in
Level Level Level
each category
TRUTH & VALIDITY
1 1 2
Assertion 0
(1.85%) (6.67%) (2.47%)
2 2
Justification 0 0
(3.70%) (2.47%)
2 2
Concession 0 0
(3.70%) (2.47%)
4 2 6
Evaluation 0
(7.41%) (13.33%) (7.41%)
6 3 1 10
Reported Evaluation
(11.11%) (25%) (6.67%) (12.35%)
CAUSE & EFFECT
1 1
Cause 0 0
(1.85%) (1.23%)
2 2
Result 0 0
(3.70%) (2.47%)
1 1
Condition 0 0
(1.85%) (1.23%)
1 1
Purpose 0 0
(1.85%) (1.23%)
DISCOURSE
DEVELOPMENT
14 3 6 23
Elaboration
(25.93%) (25%) (40%) (28.40%)
1 1 2
Exemplification 0
(1.85%) (6.67%) (2.47%)
4 3 3 10
Comparison
(7.41%) (25%) (20%) (12.35%)
4 4
Coupling 0 0
(7.41%) (4.94%)
Alternation 0 0 0 0
1 1 2
Summary 0
(1.85%) (6.67%) (2.47%)
Restatement 0 0 0 0
7 2 9
Logical Conclusion 0
(12.96%) (16.67%) (11.11%)
2 2
Chronological Frame 0 0
(3.70%) (2.47%)
1 1 2
Metatextual Statement 0
(1.85%) (8.33%) (2.47%)
Total
FU/SS CS PS
Rhetorical Function frequency in
Level Level Level
each category
OTHERS
Unidentified
0 0 0 0
Rhetorical Function
Unfulfilled
0 0 0 0
Rhetorical Function
Total frequency 54 12 15 81
at each level (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)

52
Table 12: Frequency of Rhetorical Functions identified at Paragraph Level, Script HKH4.
Rhetorical Function Paragraph Level
TRUTH & VALIDITY
Evaluation 1 (14.29%)
DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
Background 1 (14.29%)
Elaboration 4 (57.14%)
Metatextual Statement 1 (14.29%)
OTHERS
Unidentified Rhetorical Function 0
Unfulfilled Rhetorical Function 0
Total frequency at each level 7 (100%)

Table 13: Frequency of Rhetorical Functions identified at Macrostructure Level, Script HKH4.
Rhetorical Function Macrostructure Level
TRUTH & VALIDITY
Assertion 0
Evaluation 0
DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
Question 1 (16.67%)
Answer 5 (83.33%)
Problem 0
Solution 0
OTHERS
Unidentified Rhetorical Function 0
Unfulfilled Rhetorical Function 0
Total frequency at each level 6 (100%)

Part II: Problems of Rhetorical Functions at Functional Unit/Simple/Complex


Sentence Levels: AL1

7 The question is are T.V. violent contribute aggression. UNFU [Assertion]

Grammatical problem (This sentence may be rewritten as: The question is whether T.V.
violence contributes to childrens aggression.)

8 The concept was argued among academics prominent sociological and psychological re-
searchers. UNFU [Elaboration (7)]

Referential problem due to wrong choice of word, which confuses the reader as to what the
word concept refers to. (It may be rewritten as: The question was argued among academ-
ics, prominent sociological and psychological researchers.)

Key:
[ ] the Rhetorical Function presumed from the context, yet unfulfilled due to grammatical mistakes or referential
problems

The problematic rhetorical relations are often brought about by grammatical errors, and
are categorised separately in the Grammatical Accuracy Analysis (GAA), presented at
the end of this chapter.

53
Part III: Rhetorical Functions at Propositional Segment Level and Paragraph Level

One of the purposes of this part of the summary is to record the rhetorical functions at
the highest Propositional Segment Level, to show whether they are members of larger
rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level.

Part III: Rhetorical Functions at Propositional Segment Level


and Paragraph Level: HKH4 Paragraphs 1 to 6

Problems
RFs at high- at RFs at Problems at
Para. Focus
est PS Level highest P Level P level
PS Level

Background Assertion Background


P1 + + +
Nil Nil
(111) Metatextual Metatextual Metatextual
Statement Statement Statement

Elaboration
Laboratory (110)*
Elaboration
P2 experiments: Pro +
Nil (110:
(1113) TV effects Singer Reported Nil
Para.1)*
& Singer Evaluation
(11)

Comparison Comparison
Laboratory
(1213)* (1213)* =
P3 experiments: Con
+ Nil Elaboration Nil
(1419) TV effects
Elaboration (110:
Freedman
(15) Para.1)

Elaboration
Field experiments: (110)* +
Elaboration
P4 Pro & Con TV Reported
Nil (110: Nil
(2026) effects Singer & Evaluation
Para.1)*
Singer vs Freedman (20) + Com-
parison (22)

Elaboration
Natural (110)* +
experiments: Pro & Reported Elaboration
P5 (110: Nil
Con TV effects Evaluation Nil
(2733) Para.1)*
Singer & Singer vs (27) + Com-
Freedman parison (28
30)

Summary
P6 Conclusion: Con (133) + Evaluation
Nil (135) Nil
(3440) TV effects Evaluation
(135)

Key:
* Rhetorical Functions built up and sustained from Local Levels to Intermediate Level, and finally
to Paragraph Level

54
The first column of the table lists the paragraphs and sentences analysed. The second is a
summary of the main focus of a certain paragraph. The third column presents the sub-
sumption or combination of rhetorical functions at the highest Propositional Segment
(PS) Level. In HKH4, there is no problem in the combinations/subsumptions of rhetori-
cal functions at PS Level. Therefore, sound relations in turn emerge at Paragraph (P)
Level. If there are problematic rhetorical relations at PS Level, the RF at P Level will
turn out to be an unsound relation as well. These problems are recorded in Columns 4
and 6, so as to explain clearly to the reader how well, or how poorly, the arguments of an
essay are integrated. To illustrate the usage of these two columns, the summary of Para-
graph 1, AL1, is included below:

Part III: Rhetorical Functions at Propositional Segment Level and Paragraph Level:
AL1 Paragraph 1

Problems at
RFs at High- RFs at P Problems at P
Para. Focus Highest PS
est PS Level Level Level
Level
Expression prob-
S4 should lems (e.g. S7,
have been S10, S11) and
Assertion
Background written as a referencing prob-
+ Background
+ clause and lems (e.g. S8)
P1 (111) Result (12) +
Metatextual combined blur the rhetorical
+ UNFU
Statement with S5 to function of the
UNFU
form S4a & second half of
4b this paragraph
(S7S11)

The first half of Paragraph 1 presents the background of the whole essay, yet the expres-
sion and referencing problems in the second half of this paragraph, S7S11, make it dif-
ficult for the analyst to identify its rhetorical function. Therefore the RFs at P Level are
Background + UNFU. All the underlying reasons for the labelling of UNFU are re-
corded in the last column, Problems of RFs at P Level, which provides easy reference
for the reader.

Part IV: Macrostructure Analysis

Part IV: Macrostructure Analysis HKH4


Paragraph RF at Paragraph Level RF at Macro Level
1 Background + Metatextual Statement Question
2 Elaboration (110: Para.1) Answer (1)
3 Comparison (1213) = Elaboration (110: Para.1) Answer (1)
4 Elaboration (110: Para.1) Answer (1)
5 Elaboration (110: Para.1) Answer (1)
6 Evaluation (135) Answer (1)

The Macrostructure Analysis has two functions: firstly, to show whether the macrostruc-
ture of a text is made up of sound rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level which are con-
ducive to the integration of arguments; and secondly, to examine whether the macro-
structure identified matches any of the conventional global structures of argumentative
essays, Question-Answer, Remark-Response, or Problem-Solution (Tirkkonen-
Condit 1989). The Macrostructure Analysis of HKH4 is presented as above.

55
The question of whether TV viewing has a negative effect on children behaviour is
raised in Paragraph 1. Therefore the RF at M Level of this paragraph was categorised
as Question. The writer attempts to provide an answer in Paragraphs 26, by relating
and evaluating the evidence presented by two researchers. Therefore all these paragraphs
were categorised as Answer. The macrostructure of this essay thus matches one of the
conventional global argumentative structures, Question-Answer. This partly accounts
for the high grade it received.

Validation of Rhetorical Function Analysis

Discourse analysis methods, including RST and RFA devised for this research, involve
judgements on the part of analysts. They are, as Mann & Thompson (1987:4) point out,
judgments of plausibility rather than certainty. Although the decisions are based on
predetermined categorisations, they cannot be considered to be judgments of certainty.
So in order to ensure that the diagnoses made by RFA are at least judgments of plausi-
bility, this method was validated in May 1998. Four raters, all experienced ESL teach-
ers teaching at HKUST Language Centre, were invited to use RFA to analyse four texts,
one from each data set, namely, AH4 (a high-rated Australian text), AL2 (a low-rated
Australian text), HKH1 (a high-rated Hong Kong text), and HKL3 (a low-rated Hong
Kong text). This selection was made so that the data for the validation covered the range
of high-rated and low-rated essays written in both Australia and Hong Kong.
A training session was conducted, during which the rationale behind RFA, as well as
its operation methods, were thoroughly explained. Then the raters applied RFA on Para-
graphs 1 and 2 of HKH1. As noted by several researchers (e.g. Mann & Thompson 1988),
good texts are always analysable. Starting with a well written text would therefore help
the raters to understand the operation methods.
The inter-rater reliability of RFA was 0.79. Hatch & Lazaraton (1991) suggest that
for inter-rater reliability, a strong correlation should be taken as 0.8. Thus we consid-
ered the inter-rater reliability of RFA to be sufficiently strong, and satisfactory for a new
method.
We have seen from this section that RFA, can meet Albrechtsen et al.s (1991:81)
expectation of being sensitive to the interplay between local and global coherence, and
thus reveal the hierarchical integration of argument clearly.

GRAMMATICAL ACCURACY ANALYSIS (GAA): METHOD FOR


INVESTIGATING SYNTACTIC ACCURACY (RESEARCH QUESTIONS 2 AND 4)

Previously used methods for studying grammatical accuracy in student


writing

This section reviews several methods of categorising grammatical problems: Bunton


(1989), Milton (2001) and Peters & Gassmann (1995). Buntons data were collected
from essays written by his Form 5 to 7 students in Hong Kong. The errors presented are
not categorised or ranked, but only grouped according to type in the second part of the
book, where exercises are given. Bunton (op. cit.:Preface) admits that

The dictionary-style format does not allow for the inclusion of errors that cannot be linked
to a key word The main categories that cannot be included in this format are mistakes
with tenses and subject-verb agreement

56
This categorisation was not considered systematic and exhaustive enough for the pur-
poses of the current study.
Miltons taxonomy was devised on the basis of two large Hong Kong corpora. Since
his study set out to identify the main variant features of the written interlanguage of
Hong Kong students of English (Milton op. cit.:Summary), the categorisation of his
taxonomy had to be very fine-grained. However, the main focus of the comparisons
made in the present enquiry was more concerned with essay quality in terms of overall
syntactic competence, which makes a fine breakdown of error types unnecessary. We
therefore decided not to base our scheme on Miltons categorisation.
The taxonomy on which we chose to model our scheme was the tool used in Peters &
Gassmann (1995) to carry out a large-scale study which aimed at investigating the acqui-
sition of writing skills of students advancing through the high school system in Australia.

Categorisation system for this investigation: Grammatical Accuracy


Analysis

In developing the taxonomy for the present study, Grammatical Accuracy Analysis
(GAA), adaptations were made to Peters & Gassmanns scheme. Instead of consisting of
as many as 49 problem subclasses grouped under four broad categories (Spelling,
Morphology, Punctuation and Grammar), the errors were revised into many fewer
categories in GAA. On the other hand, we created new categories, because of our need to
identify common errors made by Hong Kong students:

Wrong Word
Redundant Word
Conjunctive Devices
Sequencing, and
Total Communication Breakdown.

The taxonomy of GAA consists of nineteen categories. The definitions and examples of
error types included in this taxonomy are detailed in Appendix 3.

Taxonomy of Grammatical Accuracy Analysis

Derivational Morphology
Spelling
Tenses
Number Agreement
Nonfinite Forms
Voice
Wrong Word
Missing Word
Redundant Word
Collocation
Articles
Conjunctive Devices
Anaphoric/Cataphoric Pronouns
Sequencing
Word Punctuation

57
Internal Punctuation within & between phrases or clauses
Sentence-final Punctuation
Tangled Construction
Total Communication Breakdown.

To answer our Research Questions 2 and 4, the errors in each script were analysed ac-
cording to GAA. For the purposes of convenience and neatness, the numbers assigned to
each error category, as above, were used in the analysis instead of the spelling in full.
The errors were then counted and tabulated. When the same error recurred in the same
script, as in the case of the word problem being misspelt as *problen for the second or
third time, the error was only counted once. The application of GAA is more straight-
forward than RFA because its categorisation is based strictly on grammatical entities.
The following is a demonstration of GAA, conducted on the first two paragraphs of
AL1, the low-rated Australian essay we examined earlier:

AL1 Grammatical Accuracy Analysis

Paragraph 1

1. Television is becoming a part of our social life, a source of recreation and entertainment.

2. It provides a variety of programs such as violence and non-violence, real and fantasy,
comedy and tragic stories.

3a T.V. is so popular
b every home at least has a set in the room.

4 Because children confronted too much time watching T.V.

5 The alarm was causes is T.V. violent effects on children.

6a The responsible parents are worried their childrens future.

b factors which raises related to this subject.

7 The question is are T.V. violent contribute aggression.

8 The concept was argued among academics prominent sociological and

psychological researchers.

9 The evidence and information present by these experts finding are of different

opinions.

10a The experiment and sources obtained was in a separate categories and patterns.

b These involved in laboratory research field experiments and correlational studies in the
field.

58

11a We examine some articles

b gather evidence from these expert researchers finding results.

Paragraph 2

12a First we look at Freedman, an author and psychologist researcher

b writes in his article Television violence and aggression: what the evidence shows
(1988).

13 Jonathan Freedman argues that there is little or no positive evidence to support the

assertion that T.V. violence led to increases aggression.

14a Freedman look at three types of studies

b to support his argument, laboratory research, field experiment and natural

experiment studies in the field.

Key: repeated error, which has not been counted again


Derivational Morphology Tenses Number Agreement
Nonfinite Forms Wrong Word Missing Word
Redundant Word Conjunctive Devices Word Punctuation
Internal Punctuation

The most recurrent error identified in the extract above is Missing Word, whose fre-
quency is as high as 10 in these two paragraphs, which contain only about 250 words.
The other recurrent error categories include Wrong Word, Redundant Word, Number
Agreement, Tenses and Derivational Morphology, each of which has occurred three or
four times in this short extract.

Validation of Grammatical Accuracy Analysis

GAA was validated in the same way as for RFA before the main study was carried out.
The raters used for RFA were involved again, and the same four scripts employed for
standardisation (AH4, AL1, HKH1 and HKL3). Compared with the RFA training session,
the raters had fewer queries regarding the application of GAA. This was unsurprising,
since as seasoned English teachers, the raters will have had a great deal of experience in
judging the grammatical accuracy of texts, whereas carrying out discourse analysis
through RFA was new to them.
The inter-rater reliability of GAA, 0.85, was even higher than that of RFA (0.79).
Following Hatch & Lazaratons (1991) suggestion, the inter-rater reliability of GAA is
strong. The fact that GAA has generated a higher agreement among raters was not sur-
prising, for the reason mentioned above. Compared to the other criteria for rating essays,
grammatical accuracy is also relatively easier to judge.

59
HYPOTHESES OF THE PRESENT INVESTIGATION

The above is an account of the research design and methodology of the present investiga-
tion. With these developed and validated, we can formulate four hypotheses derived
from the research questions raised at the beginning of this chapter:

Hypothesis 1

The argumentative essays (both high-rated and low-rated) written by first-year


Australian L2 university students do not display a higher level of hierarchical
integration of argument than those written by their Hong Kong counterparts.

Hypothesis 2

The argumentative essays (both high-rated and low-rated) written by first-year


Australian L2 university students do not display a greater degree of grammatical
accuracy than those written by their Hong Kong counterparts.

Hypothesis 3

The high-rated argumentative essays written by first-year Australian L2 and


Hong Kong university students do not display a higher level of hierarchical in-
tegration of argument than the low-rated essays.

Hypothesis 4

The high-rated argumentative essays written by first-year Australian L2 and


Hong Kong university students do not display a greater degree of grammatical
accuracy than the low-rated essays.

60
Chapter Six: Results and discussion: Rhetorical Function
Analysis

INTRODUCTION

This chapter presents the findings of Rhetorical Function Analysis (RFA), used to com-
pare the level of hierarchical integration of argument, firstly, between the Australian and
Hong Kong essays (Hypothesis 1), and secondly, between the high-rated and low-rated
essays (Hypothesis 3). The findings were analysed by Poisson Regression, to determine
whether there was any statistical difference among the four groups of essays. The level
of significance was set at 0.05 (cf. Seliger & Shohamy 1989:220).

HYPOTHESIS 3

The hypothesis

The high-rated argumentative essays written by first-year Australian L2 and Hong Kong
university students do not display a higher level of hierarchical integration of argument
than the low-rated essays.

To test this hypothesis, I had to investigate whether there were any differences between
the high-rated and low-rated essays in terms of their percentages of

rhetorical relations at Functional Unit (FU)/Simple Sentence (SS)/Complex


Sentence (CS) Level which are themselves members of larger rhetorical relations
at Propositional Segment (PS) Level;
rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment Level which are themselves mem-
bers of larger rhetorical relations at Paragraph (P) Level; and
rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level which are themselves members of larger
rhetorical relations at Macrostructure (M) Level.

All the rhetorical relations mentioned refer to identifiable and fulfilled relations, since
only sound rhetorical relations at a lower discourse level bring about sound relations at a
higher level, and thus contribute to the hierarchical integration of argument.
To compare the high-rated and low-rated essay groups at each level, we adjusted the
total number of subsumptions and/or combinations of sound rhetorical relations by the
total number of subsumptions/combinations of all types of rhetorical relations (including
unsound relations, UNID and UNFU), identified at the same level; that is,

Total number of subsumptions/combinations of sound RFs *


Total number of subsumptions/combinations of all RFs **

Note
* This excludes the subsumptions/combinations which involve UNID and UNFU
** This includes the subsumptions/combinations which involve UNID and UNFU

61
Results

Integration of rhetorical relations at Functional Unit/Simple


Sentence/Complex Sentence Level into rhetorical relations at
Propositional Segment Level
Table 14: Testing of Hypothesis 3 at Propositional Segment Level: high-rated = low-rated.
Average of percentages of
Range of percentages
subsumptions/combinations of
Essay Standard of subsumptions/
sound rhetorical functions
groups deviation combinations of sound
(per total number of
rhetorical functions
all rhetorical functions)
H (n = 12) 100% 0 0
L (n = 12) 69.97% 0.1872 0.5714

Key:
H High-rated essay group (both Hong Kong & Australian L2)
L Low-rated essay group (both Hong Kong & Australian L2)

In the high-rated essay groups, the average of the percentages of the subsump-
tions/combinations of sound rhetorical relations (per total number of the subsumtions/
combinations of all rhetorical relations) is 100%. The standard deviation, as well as the
range of these percentages, is 0. This means that the high-rated essays are homogeneous,
in that all their rhetorical functions at Functional Unit/Simple Sentence/Complex Sen-
tence Level which are subsumed by, or combine with, one another are sound ones. In the
low-rated essay groups, the average percentage is only 69.97%. The standard deviation is
0.1872, and the range 0.5714, suggesting that compared with the high-rated essays, there
is a greater variation in terms of integration of arguments within the low-rated groups.
Since the difference between the high-rated and low-rated essay groups is highly signifi-
cant (P < 0.0001), the null hypothesis was rejected. Thus, we conclude:

Compared with the low-rated essays, the high-rated argumentative essays written by first-
year Australian L2 students and their Hong Kong counterparts have a larger percentage of
rhetorical relations at Functional Unit/Simple Sentence/Complex Sentence Level which
are themselves members of larger rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment Level.

Integration of rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment Level into


rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level
Table 15: Testing of Hypothesis 3 at Paragraph Level: high-rated = low-rated.
Average of percentages of
Range of percentages
subsumptions/combinations of
Essay Standard of subsumptions/
sound rhetorical functions
groups deviation combinations of sound
(per total number of
rhetorical functions
all rhetorical functions)
H (n = 12) 100% 0 0
L (n = 12) 43.65% 0.1843 0.5458

Key:
H High-rated essay groups (both Hong Kong & Australian L2)
L Low-rated essay groups (both Hong Kong & Australian L2)

62
In the high-rated essay groups, the average of the percentages of the subsump-
tions/combinations of sound rhetorical relations (per total number of the subsump-
tions/combinations of all rhetorical relations) is 100%. The standard deviation, as well as
the range of these percentages, is 0. This means that the high-rated essays are homogene-
ous, in that all their rhetorical functions at Propositional Segment Level which are sub-
sumed by, or combine with, one another are sound ones. In the low-rated essay groups,
on average, only 43.65% of their rhetorical functions at PS Level which are subsumed by,
or combine with, one another are sound ones. The standard deviation is 0.1843, and the
range 0.5458, suggesting that compared with the high-rated essays, the low-rated ones
are not so homogeneous in terms of integration of arguments. Since the difference be-
tween the high-rated and low-rated essay groups is highly significant (P < 0.0001), the
null hypothesis was rejected. Thus, we conclude:

Compared with the low-rated essays, the high-rated argumentative essays written by first-
year Australian L2 students and their Hong Kong counterparts have a larger percentage of
rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment Level which are themselves members of
larger rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level.

Integration of rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level into rhetorical


relations at Macrostructure Level
Table 16: Testing of Hypothesis 3 at Macrostructure Level: high-rated = low-rated.
Average of percentages of
Range of percentages of
subsumptions/combinations of
Essay Standard subsumptions/
sound rhetorical functions
groups deviation combinations of sound
(per total number of
rhetorical functions
all rhetorical functions)
H (n = 12) 100% 0 0
L (n = 12) 40.42% 0.1999 0.5904

Key:
H High-rated essay groups (both Hong Kong & Australian L2)
L Low-rated essay groups (both Hong Kong & Australian L2)

In the high-rated essay groups, the average of the percentages of the subsump-
tions/combinations of sound rhetorical relations (per total number of all rhetorical rela-
tions) is 100%. The standard deviation, as well as the range of these percentages, is 0.
This means that the high-rated essays are homogeneous, in that all their rhetorical func-
tions at Paragraph Level which are subsumed by, or combine with, one another are sound
ones. In the low-rated essay groups, on average, only 40.42% of their rhetorical functions
which are subsumed by, or combine with, one another are sound ones. The standard de-
viation is 0.1999, and the range 0.5904, suggesting that compared with the high-rated
essays, the low-rated ones are not so homogeneous in terms of integration of arguments.
Since the difference between the high-rated and low-rated essay groups is highly signifi-
cant (P < 0.0001), the null hypothesis was rejected. Thus, we conclude:

Compared with the low-rated essays, the high-rated argumentative essays written by first-
year Australian L2 students and their Hong Kong counterparts have a larger percentage of
rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level which are themselves members of larger rhetorical
relations at Macrostructure Level.

63
Discussion

The combined results of the three analyses above show that Hypothesis 3 could be re-
jected:

Compared with the low-rated essays, the high-rated argumentative essays written by
first-year Australian L2 and Hong Kong university students display a higher level of hier-
archical integration of argument.

The most frequently occurring relations in the high-rated essays

The high-rated texts in the data sets have a wide repertoire (23 categories) of rhetorical
relations (see Appendix 4). The rhetorical functions which have the highest frequency at
different textual levels are presented in Table 17:

Table 17: Rhetorical Functions of the highest frequencies identified at different textual levels in
the highly essay groups.
High-rated essay groups
Australian L2 Hong Kong
Level Rhetorical Functions Rhetorical Functions
of the highest Frequency of the highest Frequency
frequency frequency
Functional Elaboration 130 (19.85%) Elaboration 71 (23.51%)
Unit/Simple Result 87 (13.28%) Result 31 (10.26%)
Sentence Coupling 73 (11.15%) Comparison 31 (10.26%)

Elaboration 55 (31.07%) Elaboration 23 (31.94%)


Complex
Result 26 (14.69%) Comparison 10 (13.89%)
Sentence
Evaluation 21 (11.86%) Reported Evaluation 9 (12.50%)

Elaboration 33 (45.21%)
Elaboration 45 (29.22%)
Propositional Comparison 8 (10.96%)
Evaluation 19 (12.34%)
Segment Evaluation 7 (9.59%)
Result 16 (10.39%)
Reported Evaluation 7 (9.59%)
Lower Levels: Elaboration 230 (23.33%) Elaboration 127 (28.41%)
Total Result 129 (13.08%) Comparison 49 (10.96%)
Elaboration 46 (62.16%) Elaboration 29 (61.70%)
Paragraph
Evaluation 19 (25.68%) Evaluation 7 (14.89%)

Evaluation 68 (91.89%) Answer 33 (80.49%)


Macrostructure
Assertion 6 (8.11%) Question 6 (14.63%)

At the lower levels, the rhetorical function with the highest frequency identified in both
high-rated groups is Elaboration (Australia: 23.33%; Hong Kong: 28.41%). This result
matches Stuart-Smith & Busbridges (1996) finding, but not Lindebergs (1988) observa-
tion that that Evaluate is the most frequently occurring relation in good essays.
At Paragraph Level, Elaboration remains the most frequently occurring relation (62%)
in the two high-rated groups. At Macrostructure Level, Evaluation stands out as the most
frequently occurring relation (91.89%) for the Australian group, followed by Assertion
(8.11%). For the Hong Kong group, Answer is the rhetorical function which has the
highest frequency (80.49%), followed by Question (14.63%). This suggests that there is
a difference between the dominant macrostructures identified in these two groups, to be

64
discussed later. These results cannot be compared with the findings of any earlier re-
search, which concentrated on the lower levels only.
The reason why Elaboration is the most frequently occurring rhetorical function at
Paragraph Level is related to the organisational strategy of the writers of the high-rated
essays: eight out of twelve preferred to front their argumentative stance in a metatextual
statement in the introduction, and used the following paragraphs to elaborate on that
stance. To use HKH1 as an example, the writer fronts his stance in S4ab in the first
paragraph. Paragraphs 2 to 10 are all elaborations of S4ab:
4a Although some experts say that these television programs are not the major factor
causing this phenomenon,
b there are many evidences and experiments show that television programs have this
negative effect.

Paragraph Rhetorical Function at Paragraph Level


1 Background (S542) + Metatextual Statement

2 Elaboration (S4)

3 Elaboration (S69: Para. 2) = Elaboration (S4)

4 Comparison (S1012) = Elaboration (S69: Para. 2) = Elaboration (S4)

5 Elaboration (S4)

6 Elaboration (S1718: Para. 5) = Elaboration (S4)


Comparison (S1920: Para. 6) = Elaboration (S1718: Para. 5) = Elabo-
7
ration (S4)
8 Elaboration (S4)

9 Elaboration (S2526: Para. 8) = Elaboration (S4)


Comparison (S2728: Para. 9) = Elaboration (S2526: Para. 8) = Elabo-
10
ration (S4)
11 Evaluation (S630)

12 Solution (S3138: Para. 11) = Solution (S14: Para. 1)

Many proficient writers in this study fronted their stance in the introduction and then
went on to elaborate it before coming to a conclusion. Their pattern therefore conforms
to the linear Anglo-Saxon pattern (Kaplan 1966, 1987). Such a finding contrasts with
Kaplans observations, and those of Malcolm & Honjio (1988) and Ballard & Clanchy
(1991), that Chinese students typically produce a circular pattern, with a lengthy intro-
duction and an indefinite conclusion.

The most frequently occurring relations in the low-rated essays

There are 25 categories of rhetorical relations in the low-rated essays, exceeding that of
the high-rated groups by two (Unidentified Rhetorical Function, Unfulfilled Rhetorical
Function). See Appendix 4; the rhetorical functions which have the highest frequency at
different levels are summarised in Table 18.

65
Table 18: Rhetorical Functions of the highest frequencies identified at different textual levels in
the low-rated essay groups.
Low-rated essay groups
Australian L2 Hong Kong
Level Rhetorical Functions Rhetorical Functions
of the highest Frequency of the highest Frequency
frequency frequency
Elaboration 131 (22.51%) Elaboration 48 (19.67%)
Functional Unfulfilled Rhetorical 90 (15.46%) Unfulfilled Rhetorical 48 (19.67%)
Unit/Simple Function Function
Sentence Coupling 46 (7.90%) Unidentified Rhetorical 18 (7.38%)
Function
Elaboration 55 (34.81%) Unfulfilled Rhetorical 19 (27.94%)
Unfulfilled Rhetorical 27 (17.09%) Function
Complex
Function Elaboration 17 (25%)
Sentence
Result 13 (8.23%) Unidentified Rhetorical 9 (13.24%)
Function
Unfulfilled Rhetorical 54 (33.75%) Unfulfilled Rhetorical 19 (37.25%)
Function Function
Propositional Unidentified Rhetorical 33 (20.63%) Elaboration 7 (13.73%)
Segment Function Unidentified Rhetorical 5 (9.80%)
Elaboration 28 (17.5%) Function
Assertion 5 (9.80%)
Elaboration 214 (23.78%) Unfulfilled Rhetorical 86 (23.69%)
Lower Unfulfilled Rhetorical 171 (19%) Function
Levels: Function Elaboration 72 (19.83%)
Total Unidentified Rhetorical 89 (9.89%) Unidentified Rhetorical 32 (8.82%)
Function Function
Elaboration 36 (36.73%) Unfulfilled Rhetorical 22 (42.31%)
Unfulfilled Rhetorical 33 (33.67%) Function
Paragraph Function Elaboration 12 (23.08%)
Unidentified Rhetorical 15 (15.31%) Metatextual Statement 6 (11.54%)
Function
Unfulfilled Rhetorical 33 (33%) Unfulfilled Rhetorical 23 (57.5%)
Function Function
Macro-
Answer 27 (27%) Answer 6 (15%)
structure
Unidentified Rhetorical 15 (15%) Question 5 (12.5%)
Function

At the lower levels, the most frequently occurring relations in the Australian L2 low-
rated essay group are, in descending order, Elaboration (23.78%), Unfulfilled Rhetorical
Function (UNFU) (19%) and Unidentified Rhetorical Function (UNID) (9.89%). Their
relative rankings even remain exactly the same at Paragraph Level, constituting 36.73%,
33.67% and 15.31% respectively of the total number of functions identified there. At
Macrostructure Level, UNFU emerges as the most frequently occurring relation (33%).
The patterns in the Hong Kong low-rated essay group are similar, with UNFU and UNID
ranking among the top three at all levels, except at Macrostructure Level. UNFU consti-
tutes as much as 23.69%, 42.31% and 57.5% respectively at Paragraph Level and Macro-
structure Level. This is the major difference between the high-rated and low-rated essay
groups. The high-rated groups do not contain any UNID or UNFU, whereas the low-
rated ones display a large number of these problematic rhetorical relations at all levels.
This partly accounts for their lower level of argumentative integration, and also reflects
the writers weakness in grammar, as will be discussed in the next chapter. Such findings
coincide with the conclusions of Stuart-Smith & Busbridge (1996:28), Lindeberg (1988,
1994) and Kaldor et al. (1998:51).

66
Sequences of three rhetorical functions

As we saw in Chapter 4, three elements in common in different models of local struc-


tures of argumentative texts are: Claim, Justification and Evaluation. In the categorisa-
tion of the present study, the terms Justification and Evaluation remain the same, while
the term Assertion has been adopted to stand for Claim. The pattern Assertion + Justifi-
cation + Evaluation is evident at Propositional Segment Level in the data sets of our
study, as evidenced in Table 19:

Table 19: Frequency of the Assertion + Justification + Evaluation pattern identified in the high-
rated and low-rated essay groups.
High-rated essay groups Low-rated essay groups
Essay Frequency Essay Frequency
AH1 7 AL1 1
AH2 4 AL2 2
AH3 9 AL3 2
AH4 8 AL4 2
AH5 13 AL5 1
AH6 6 AL6 3
Sub-total 47 Sub-total 11

HKH1 3 HKL1 1
HKH2 3 HKL2 0
HKH3 4 HKL3 1
HKH4 4 HKL4 0
HKH5 4 HKL5 1
HKH6 2 HKL6 2
Sub-total 20 Sub-total 5

TOTAL 67 TOTAL 16

The frequency of the Assertion + Justification + Evaluation sequence identified in the


high-rated essays greatly exceeds that of the low-rated ones. This suggests that the
proficient students understood that argumentation is the whole activity of making
claims, backing them up by producing reasons, criticising those reasons, [and]
rebutting those criticisms (Toulmin et al. 1984:14). Their essays have better integrated
arguments. The writers of the low-rated essays, on the other hand, might not have fully
understood the concept of argumentation, or were not skilful enough to make use of the
pattern, since incomplete patterns, in which one of the three elements Assertion,
Justification, or Evaluation is missing, were identified in some low-rated texts.

Match with the Argumentative Response Structure

At first sight, an argumentative response structure (Tirkkonen-Condit 1989:417), or in-


tent, could be identified in all the twenty-four texts in our data sets, either manifested in
the sequence Question-Answer or Remark-Response. All the writers present the essay
plan in the first paragraph, whether they would like to find out an answer to the question
of the effect of television, or to respond to researchers remarks, or findings, regarding
this issue. However, Macrostructure Analysis shows that in the low-rated texts, problems
emerge in the response or answer. The evaluations are either tangled or empty, with
no real substance:

67
Table 20: Problems of evaluation identified in low-rated essays.
Essay Problem
AL3 Body contains only Reported Evaluation without interim evaluations, which
AL6 makes the evaluation in the conclusion unconvincing.
HKL3
Lopsided arguments
HKL5
AL5 Contradiction between the Body (containing Con arguments) and the Con-
HKL2 clusion (with a Pro stance)
AL3
AL5
Unclear evaluation due to expression problems
AL6
HKL4

On the other hand, the writers of other low-rated essays seemed to be taking an avoid-
ance strategy and were not inclined to make an evaluation at the end of the essay. AL1 is
a good example:

AL1 Paragraph 16
79 In conclusion, it take a very difficult decision to judge these experts comment.
80 The findings are two ways results.
81 There is speculation that violent T.V. programs are bad for children,
82a perhaps we are not experts to express our own opinion,
b but I think the situation are complex
c and the findings from these experts are in balance.
83a It might needs long term investigation to find out the truth
b as like no one can predict the weather around us.

In this sense the macrostructures identified in the low-rated texts are unfulfilled, as they
fail to fulfil the functions they signal to perform, for instance, being the response to a
remark. This is another reason why compared with the high-rated essays, the low-rated
ones have a lower degree of integration of arguments. A breakdown of the macrostruc-
tures identified in our data, both fulfilled and unfulfilled, is presented in Table 21.
The macrostructures of all the twelve low-rated essays are unfulfilled. The Remark-
Response sequence is evident in five of them, and Question-Answer in seven. In the
high-rated texts, the Remark-Response sequence was identified in eight, and the Ques-
tion-Answer in three. The essay topic might have played an important role in influencing
the students selection of macrostructure. It was framed as a question: Does watching
violence on television have any effect on childrens behaviour? Some subjects would
find it appropriate to use the Question-Answer sequence, while others preferred to incor-
porate the question as part of the background, and to relate the remarks made by differ-
ent researchers. Interestingly, there is a hybrid sequence of Remark-Response-Solution
in HKH1. This seems to suggest that some Hong Kong tertiary students may think that
suggesting solutions is an essential part of expressing argumentative opinions toward
current issues, which indeed has been my experience.
To summarise, the essays in our data sets present the global argumentative structure.
Three sequences are identified, whose frequencies manifested in both fulfilled and un-
fulfilled macrostructures are, in descending order, Remark-Response (13), Question-
Answer (10) and Remark-Response-Solution (1). This does not support Tirkkonen-
Condits (1989:417) finding that Problem-Solution is the most frequently occurring se-
quence employed in argumentative genre. Our most useful discovery is the identification
of unfulfilled macrostructures in most of the low-rated texts.

68
Table 21: Frequency of the macrostructures identified in the data sets.
Hong
Sequences Hong
Australian Kong Australian
Macro- of Argumentative Kong low-
high-rated high- low-rated Total
structure Response rated
essays rated essays
Structure essays
essays
Problem-Solution 0 0 0 0 0
Fulfilled Remark-Response 6 2 0 0 8
Macro- Question-Answer 0 3 0 0 3
structure Remark-Response-
0 1 0 0 1
Solution
Sub-total 6 6 0 0 12
Problem-Solution 0 0 0 0 0
Unfulfilled
Remark-Response 0 0 3 2 5
Macro-
Question-Answer 0 0 3 4 7
structure
Sub-total 0 0 6 6 12
Total 6 6 6 6 24

Adherence to academic conventions

With regard to two conventions attached to academic writing, the focus in this investiga-
tion was whether our subjects evaluated less, and evaluated less critically, and whether
our subjects acknowledged the sources of their citations.
As shown in Table 17, Evaluation emerges as one of the relations of the highest fre-
quency at nearly every level in the Australian high-rated essay group, and at Proposi-
tional Segment and Paragraph Levels in the Hong Kong group. Yet in the low-rated
groups, it only constitutes 2 to 3% of the total number of rhetorical functions identified at
all levels, except at the Macrostructure Level of the Australian group, where its fre-
quency amounts to 12% (cf. Table 22). However, as I have discussed, the evaluations
made are either inconclusive or not sufficiently clear, or contain lopsided or contradic-
tory arguments, and thus do not contribute to the integration of arguments.

Table 22: Frequency of evaluation identified at different textual levels in low-related essays.
Essay group
Australian Hong Kong
low-rated essays low-rated essays
Level
Function Unit / 12 6
Simple Sentence (2.06%) (2.46%)
6 1
Complex Sentence
(3.80%) (1.47%)
3 1
Propositional Segment
(1.88%) (1.96%)
21 8
Lower Levels: Total
(2.33%) (2.2%)
2 2
Paragraph
(2.04%) (3.85%)
12 1
Macrostructure
(12%) (2.5%)

The question of whether our subjects on the whole evaluated less is more complex.
Consider the following example, extracted from AL3, an Australian low-rated essay:

69
AL3- Paragraph 6
30 An experiment conducted by Freshbach and Singer (1971) offered evidence re-
garding two groups of boys living in two separate cottages.
31a One group was shown violent programs
b and the other was shown a non-violent program.
32a After two weeks of experiments, the boys who were initially more aggressive
showed an increased in aggression
b after viewing violent program.
33 Whereas, the boys who watched the non-violent program had showed lower lev-
els of aggression.
34a It can be seen from this experiment that when children who were initially more
aggressive are exposed to violent programs they tend to be more aggressive,
b and thus television seems to trigger the aggression that the children had from
other influences.

S34 was categorised as an Unidentified Rhetorical Function, because from the context
we cannot tell whether the evaluation is made by the writer, or whether s/he is only citing
Freshbach & Singer (without indicating the source). Since such problems appear in most
of the low-rated texts, but are absent from the high-rated essays (cf. Table 20), it sug-
gests that the non-critical approach of these Chinese students may be more of a problem
of language than attitude, their undue respect for authority, as suggested in Chapter 3.

Table 23: Frequency of Unidentified Rhetorical Functions in low-rated essays brought about by
unclear/missing sources.
Australian Hong Kong
Frequency Frequency
low-rated essays low-rated essays
AL1 2 HKL1 1
AL2 1 HKL2 3
AL3 3 HKL3 2
AL4 6 HKL4 0
AL5 0 HKL5 1
AL6 0 HKL6 2
Sub-total 12 Sub-total 9

As for referencing conventions, many writers of the low-rated essays failed to provide
part of the source (the year of publication and/or the page number), as exemplified in
S11 of AL4:
11 Singer & Singer point out theoretically that television viewing of violent programs
definitely increases childrens aggression.
In extreme cases, the entire source has been left out, which is evident in Sentences 19
and 22 in the following extract:
AL5 Paragraph 5
19 The experimental studies in field setting carried out with small viewers have shown
that television viewing can have both prosocial and aggressive effect.
22 The Naturalistic Experiment indicates that direct observations of aggressive be-
haviour of the children increased after introduction of television.

The functional units with such a referencing problem were categorised as Unfulfilled
Rhetorical Function [Reported Evaluation], because they fail to perform the functions

70
they signal (e.g., through the use of quotation marks). While this type of unsuccessful
relation is not found in the high-rated scripts, it appears in most of the low-rated ones:

Table 24: Frequency of Unfulfilled Rhetorical Functions in low-rated essays brought about by
unclear/missing sources.
Australian Hong Kong
Frequency Frequency
low-rated essays low-rated essays
AL1 1 HKL1 0
AL2 1 HKL2 2
AL3 0 HKL3 4
AL4 7 HKL4 0
AL5 1 HKL5 2
AL6 1 HKL6 3
Sub-total 11 Sub-total 11

The stage of schooling of our subjects and their place of origin, Hong Kong, made it
unlikely that they had been greatly influenced by Chinese scholarly tradition. A more
plausible reason for this referencing problem is again the poor language proficiency of
some of the subjects. With the emergence of these two referencing problems, the quality
of their argumentative EAP essay is affected, since the essays lack the writers viewpoint,
and/or the arguments presented are not supported with clear and identifiable sources of
information.
All the factors we have discussed here, contribute to, or disrupt, the hierarchical inte-
gration of argument in the argumentative essays in our data sets.

HYPOTHESIS 1

The hypothesis

The argumentative essays (both high-rated and low-rated) written by first-year Australian
L2 university students do not display a higher level of hierarchical integration of argument
than those written by their Hong Kong counterparts.

To test this hypothesis, I needed to investigate whether there were any differences be-
tween the Australian L2 essays and Hong Kong essays in terms of their percentages of

rhetorical relations at Functional Unit (FU)/Simple Sentence (SS)/Complex


Sentence (CS) Level which are themselves members of larger rhetorical relations
at Propositional Segment (PS) Level;
rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment Level which are themselves mem-
bers of larger rhetorical relations at Paragraph (P) Level; and
rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level which are themselves members of larger
rhetorical relations at Macrostructure (M) Level.

To compare the Australian L2 and Hong Kong essay groups at each level, we adjusted
the total number of subsumptions and/or combinations of sound rhetorical relations by
the total number of subsumptions/combinations of all types of rhetorical relations (in-
cluding unsound relations, UNID and UNFU), identified at the same level.

71
Results

Integration of rhetorical relations at Functional Unit/Simple Sentence/


Complex Sentence Level into rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment
Level
Table 25: Testing of Hypothesis 1 at Propositional Segment Level: Australian L2 = Hong Kong.
Average of percentages of sub-
Range of percentages
sumptions/combinations of
Essay Standard of subsumptions/
sound rhetorical functions
groups deviation combinations of sound
(per total number of
rhetorical functions
all rhetorical functions)
A (n = 12) 87.69% 0.1648 0.4167
HK (n =12) 82.28% 0.2355 0.5714

Key:
A Australian L2 essays (both high-rated & low-rated)
HK Hong Kong essays (both high-rated & low-rated)

In the Australian L2 essay groups, 87.69% of their rhetorical relations at Functional Unit
/Simple Sentence/Complex Sentence Level which are subsumed by, or combine with,
one another are sound ones, and in the case of the Hong Kong essay groups, the average
percentage is 82.28%. For the Australian groups, the standard deviation is 0.1648, and
the range of these percentages 0.4167. For the Hong Kong groups, the standard deviation
is 0.2355, and the range 0.5714. This shows that neither of the groupings is homogene-
ous in terms of integration of arguments at the lower levels. This is because each of them
consists of both high-rated and low-rated essays. The difference between the Australian
groups and the Hong Kong groups is statistically significant (P = 0.0441), just below the
threshold of 0.05 set. It allows us to establish:

Compared with those written by their Hong Kong counterparts, the essays written by first-
year Australian L2 university students have a larger percentage of rhetorical relations at
Functional Unit/Simple Sentence/Complex Sentence Level which are themselves mem-
bers of larger rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment Level.

Yet the significance is not at the highest level and the basis for establishment is therefore
not strong.

Integration of rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment Level into


rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level
Table 26: Testing of Hypothesis 1 at Paragraph Level: Australian L2 = Hong Kong.
Average of percentages of
Range of percentages
subsumptions/combinations of
Essay Standard of subsumptions/
sound rhetorical functions
groups deviation combinations of sound
(per total number of
rhetorical functions
all rhetorical functions)
A (n = 12) 72.25% 0.3264 0.8125
HK (n = 12) 71.41% 0.3171 0.75

Key:
A Australian L2 essays (both high-rated & low-rated)
HK Hong Kong essays (both high-rated & low-rated)

72
In the Australian L2 essay groups, 72.25% of rhetorical relations at Propositional Seg-
ment Level which are subsumed by, or combine with, one another are sound ones, and in
the case of the Hong Kong groups, the average percentage is 71.41%. These two per-
centages are very close. For the Australian groups, the standard deviation is 0.3264, and
the range of these percentages 0.8125. For the Hong Kong groups, the standard deviation
is 0.3171, and the range 0.75. This suggests that neither of these two groupings is homo-
geneous in terms of integration of arguments at Propositional Segment Level, as each
consists of both high-rated and low-rated essays. Since the difference between the Aus-
tralian groups and the Hong Kong groups is not statistically significant (P = 0.9203), we
cannot reject the null hypothesis. Thus, we conclude:

There is no significant difference between the Australian and Hong Kong essays in their
percentage of rhetorical relations at Propositional Segment Level which are themselves
members of larger rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level.

Integration of rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level into rhetorical


relations at Macrostructure Level
Table 27: Testing of Hypothesis 1 at Macrostructure Level: Australian L2 = Hong Kong.
Average of percentages of
Range of percentages
subsumptions/combinations of
Essay Standard of subsumptions/
sound rhetorical functions
groups deviation combinations of sound
(per total number of
rhetorical functions
all rhetorical functions)
A (n = 12) 72.25% 0.3264 0.8125
HK (n = 12) 68.17% 0.3551 0.8571

Key:
A Australian L2 essays (both high-rated & low-rated)
HK Hong Kong essays (both high-rated & low-rated)

In the Australian L2 essay groups, 72.25% of rhetorical relations at Propositional Seg-


ment Level which are subsumed by, or combine with, one another are sound ones, and in
the case of the Hong Kong groups, the average percentage is 68.17%. For the Australian
groups, the standard deviation is 0.3264, and the range of these percentages 0.8125. For
the Hong Kong groups, the standard deviation is 0.3551, and the range 0.8571. This sug-
gests that neither of these two groupings is homogeneous in terms of integration of ar-
guments at Paragraph Level, as each consists of both high-rated and low-rated essays.
Since the difference between the Australian and the Hong Kong groups is not statistically
significant (P = 0.4803), we cannot reject the null hypothesis. Thus, we conclude:

There is no significant difference between the Australian and Hong Kong essays in their
percentage of rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level which are themselves members of
larger rhetorical relations at Paragraph Level.

Based on these analyses, we concluded that Hypothesis 1 could not be rejected, since the
result for the first element was only marginally significant, and those for the other two
were not statistically significant. Thus:

There is no substantial difference in the level of hierarchical integration of argument dis-


played in the argumentative essays (both high-rated and low-rated) written by first-year

73
Australian L2 university students as compared with those written by their Hong Kong
counterparts.

If we carry out a cross-hypothesis analysis, we will find that for Hypothesis 1, the stan-
dard deviations (SDs) and the ranges of the percentages of subsumptions/combinations
of sound rhetorical functions (Australian L2 vis--vis Hong Kong essays) are much
greater than those for Hypothesis 3 (high-rated vis--vis low-rated essays). This is under-
standable, as in the case of the former each of the two groupings consists of both high-
rated and low-rated essays, which explains the greater differences within these groupings
in terms of integration of arguments. The greatest disparity of percentages is detected at
Paragraph Level, especially in the comparison between the Australian and the Hong
Kong essay groups (Hypothesis 1). For example, the SDs for the Australian groups and
Hong Kong groups for Hypothesis 1 at Paragraph Level are 0.3264 and 0.3551 respec-
tively. These are the same as, or slightly greater than, their SDs at Propositional Segment
Level, 0.3264 and 0.3171 respectively, but are much greater than those at FU/SS/CS
Level, 0.1648 and 0.2355 respectively. This is not surprising, as it is easier for a writer to
ensure that the ideas of his/her essay are coherent at the clausal/sentential levels com-
pared with the upper levels, especially Paragraph Level.

Discussion

The most frequently occurring relations and macrostructures identified in


the Australian and Hong Kong essay groups

As mentioned earlier, in both high-rated essay groups, AH and HKH, Elaboration ranks
the top at the lower levels, and Elaboration and Evaluation at Paragraph Level. Yet at
Macrostructure Level, Evaluation and Assertion rank the highest in the Australian group,
and Answer and Question in the Hong Kong group (cf. Table 17). The two low-rated
groups, AL and HKL, are also similar in terms of the types of relation at different levels.
UNID and UNFU rank the top at the lower levels, and UNFU at Paragraph and Macro-
structure Levels (cf. Table 18). Since the most frequently occurring rhetorical functions
identified at all levels between the two high-rated groups, and those between the low-
rated groups, are very similar, there are no obvious differences between the Australian
and Hong Kong groups as two conglomerations.

Table 28: Frequency of types of macrostructures identified in Australian and Hong Kong essays.
Macrostructure Australian essay groups Hong Kong essay groups
Fulfilled High-rated 6 High-rated 6
Macrostructure Low-rated 0 Low-rated 0
Unfulfilled High-rated 0 High-rated 0
Macrostructure Low-rated 6 Low-rated 6
Totals 12 12

When we further compare the frequency of the types of macrostructure identified in the
Australian and Hong Kong essay groups (A vs HK), we find that their results are identi-
cal: six fulfilled and six unfulfilled macrostructures in each group (cf. Table 28).
This provides further evidence that there are no differences in the level of hierarchi-
cal integration of argument displayed in the Australian and Hong Kong essay groups.
Such a result may also be explained by the extent to which the Australian subjects used
English inside and outside the classroom.

74
Language environment for the Australian subjects

To discover more about the subjects of the current study, interviews were conducted with
one of the EAP tutors at Macquarie University, Peter Roger, and some of the Australian
L2 subjects. The comments made by Roger were especially relevant, since some of our
subjects had attended his tutorial sessions and he had assessed their essays. He stated that
from his frequent encounters with his overseas students, he observed that it is possible to
live in Australia and use English only in the classroom. Bearing in mind Falveys
(1998:75) definition of EFL, language which is learned primarily in the classroom with
little assistance from the language environment, many of these Australian students
might be properly regarded as EFL students in these terms.
Roger also remarked that foreign students in Australia do not gain additional L2
competence from everyday use of English in social encounters. They find it difficult to
establish friendship with L1 speakers. This echoes the observations made by Bradley &
Bradley (1984), Barker et al. (1991), Mullins et al. (1995) and Biggs & Watkins (1996).
When there is an absence of equal discourse roles between learners and L1 speakers, in-
ternational students who are already collectivistically inclined will become more attached
to their own ethnic groups and less willing to adapt to the L1 culture (Ellis 1994:187).
It seems, then, that living in Australia makes little difference at all to these students.
They behave in much the same way as when they were in Hong Kong. There might be
only one major difference: for Hong Kong students, the opportunity and need to use
English [in Hong Kong] to communicate were low (So 1998:161; my emphasis). Now
that some of these students had gone to Australia, the opportunities for them to use
English were high, if they looked for them. Yet their motivation for using the language
remained low.
Many have neither integrative nor instrumental motivation to learn English, and do
not capitalise on the ESL environment in Australia. They thus make little progress in
their English. This may partly explain why they do not develop better argumentative
skills, and why no difference was found in the hierarchical integration of argument dis-
played in the Australian L2 essays as compared to the Hong Kong texts.

75
76
Chapter Seven: Results and Discussion: Grammatical
Accuracy Analysis

INTRODUCTION

This chapter presents the findings of Grammatical Accuracy Analysis (GAA), devised to
compare the level of syntactic accuracy, firstly, between the Australian and Hong Kong
essays (Hypothesis 2) and secondly, between the high-rated and low-rated essays (Hy-
pothesis 4). As with the findings obtained from RFA, those derived from GAA were ana-
lysed by Poisson Regression, to determine whether there is any statistical difference
among the four groups of essays. The level of significance was set at 0.05.

HYPOTHESIS 4

The hypothesis

The high-rated argumentative essays written by first-year Australian L2 and Hong Kong
university students do not display a greater degree of grammatical accuracy than the low-
rated essays.

To test this hypothesis, I first analysed the errors according to the taxonomy of GAA,
counting the total number of grammatical errors of each essay group. This total was then
adjusted by the total number of words, between the high-rated essay groups and the
low-rated essay groups, that is,

Total number of grammatical errors


Total number of words

Results
Table 29: Testing of Hypothesis 4: high-rated = low-rated.
Average of percentages of
Essay Standard Range of percentages of
grammatical errors
groups deviation grammatical errors
(per total number of words)
H (n = 12) 2.74% 0.00782 0.02907
L (n = 12) 8.49% 0.04591 0.1376

Key:
H High-rated essay group (both Hong Kong & Australian L2)
L Low-rated essay group (both Hong Kong & Australian L2)

The table shows that the average of the percentages of grammatical errors (per total
number of words) for the high-rated essay groups is only 2.74%. The SD is 0.00782, and
the range of these percentages 0.02907, which means that the high-rated essays are ho-
mogeneous. In contrast, the average percentage for the low-rated essay groups is 8.49%.
The SD is 0.04591, and the range 0.1376. Thus, compared with the high-rated essay
groups, the low-rated groups are less homogeneous in terms of their percentages of
grammatical errors. Since the difference between the high-rated and low-rated essay
groups is highly significant (P < 0.0001), the null hypothesis was rejected. Thus:

77
Compared with the low-rated essays, the high-rated argumentative essays written by
first-year Australian L2 and Hong Kong university students have a smaller percentage of
grammatical errors. They thus display a greater degree of grammatical accuracy than the
low-rated essays.

Discussion: Similarities and differences in error types between the high-


rated and low-rated essays

The results for Hypothesis 4 confirm that there is a correlation between grammatical ac-
curacy and success in argumentative writing. This supports the findings of Stewart &
Grobe (1976), Sparks (1988) and Lukmani (1995) that grammatical accuracy has a bear-
ing on raters perception of ESL writing quality.
To investigate further the reasons accounting for these results, two types of compari-
son were made. First, the frequency, percentage and relative ranking of each error type in
the high-rated groups (H) were compared with those in the low-rated groups (L). The
second type of comparison involved the use of tests of statistical significance.
It was found that there are similarities between the groupings in the relative rankings
of the error types (see Appendix 5 for the frequency of errors in individual essays in each
group; Appendix 6 for the full comparison of frequencies, percentages, and relative rank-
ings of the error types). Two categories emerge as the most frequently occurring errors in
both H and L: Agreement, and Internal Punctuation within and between Phrases and
Clauses. If we further break the percentages down into those of the Australian High-rated
Group (AH), Australian Low-rated Group (AL), Hong Kong High-rated Group (HKH)
and Hong Kong Low-rated Group (HKL), we find that in all groups except AH, Number
Agreement ranks first. The rankings of Internal Punctuation and Articles are between the
first and sixth in every group. These three categories, when combined, constitute half or
nearly half in the case of AH and HKH (50.25% and 44.96% respectively), and about
one-third of the total number of errors identified in both AL and HKL (36.22% and
32.59% respectively). Cf. Table 30:

Table 30: Frequencies, percentages and relative rankings of the most recurrent errors in the
four essay groups.
Essay groups
Error Australian high- Australian Hong Kong Hong Kong
category rated essays low-rated high-rated low-rated
(AH) essays (AL) essays (HKH) essays (HKL)
Number 36 120 35 60
Agreement (18.09%) (18.9%) (27.13%) (18.99%)
(Nag) [2nd] [1st] [1st] [1st]
Internal 41 71 12 23
Punctuation (20.6%) (11.18%) (9.3%) (7.28%)
(IP) [1st] [2nd] [3rd] [4th]
23 39 11 20
Articles (Art) (11.56%) (6.14%) (8.53%) (6.33%)
[3rd] [6th] [4th] [5th]
Total 100 230 58 103
(Nag+IP+Art) (50.25%) (36.22%) (44.96%) (32.59%)

Key:
The numbers in parentheses are the percentage of each error type in the respective grouping.
The numbers in square brackets are the relative ranking of each error type in the respective
grouping.

78
Although the common error types of the high-rated and low-rated essay groups fall into
similar patterns, their grades are very different. To investigate possible reasons for this,
we have to examine the absolute values (frequencies) of these error categories. Such
comparisons are very revealing. For example, Agreement constitutes 18.09% and 18.9%
of the total frequency of errors in AH and AL respectively, yet the raw number of this
error type is only 36 in the former, as compared to 120 in the latter. In HKL it is a good
deal lower, in percentage (18.99%), than in HKH (27.13%), yet there are almost twice as
many Agreement errors in them (HKL: 60 vs HKH: 35). These kinds of disparity be-
tween the percentages and the raw numbers apply to the errors in Internal Punctuation
and Articles. When the raters were marking the scripts, they will have been aware of the
large numbers of errors in certain scripts, and awarded low (and high) grades accordingly.
On the other hand, when the data were further submitted to statistical tests of signifi-
cance, significant differences emerged between the H and L groupings in two error types,
Spelling (P = 0.0198) and Collocation (P = 0.0237), in terms of the percentages in their
respective groupings; see Table 31:

Table 31: Frequencies, percentages and relative rankings of the error categories with statistical
differences in the high-rated and low-rated essay groups.
Error Essay groups
category High-rated essays (H) Low-rated essays (L)
22 31
Spelling (6.71%) (3.26%)
[5th] [13th]
32 52
Collocation (9.76%) (5.47%)
[4th] [7th]

Key:
The numbers in parentheses are the percentage of each error type in the respective grouping.
The numbers in square brackets are the relative ranking of each error type in the respective
grouping.

The frequencies of Spelling and Collocation errors are higher in the low-rated essays
than the high-rated ones. Such a result is interesting, as these two error categories are dif-
ferent in nature. Problems in spelling are generally considered to be a more superficial
mechanical type of error (Stewart & Grobe 1979) obvious and ubiquitous. On the
other hand, Collocation errors, defined in this study syntagmatically as Wrong choice of,
redundant, or missing, word which is against conventional idiom or usage (see Appen-
dix 3), cover a greater range, including erroneous use of vocabulary, prepositions, or
other idiomatic aspects of the language. Compared with Spelling, this error type is much
more subtle, individual and deep-seated. The results of our statistical analysis show that
the proficient writers made fewer mistakes in both types of error, superficial as well as
subtle, which partly accounts for their high grades. Errors in Spelling and Collocation
may therefore have had a particular influence on raters assessments. This supports Bal-
lard & Clanchys (1991:33) view that Spelling, as well as Idiom and Register,
among others, form a set of objective criteria by which an essay is rated.
Another factor which may also account for the differences in grades received by the
high-rated and low-rated essays is that three error types can only be found in the low-
rated essays. These include Anaphoric/Cataphoric Pronouns, Tangled Construction and
Total Communication Breakdown. Their frequencies, percentages and relative rankings
are presented below in Table 32:

79
Table 32: Frequencies, percentages and relative rankings of the error categories identified in the
low-rated essay groups only.
Essay Groups
Australian Hong Kong
Error Australian Hong Kong
high- high-
category low-rated low-rated
rated rated
(AL) (HKL)
(AH) (HKH)
42 17
Anaphoric/
0 (6.61%) 0 (5.38%)
Cataphoric Pronouns
[5th] [8th]
12 5
Tangled Construction 0 (1.89%) 0 (1.58%)
[15th] [16th]
20 9
Total Communication
0 (3.15%) 0 (2.85%)
Breakdown
[12th] [12th]
Total: 74 31
0 0
Each essay group (11.65%) (9.81%)

Key:
The numbers in parentheses are the percentage of each error type in the respective grouping.
The numbers in square brackets are the relative ranking of each error type in the respective
grouping.

In both AH and HKH, the frequencies for all these error types are zero. They also consti-
tute only 11.65% and 9.81% of all the errors identified in the AL and HKL respectively.
Yet when I performed statistical tests of significance, I found that the average percent-
ages of these types of error in the low-rated groups are significantly different from zero
(P < 0.0001). This underscores the importance of this difference between the high-rated
and low-rated groups. What is more, these error types, especially the errors in Tangled
Construction and Total Communication Breakdown would have exerted an influence on
the teachers ratings because they all affect the reading and comprehension of the text,
and detract from the quality of the arguments. Consider this example of Tangled Con-
struction, identified in a low-rated Australian L2 essay (AL1):

5 The alarm was causes is T.V. violent effects on children are the issue.

What the writer may have intended to say here is that anxiety was raised over whether
television violence has effects on children. Although the reader can guess at the intended
meaning, it takes considerable effort, and things still seem confused. The situation is
even worse when the meaning cannot be communicated at all, as in the case of Total
Communication Breakdown (from AL1 again):

77a a person in authority, has chosen to show a violent programs,


b in the position is more responsible than of industry representative
c and parents who quick to reduce any potential of negative effects of viewing in
children activities.

In this sentence, the writer has not made it clear why a person in authority is more re-
sponsible than the industry representative, and more basically, who these two terms
refer to. One more problem is that S77c does not seem to be related to S77a and S77b.
All these seriously affect the argument of the text.

80
Errors in Anaphoric/Cataphoric Pronouns also cause major obstructions to readabil-
ity, as noted by Kaldor et al. (1998:578). This is evident from an extract taken from a
low-rated Hong Kong essay, HKL2:

HKL2 Paragraph 2
2a From the past researches, long time in TV viewing can cause shorts sighted,
b but people concerns much about it as well as the negative effect of TV violence on
child.
3 Is it as worst as people think?
4 Yet, it is just a pessimistic perspective.

In S2b, the pronoun it refers to short-sightedness. Therefore the reader finds the it in S3
and S4 very confusing Does this refer to short-sightedness again or to the negative
effect of TV violence on child?
The low-rated essays contain many more grammatical errors than the high-rated ones.
Furthermore, only the low-rated essays present the types of error that obstruct the read-
ing and comprehension of the text. Therefore two factors seem to affect teachers holistic
rating: the quantity of errors in the essays, as well as their quality, or gravity, especially
whether the errors affect the readers comprehension of the text.

HYPOTHESIS 2

The hypothesis

The argumentative essays (both high-rated and low-rated) written by first-year Australian
L2 university students do not display a greater degree of grammatical accuracy than those
written by their Hong Kong counterparts.

To test this hypothesis, I compared the total number of grammatical errors, adjusted by
the total number of words, between the Australian essay groups (A) and the Hong
Kong essay groups (HK).

Results
Table 33: Testing of Hypothesis 2: Australian L2 = Hong Kong.
Average of percentages of Range of
Standard
Essay groups grammatical errors percentages of
deviation
(per total number of words) grammatical errors
A (n = 12) 5.34% 0.04339 0.1386
HK (n = 12) 5.88% 0.04555 0.1428

Key:
A Australian L2 essays (both high-rated & low-rated)
HK Hong Kong essays (both high-rated & low-rated)

The averages of the percentages of grammatical errors (per total number of words) in
both groupings are very similar: 5.34% for the Australian, and 5.88% for the Hong Kong
groups. The standard deviations are also very similar for both (0.04339 (Australian) and
0.04555 (Hong Kong)), as are the ranges (0.1386 (Australian) and 0.1428 (Hong Kong)),
thus showing that both groupings are highly homogeneous in terms of their percentages

81
of errors. Since the difference between the groupings is not statistically significant (P =
0.5212), we cannot reject the null hypothesis. Thus:

There is no significant difference in the degree of grammatical accuracy displayed in the


argumentative essays (both high-rated and low-rated) written by first-year Australian L2
university students as compared with those written by their Hong Kong counterparts.

Discussion

Similarities in error types between the Australian and Hong Kong essays

To discover the reasons accounting for the results, the two approaches mentioned earlier
were used again to compare the percentages and relative rankings of the error categories
in the Australian groups (A) with those of the Hong Kong ones (HK). First, the error
types in each grouping were ranked according to their percentages, then the data were
submitted to statistical tests.
When the relative rankings of the error categories were compared, it was found that
there were similarities between A and HK. As already observed, Number Agreement,
Internal Punctuation and Articles constitute a large percentage of the total number of er-
rors in all the four groupings in this study. These three categories, when combined, con-
stitute 39.57% of the total number of errors identified in the Australian groupings, and
36.18% in the Hong Kong groupings. Indeed, Number Agreement, which ranks first in
both A and HK, alone already accounts for one-fifth of the total error frequencies
(18.71% in A, and 21.35% in HK). We have noted that studying in an ESL environment
did not seem to have helped these subjects very much to make improvements in structur-
ing their arguments. The same seems to be the case in relation to their grammatical accu-
racy. The similar error patterns discovered may indicate that our Australian subjects,
who were of Hong Kong origin, had formed stable error patterns, or relatively fixed de-
fects, in their L2, before they had left Hong Kong:

a learners degree of proficiency can legitimately be conceived as a system created by the


learner for himself. This system is not invariant although it may have certain relatively
fixed defects which, after, Selinker (1972), are often referred to as fossilizations.
(Stern 1983:355)

These results echo Miltons (2001:109) finding that the English interlanguage of Hong
Kong students is homogeneous: Hong Kong students develop an L2 that is accommo-
dated remarkably well to the demands and constraints of their educational environment.
One of the constraints of the Hong Kong educational environment is certainly the
fact that English is not taught as an L2 there. Despite this, the local educational environ-
ment imposes a constant demand on students: in order to be able to enter university,
they have to pass the Use of English examination, which is a difficult task for many stu-
dents. Therefore Hong Kong students are keen to fudge grammatical competence and to
impose communicative dynamism on texts, which is said to have shaped the character-
istics of the Hong Kong interlanguage (Milton ibid.:109).
The reasons for the difficulty experienced by the Australian subjects in making a
breakthrough in improving the accuracy of their L2 are complex, involving an interplay
of socio-cultural and psychological factors. The socio-cultural factors highlighted in
Chapter 2 include the learners view about the target-language culture. The psychological
factor is motivation, whether the learner feels that there is the need to get meanings

82
across and the pleasure experienced (Ellis 1994:516). We have also seen that there is a
relatively high degree of social distance between the Chinese community and the Eng-
lish-speaking community (Luke & Richards 1982:53; So 1998:161; Pennington 1998; Li
et al. 2000). It seems that even after some of these students (such as our Australian sub-
jects) have gone abroad to study, they remain indifferent, and even become hostile, to
the target-language culture, despite increased exposure. The reasons for this are again
complex, the most plausible one being the lack of motivation. They may neither feel the
need to get meanings across (being self-sufficient, mixing only with people of their
own language community, and anticipating returning to Hong Kong after graduation) nor
experience the pleasure associated with communicating with the L1 speakers in Aus-
tralia (partly owing to their low English proficiency, and partly owing to the unfriendly,
or lukewarm, attitudes of some Australians). This fits the Acculturation Model proposed
by Schumann (1978a, 1978b) to a certain extent, in that the first social variable for suc-
cess in L2 learning is the extent to which a group integrates. Yet the second social vari-
able postulated by Schumann, that learning is less likely to take place in a situation in
which the L2 group is dominant (as in a colonial context) than in one in which the L1
group is dominant (as in a country of immigrants) has not been confirmed in this study. It
is true that there is little success in L2 learning in Hong Kong, yet studying in a country,
such as Australia, in which the L1 group is dominant, does not by itself automatically
guarantee success in L2 learning either. It still depends on how willing the learner is to
mix with the native speakers there, and to expose him/herself to the target language. Cf.
Milton (2001:110):

Psychological factors, such as variations in learners attitudes and intrinsic aspects of the
L2 may affect learnability, but it also seems clear that sociolinguistic factors are major de-
termining factors in the features we find in students written production.

The interplay of socio-cultural and psychological factors in L2 learning is intricate.

Differences in error types between the Australian and Hong Kong essays
Table 34: Frequencies, percentages and relative rankings of the error categories with statistical
differences in the Australian and Hong Kong essay groups.
Error Essay groups
category Australian essays (A) Hong Kong essays (HK)
20 22
Tenses (2.4%) (4.94%)
[13th] [8th]
44 40
Collocation (5.28%) (8.99%)
[8th] [3rd]

Key:
The numbers in parentheses are the percentage of each error type in the respective grouping.
The numbers in square brackets are the relative ranking of each error type in the respective
grouping.

Although the Australian L2 and Hong Kong essays display similarities in error type,
there are two categories which show significant statistical differences between these two
groupings: Tenses (P = 0.0278) and Collocation (P = 0.0451). Cf. Table 34.

83
Tenses rank 13th in the Australian group and 8th in the Hong Kong group, and Col-
location 8th in the Australian group and 3rd in the Hong Kong group. This suggests that
the Australian L2 subjects were better able to handle tense forms and to create more ac-
curate collocations and idiomatic expressions. Therefore although they might not have
taken full advantage of studying in the L1 environment, their increased exposure to spo-
ken and written English seemed to have enhanced their resources in the target language.
The collocation errors that they produce suggest that at least they have more options to
draw upon. Consider this sentence from a low-rated Australian essay, AL2:

7a However, some researchers argue with strong evidence and experiment that TV
violence would only be a short-term effect
b or even has nothing to do with the real world violence.

In producing the bolded clause, the writer seems to have combined two structures:

(1) TV violence would only have a short-term effect


(2) TV violence would only be of a short-term effect

This type of error is certainly more sophisticated than mechanical ones such as Spelling.
They are also evident in the high-rated Australian essays. Take for example AH4, its first
sentence reads:
1 With the seemingly increased portrayal of graphic violence on television, the ef-
fects of it on childrens behaviour and attitudes has become of great concern to
many people, particularly parents.

The writer seems to have combined two structures to produce the syntactic blend
(bolded):

(1) has been of great concern


(2) has become a great concern

This can be explained by Wolfe-Quintero et al.s (1998:4) observation that [s]econd


language learners write more grammatically and lexically complex sentences as they be-
come more proficient. Peters & Gassmann (1995:139) noted errors which display the
effects of students tackling new expressions:

[Students] syntactic problems are symptoms of trying to develop more sophisticated ways
of talking about what they observe ...

Although students trying to capture new expressions in their writing inevitably make
mistakes, it is part of the process of acquiring new resources in the target language. Seen
from this perspective, the Australian L2 subjects who combined two structures in their
writing and made mistakes in the process would seem to be more advanced along their
paths of approximation toward the target language standard than those who produce only
surface errors.

84
Plagiarism in the Hong Kong low-rated essays

It is true that the number of unclear/missing sources in the Hong Kong scripts is the same
as that in the Australian scripts. Yet while the instances of plagiarism are restricted to
one or two sentences in the Australian scripts, there are two Hong Kong low-rated essays,
HKL1 and HKL3, which contain a whole extract lifted from the references. These
scripts contain noticeably fewer grammatical errors, compared to the other Hong Kong
low-rated essays, such as HKL2 and HKL4:

Essay Total Number of grammatical errors


HKL1 36
HKL2 101
HKL3 16
HKL4 90

An example of plagiarism in HKL1 is shown below. All the bolded sentences and
clauses have been lifted from Singer & Singer (1988:173), and strung together with
minimal contribution from the student:

HKL1 Paragraph 3
On the other side of the coin, television can make benefits on the growth and develop-
ment of children mind. The television industry, confronted with concerns by psycholo-
gists and other behavioral scientists, as well as by some religious leaders and con-
sumer advocates, about the quality of programming available generally, and specifi-
cally programming for children, calls for clear social science evidence that viewing of
such materials produce any effect at all on children. According to the tests held by
Federal Communications Commission, television can have important positive effects on
children by giving an example of a child who, having recently seen only one demon-
stration on TV of the Heimlich maneuver a method for dislodging bones or other ob-
jects in the throat that threaten suffocation, was able to use it shortly afterward to save
the life of another child. It could produce a valuable social learning experience.

Some student writers contribute relatively more themselves, while still blending stretches
from the original. Consider this example extracted from HKL3:

HKL3:
1a Most parents are more likely to march on school boards
b to ban books that contain unsuitable materials to children,
c but they rarely look closely at what their children are watching.

The bolded clauses here have been lifted from two sentences in Paragraphs 2 and 3 re-
spectively in Singer & Singer (again shown by bolding in the following), and interwoven
as one sentence in the students text:

Paragraph 3, Singer & Singer (1988:172)


why are parents more likely to march on school boards to ban books such as
Catcher in the Rye or Down These Mean Streets, but to respond with relative indif-
ference to the excessively violent content that characterizes daily television program-
ming?

85
Paragraph 2, Singer & Singer (1988:171)
On the other hand, we have indications that parents prefer not to look closely at what
their children are watching or to consider television as a potential influence or haz-
ard

Compared with the writer of HKL1, the writer of HKL3 has been more skilful in his/her
plagiarism, yet still not confident enough to digest the ideas presented in the resource
materials and write the essay alone.

Further implications of Grammatical Accuracy Analysis

The findings of Grammatical Accuracy Analysis have important implications for L2


learning. Stern (1983:355) remarks:

From the point of view of pedagogy, the key issue is that the interlanguage in many in-
stances is too fossilized, too idiosyncratic, and does not move reliably through better and
better approximations towards target language norms.

The fact that the Australian essays display more advanced errors and less serious pla-
giarism seems to suggest that although the Australian subjects might not be able to re-
duce the total number of errors to a significant level, their English is not too fossilised.
They seemed to have more resources, although they were not always able to make the
correct choice among competing grammatical forms and/or idiomatic expressions. They
also seemed to be making better and better approximations towards target language
norms than someone who produces frequent surface errors such as faulty subject-verb
agreement, and plagiarises extensively. The key issue is that their move towards target
language norms is not yet reliable enough. The reason for this may lie in their motiva-
tion in learning English. Milton (2001:110) suggests,

students are nevertheless willing and able, if given timely and reliable support, to de-
velop greater grammatical, discoursal and communicative competence in the L2.

While there is no doubt about these learners ability, their willingness cannot be taken for
granted. The deciding factor for L2 writing success is not merely students ability, but
also their willingness (motivation). If they are willing, or better, determined, to develop,
coupled with the timely and reliable support they receive, they should be able continu-
ously to improve their L2 competence and in the end achieve success.

CONCLUSION

The results from Grammatical Accuracy Analysis have allowed us to reject Hypothesis 4:
compared with the low-rated essays, the high-rated ones displayed a higher degree of
grammatical accuracy. On the other hand, Hypothesis 2 could not be rejected, since GAA
showed there was no difference in the degree of grammatical accuracy in the Australian
L2 essays and Hong Kong essays. Grammatical Accuracy Analysis was used as a means
of triangulation, to determine whether its results complemented, or conflicted with, those
obtained from Rhetorical Function Analysis. We now have similar findings derived from
these two independent methods, GAA and RFA. To establish further whether there is any
statistical correlation between them, the Pearson Correlation Coefficient was calculated.

86
In the calculation, the percentages of sound rhetorical functions and grammatical errors
were used instead of the raw totals of each, which are influenced by the total number of
rhetorical functions and grammatical errors respectively, and hence need to be adjusted.
The results are presented in Table 35:

Table 35: Correlation between the percentage of sound rhetorical functions and the percentage
of grammatical errors identified at different textual levels.
Discourse level Correlation coefficient
Propositional Segment Level -0.56 (P = 0.0037)
Paragraph Level -0.74 (P < 0.0001)
Macrostructure Level -0.74 (P < 0.0001)

The correlation coefficient is -0.56 at Propositional Segment Level (P = 0.0037), -0.74 at


both Paragraph Level and Macrostructure Level (P < 0.0001 in both cases). We can thus
conclude that the percentage of sound rhetorical functions is inversely correlated with
that of grammatical errors, and the correlation is statistically significant at all the three
levels. In other words, the more grammatical errors an essay contains, the fewer sound
rhetorical functions emerge at the higher levels of the discourse structure. This is because
the unsound rhetorical functions, Unidentified Rhetorical Function (UNID) and Unful-
filled Rhetorical Function (UNFU), are brought about by several underlying factors, the
most likely being the writers poor grammatical proficiency.
These statistics confirm the correlation between the results derived from RFA and
GAA respectively, thus supporting Ellis (1994) view that L2 learners pragmatic com-
petence and grammatical competence are interrelated, rather than Swains (1985/
1986:135) claim that discourse competence does not rely heavily on grammar for its re-
alisation. Effective argumentative structuring and grammatical accuracy in fact comple-
ment each other in making L2 writing successful.
Since the high-rated essays display a higher level of hierarchical integration of argu-
ment and a greater degree of grammatical accuracy than the low-rated ones, we can fur-
ther conclude that there are correlations between teachers holistic ratings and the results
derived from RFA and GAA respectively.

87
88
Chapter Eight: Conclusion

SYNTHESIS OF FINDINGS

The objectives of the present investigation were threefold. The first was to investigate
how L2 tertiary students build up their universe of argumentative discourse, from the
lowest level to the highest. The second objective was to examine whether compared with
an EFL setting, an ESL environment would bring a difference in the writing proficiency
in both organisation and grammar in L2 student writing. Finally, this study aimed at ex-
amining the correlation between the grade awarded to student writing and the level of
structural organisation and grammatical accuracy evidenced in these texts. All these ob-
jectives have been fulfilled.
The RFA tool has shed light on the structure of L2 argumentative writing in several
ways. We have discovered that the arguments in high-rated essays are hierarchically in-
tegrated, as shown by the high frequency of rhetorical functions such as Elaboration,
each of which has a role to play in both its immediate and larger contexts of the dis-
course, and hence simultaneously contribute to local and global coherence. A large num-
ber of conventional coherence patterns of argumentative text (Assertion + Justification +
Evaluation) have also been identified in the high-rated texts. On the other hand, the low-
rated essays display many instances of Unidentified and Unfulfilled rhetorical func-
tions, which make it impossible for a significant number of coherence patterns to be
formed at Propositional Segment Level. There is also strong evidence of plagiarism, and
a lack of clear, logical and/or genuine evaluations. Therefore although macrostructures
can still be identified in these low-rated essays, they do not contribute to the scaffolding
of arguments. It is as if the macrostructures were just attached there, playing no function
at all.
The second finding is that an ESL environment cannot guarantee development of
writing ability. Socio-cultural factors such as the learners views of the target-language
culture, as well as psychological factors such as motivation, may have an important role
to play in the proficiency level a learner reaches. It seemed that even after our subjects
had gone to Australia to study, they remained indifferent, and even became hostile, to
the target-language culture, despite increased exposure to it. The reasons were again
complex, the most plausible one being their lack of motivation, as these students might
neither feel the need to get meanings across (because they anticipated returning to
Hong Kong to work after graduation), nor experience the pleasure associated with
communicating with the L1 speakers in Australia. As a result of the interplay of socio-
cultural and psychological factors, our Australian L2 subjects seem not to have capital-
ised on the ESL environment as much as they might to improve their English, and their
recurrent errors were very similar to those made by their Hong Kong counterparts. Yet
these Australia-based students were able to produce longer essays, with more accurate
tense forms and idiomatic expressions. Their essays also display less serious plagiarism,
compared to those written by the Hong Kong subjects. All this suggests that their in-
creased exposure to English has helped them to advance along the path of approximation
toward the target language in some respects. However, increased exposure to everyday
English has not helped the Australian students acquire effective strategies for structuring
their writing. The EAP courses they attend may not help much either, if they are taught
little more than the basic skills of essay writing, that is, the writing of introductions
(background, thesis statements) and conclusions. While elementary L2 students may find
these skills useful, they are far too basic to help tertiary students such as our subjects to

89
cope with the demands of academic writing. Rather, these students need to be taught
what coherent argumentative writing really entails. This study underscores Cummins
(1983) hypothesis, that it takes L2 learners longer to acquire academic writing skills than
oral skills, since argumentative writing is indeed a communicative event which takes
place in a context-reduced situation, and is cognitively demanding.
Our third finding is that the results derived from Rhetorical Function Analysis and
Grammatical Accuracy Analysis correlated significantly with each other. Effective ar-
gumentative structure and grammatical accuracy complement each other; either one of
them is a necessary but not sufficient condition for writing success. When we further
compare our measures of argumentative coherence and grammatical accuracy, through
RFA and GAA, with teachers holistic assessments of essay quality, we also find signifi-
cant correlations. The design of the study did not encompass the relative emphasis placed
by the assessors on organisation or grammatical accuracy when making their holistic
judgements. Yet the emphasis of some teachers on grammatical accuracy may account
for the instances of plagiarism in the low-rated scripts.

COMPARISON BETWEEN RHETORICAL FUNCTION ANALYSIS AND


GRAMMATICAL ACCURACY ANALYSIS

Two analytical tools, Rhetorical Function Analysis (RFA) and Grammatical Accuracy
Analysis (GAA), were developed for this research for different purposes. Both tools per-
formed their primary function satisfactorily, yet it was found that RFA is more valid a
tool for diagnosing the argumentative academic text for three reasons.
The first consideration which makes RFA a superior tool to GAA is that the latter
cannot reflect the problem of plagiarism, since it is designed to categorise grammatical
errors only. RFA, however, has the means to identify this problem directly. When a
writer fails to provide the source of a citation, the functional unit with such a problem is
categorised as Unfulfilled Rhetorical Function [Reported Evaluation], indicating that
the unit has failed to perform the function it signals to perform (through the use of quota-
tion marks, for example). This is an important parameter, since plagiarism is a serious
problem in some student texts, especially the low-rated ones, as evidenced in our investi-
gation.
Another consideration is the scope of the two tools. GAA was modelled on the anno-
tation system employed in Peters & Gassmann (1995), which categorises syntactic prob-
lems at the surface, and does not go beyond language problems embedded in single sen-
tences (ibid.:137). GAA is likewise a tool which can only be applied in the local con-
text. RFA, in contrast, can be used to diagnose the impacts of local discourse structures
on the global structure. This makes it superior to its predecessors such as Functional Role
Analysis (Lieber 1979; Lindeberg 1988; Albrechtsen et al. 1991).
A third value of RFA is its ability to relate local and global structures in the same
process, and to reveal different aspects of essay quality simultaneously. When the results
of text analysis are presented graphically through RFA, the analyst can quickly discover
which rhetorical relations contribute to both local and global coherence, or disrupt them.
Through the final summary of RFA, the underlying causes of the problematic relations,
such as low grammatical accuracy and poor referencing skills, can be detected. Thus
RFA can perform a triple function, revealing local and global discourse structures, re-
flecting the quality of arguments, and exposing underlying problems at the same time.
Since RFA can perform more with less, it presents itself as an efficient and effective dis-
course analysis tool for research and perhaps also assessment purposes (for example, in

90
validating results obtained from holistic rating). It can be easily adapted from argumenta-
tion to other genres, such as exposition, by adding and/or deleting some of its categories.
Rhetorical Function Analysis is one type of close textual analysis sometimes criti-
cised as narrow, since the understanding of texts requires multiple perspectives (Candlin
& Hyland 1999:2). Although close textual analysis is the primary methodology utilised
in this research, the analysis has been situated in the wider contexts of the texts produc-
tion not only the educational context, but also the linguistic, socio-cultural, and the
psychological contexts for L2 students based in Australia and Hong Kong.

IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHING

An ESL environment does not, then, guarantee success in academic writing. Other fac-
tors such as motivation may influence the development of this skill. Teachers should be
aware of the push and pull forces which enhance/constrain L2 learning, and adopt re-
active as well as proactive measures by making use of GAA and RFA to attain their goal.

Reactive measures

Reactive measures are understood here as appropriate remedial action taken by teachers,
as a response to the findings of error analysis. Teachers can adopt GAA as a tool to ana-
lyse the errors made by students, to provide substance for the writing curriculum, as well
as the what, when and how of remedial grammar teaching. RFA suggests a different
frame of operation. It provides comprehensive information regarding different aspects of
essay quality, which teachers can use to analyse the argumentative structure of student
essays and help individual students according to their specific needs, through written
feedback and/or face-to-face conferencing sessions.

Proactive measures: Towards a model for the teaching of local and global
coherence

The most significant contribution RFA can make to the teaching of writing lies in proac-
tive measures, that is, action taken by teachers as a heuristic to students learning, to en-
hance students understanding of text structure, and their ability to create sound argu-
mentative texts themselves. As we have found, the statistical correlation between the re-
sults derived from RFA and GAA suggests that effective argumentative structure and
grammatical accuracy are both necessary conditions for writing success. But our findings
show that of these two elements, it is the organisational structure which requires more
explicit teaching, since increased exposure to L1 cannot help every ESL student to ac-
quire the strategies for structuring. Yet the teaching of basic organisational skills alone
does not guarantee writing success either. To help students better integrate their argu-
ments, teachers should introduce to them the most important part of effective argumenta-
tive structuring: the principle of hierarchical integration of argument the fact that each
linguistic unit, be it a clause, a sentence, a propositional segment, or a paragraph, has a
definite role to play in both its immediate context, and also in the larger context of the
whole text. With adequate exposure and guidance, students will then be able to plan their
clauses/sentences/propositional segments/paragraphs and macrostructures strategically,
by asking themselves questions such as Given the overall goals I am trying to accom-

91
plish, what can I say next that will serve them? Given what I just said, what can I say
next that is related to it?, as suggested by Agar & Hobbs (1982:7). Albretchsen et al.s
Dynamic model for written communication (cf. Chapter 3, Figure 3) is thus adapted
into a Model for the teaching of local and global coherence:

TEACHING OF
HIERARCHICAL INTEGRATION OF ARGUMENTS
LOCAL/GLOBAL ARGUMENTATIVE STRUCTURES

SENDER TEXT RECEIVER

COGNITIVE GLOBAL TOP-DOWN


HIERARCHY COHERENCE PROCESSING

SEQUENCE LOCAL BOTTOM-UP


COHERENCE PROCESSING

Figure 6: Model for the teaching of local and global coherence.

The model shows how the teaching of argumentative structures and their integration can
contribute to success in global coherence in L2 writing, and in turn the top-down proc-
essing of the raters. The teaching can also enhance students skills in achieving local co-
herence, which will in turn facilitate the bottom-up processing of the raters. Therefore in
this model, solid lines are used to link up Global Coherence and Top-down Process-
ing on one hand, and Local Coherence and Bottom-up Processing on the other, to
replace the broken lines in the Albrechtsen et al. model. In this way our model satisfies
the guiding principle in model building, to make explicit the factors that contribute
directly to students second language writing (Cumming 1998:68).
An additional benefit of adopting this model in teaching is that once students master
the argumentative structures, they will not have to struggle with their organisational
strategies and language at the same time. This is especially useful for students writing
argumentative text, which was found to have the highest correlation with syntactic com-
plexity, as compared to descriptive and narrative essays (cf. Veliz 1999). They can then
concentrate on grammatical accuracy, to produce argumentative essays which are organi-
sationally and linguistically sound. Therefore RFA not only has research but also peda-
gogical value. Cumming (op. cit.:66) notes,

learning to write may largely be a process of personal growth in social context. For this
reason, cultural, contextual, and individual differences cry out to be better appreciated and
understood if educational theories and practices are to be relevant to these aims.

92
What I hope to have achieved through this study is: firstly, to have contributed to the un-
derstanding of the interplay of cultural, contextual, and individual differences in L2
students experience of learning to write (how ethnic Chinese students originating from
Hong Kong learn to write in English in two different socio-cultural and linguistic con-
texts, Australia and Hong Kong); and secondly, to have demonstrated the value of two
methodologies: one for integrating the analysis of local and global coherence, and the
other for identifying students grammatical errors. With these two methodologies, L2
students can be helped to achieve local and global coherence simultaneously in their
writing, and to deal with their errors systematically.

93
94
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103
104
Appendix 1: Taxonomy of Rhetorical Function Analysis

Rhetorical Functions at the Lower Levels

(Functional Unit/Simple Sentence/Complex Sentence and Propositional Segment Level)

Rhetorical
Definition Example(s)
Function
TRUTH &
VALIDITY
*Assertion Introduces a new topic or an Nowadays, televisions are common in every
(Ass) aspect of a new topic which is family and they have become a necessity in
not covered in a previous part peoples daily life. (HKH2 S1ab)
of the text
Justification Establishes explicitly the ap- Thirdly, Freedman believes that the results
(Just) propriateness or acceptability of from the laboratory experiments cannot
an idea/assertion already intro- generalise the real life situation. This is be-
duced in the text; often used cause he believes that laboratory experi-
together with Evalua- ments tend to localise social learning. (AH6
tion/Reported Evaluation S21S22)
Concession While admitting or making al- Many psychologists and sociologists have
(Conc) lowance for the truth/validity of carried out a lot of experiments to seek for
a fact/statement already intro- the answer. However, there are different
duced, or to be introduced, in ideas about the issue and it seems hard to
another part of the text, this come to a unique conclusion. (HKH3 S4
rhetorical function expresses a S5)
reservation of the
fact/statement.
*Evaluation Presents writers own opinion or After examining those three areas of ex-
(Eval) judgment on a fact/statement periments towards the relationship between
already introduced, or to be TV viewing and its influences on childrens
introduced, in the text aggressive behaviours, it seems that we do
not have strong enough evidence to support
the conclusion that TV viewing has definite
influences on childrens violent behaviour.
(HKH2 S28ab)
Reported Quotes or relates the opinion or [A]s Singer and Singer (1988:180) say,
Evaluation judgment of another person on while experiments in the field present
(RepE) a fact/statement already intro- enormous logistical and control problems,
duced/ to be introduced in the the bulk of date from such studies again
text points to the potential influences of televi-
sion on aggressive behaviour . (HKH2
S21a)
CAUSE &
EFFECT
Cause Identifies the cause for an event The samples were from diverse socio and
(Cau) or assertion presented in an- ethnic groups and from two cities in the
other part of the text; often used midwest of United States. These cities were
together with Result chosen because they had a longer air time
of adult programmes. (AH6 S51S52)

105
Rhetorical
Definition Example(s)
Function
Result Indicates an effect, out- If experiments are conducted under subjective
(Resu) come, or consequence of conditions, then the findings could be biased.
a) an event or asser- (AH6 S25ab)
tion
b) a hypothetical or
conditional case.
This rhetorical function is
often used together with
Result/Condition.
Condition States the situation, includ- If experiments are conducted under subjective
(Conc) ing a hypothetical situation, conditions, then the findings could be biased.
under which an assertion (AH6 S25ab)
holds true; often introduced
by when, as or if
Purpose Indicates what intention an a) In this paper, I would like to introduce
(Purp) action mentioned in another various ideas and experiments concerned
part of the text aims at to our readers so we can make a fair
judge about them. (HKH3 S6ab)

b) In the past decades, many thousands of


laboratory experiments had been carried
out to see whether children exposing to
violent programs would increase their ag-
gressive behaviour. (HKH2 S7ab)
DISCOURSE
DEVELOP-
MENT
*Elaboration a) Expands on the specific a) Although laboratory experiments have
(Elab) details of an proved very consistent results, Freedman
idea/object/event already (1988) has expressed his concerns about
introduced in the text; the reliability of the findings. Firstly, he has
b) Makes a general questioned the objectivity of the experi-
proposition more menters. (AH6 S15S16)
precise; b) The last type of experiment is naturalistic
c) Defines a term experiment. It is a field experiment but it is
not intentionally carried out. (HKH3 S28
S29)
Exemplification Illustrates an idea already However, some researchers have found no
(Exem) introduced in the text which evidence or very weak evidence in laboratory
is more general in nature studies .For examples, Lovaas, 1961 and
Hapkiewiez and Roden, 1971, found neither
no impact of television violence on aggression
or only in some conditions. (AH4 S26S27)
Comparison a) Points out the similar- Detailed examinations showed no effects
(Comp) ity/similarities between on the crime rates but only a little influence on
two or more the amount of petty theft . Other re-
facts/statements searches showed that children who watch
b) Points out the differ- television frequently behave more aggressive
ence(s) between two or than those who watch less did. (HKH1 S28
more facts/statements S29)

106
Rhetorical
Definition Example(s)
Function
Coupling The second member adds This is essential in interpreting the results be-
(Coup) at least one new proposi- cause if anger is a precondition in the test,
tion to the first and the then the increase in childrens aggressive be-
members are not con- haviour after viewing violent TV programmes
nected in an elective, a is just a release of impulses because of anger
comparative or a sequential but not the consequences of viewing violent
way TV programmes. Besides, Freedman also
states that viewing TV programmes can
arouse any dominant responses, not just ag-
gression. (HKH2 S14S15)

Alternation Involves a choice between It was not clear from the analysis whether ag-
(Alt) two or more antithetical or gressive behaviour was caused by the TV
non-antithetical choices violence or was the influence of other factors
such as cultural background, physical pun-
ishment at home etc. (AH6 S57)
Summary Repeats the main points or In a nutshell, both the arguments of Freedman
(Sum) an idea/event already intro- and that of Singer and Singer were based on
duced in the text in a more laboratory experiments, field experiments and
concise manner, without natural experiments. (HKH6 S30)
additional information
Restatement Rephrases or repeats an [W]e can conclude that television watching
(ReS) idea already introduced in have some negative effects on childrens be-
the text on approximately havior. Violent programs have caused
the same level of general- some bad influences on many children.
ity, where the repeated idea (HKH1 S31c; S39b)
and the original idea are
comparable
Logical Makes a logical deduction In real life, children are exposed to various
Conclusion reached by reasoning on kinds of TV programmes not solely to the vio-
(LCon) the basis of some previous lent ones. Therefore a generalised statement
observation (This can be an is not acceptable. (AH6 S23S24)
interim conclusion.)
Chronological Expresses the point in time a) In addition, a study by Singer and Singer
Frame when an event takes place. (1981) has indicated that children showed
(ChF) This may include: less aggression when parents controlled
a) two events over- their television viewing and encouraged
lapping, either more imaginative or cognitive play with
wholly or partly, in them.
time
b) one event following b) After examining those three areas of ex-
the other in time periments towards the relationship be-
tween TV viewing and its influences on
childrens aggressive behaviours, it seems
that we do not have strong enough evi-
dence to support the conclusion that TV
viewing has definite influences on chil-
drens violent behaviour. (HKH2 S28ab)

107
Rhetorical
Definition Example(s)
Function
Metatextual a) Makes a statement a) In this paper, I will compare these three
Statement about the text itself; types of experiments one by one.
(MeS) b) The writer comments
on his/her own treat- b) and then make a judgement at the end.
ment of the content (HKH4 S10ab)
OTHERS
*Unidentified This refers to a rhetorical a) The public might think it is the basic fun-
Rhetorical unit whose rhetorical damental for children to prepare the
Function function cannot be pretection in dealing effectively with the
(UNID) worked out from the con- completitiure world. (AL1 S56)
text, owing to different
kinds of expression prob- b) Freedmans second criticism of lab. re-
lems, such as search is that it may not be possible to ag-
a) wrong spelling gressive what happens in the lab. to what
b) vocabulary choice or happens in the real world. (AL1 S18)
c) confusing reference.
c) Milavsky point out that cable-services,
video stories growing rapidly, provide op-
portunity to obtained easily available for
rent or buy. He clarify if T.V. violent affect
people how come violent crime rate delined
in these areas. (AL1 S37S38)
*Unfulfilled This refers to a rhetorical A person in authority, has chosen to show a
Rhetorical Func- unit which signals to the violent programs, in the position is more re-
tion (UNFU) reader through contextual sponsible than of industry representative.
clues that it serves a cer- (AL1 S77ab)
tain rhetorical function.
Yet the rhetorical function S77b fails to serve as the Comparison of
signalled has not been S77a because the reader is not told who the
fulfilled, owing to different person in authority and the industry
kinds of expression prob- representative are, what position the former
lems is in, and why he is more responsible than the
industry representative.

Key:
* indicates that the same Rhetorical Function can be found at both lower and upper levels
( ) the abbreviated term used in the graphic representation of RFA

108
Rhetorical Functions at Paragraph Level

Rhetorical
Definition Example
Function
TRUTH &
VALIDITY
*Evaluation Presents writers own Upon reading all the evidence presented, I
(Eval) opinion or judgment on would think the long term effect of violent TV
a fact/statement al- programmes has been overstated by some pro-
ready introduced, or to fessionals. I would think the most important
be introduced in the thing is for the parents to set up a good model
text behaviour for the children. I also think that it is
irresponsible to blame everything on television.
(AH6 S69S74, i.e. Para. 13: EVALUATION OF
S1S4)
DISCOURSE
DEVELOPMENT
Background Provides information Television programs play an important role in
(Back) which is essential to the the way society perceives their world. Studies
adequate comprehen- suggest that programs containing violent
sion of a previous sec- themes will often influence a childs aggressive
tion of a text or a forth- behaviours. On the other hand, there are also
coming section studies that suggest there is only a tentative
relationship between viewing violent television
programs and aggressive behaviours. These
differing results in various studies have in turn
influenced varied opinions amongst researchers
of the topic. (AH4 S1S4)
*Metatextual a) Makes a statement a) In this paper, I would like to introduce vari-
Statement about the text itself; ous ideas and experiments concerned to
(MeS) b) The writer comments our readers.
on his/her own b) so we can make a fair judge about them.
treatment of the con- (HKH3 S6ab)
tent
*Elaboration a) Expands on the spe- And I will contrast both parties findings in these
(Elab) cific details of an three areas: the laboratory experiments, the
idea/object/event al- field experiments and the natural experiments.
ready introduced in (HKH2 S6)
the text; A natural experiment conducted by Hennigan et
b) Makes a general al. in 1982, which was comparing the freeze on
proposition more the introduction of television into American cities
precise between 1949 to 1952 and the crime rate,
showed that there was no evidence that diet of
television affected aggressive crimes. But later,
in 1986, Williams carried out another experi-
ment which examined the relationship between
in the introduction of television and observations
of childrens aggressive behaviour. However,
no other experiment in this aspect can be found
to support this conclusion (HKH2 S23S27, i.e.
Para. 4)

This paragraph is the Elaboration of the natural


experiments, introduced in S6.

109
Rhetorical
Definition Example
Function
OTHERS
*Unidentified This refers to a rhetori- Singer & Singer point that experimental studies
Rhetorical cal unit at Paragraph/ in field settings have started the negative
Function (UNID) Macrostructure Level effects of television viewing. There is no doubt
whose rhetorical func- that violent events occur on television pro-
tion cannot be worked grammes can produce more extreme perceptual
out from the context, or behavioral reactions for children. Although
owing to different kinds these studies are difficult to control, overall they
of expression problems, show a potential influence. They also indicate
such as that prosocial programmes may increase posi-
a) faulty sentence tive influences. Because of logistical and ethical
structure, considerations, the results of the studies are not
b) erroneous choice of often affirmative. (AL4 Paragraph 8: S25S29)
vocabulary or
c) inappropriate use of This paragraph was categorised as UNID as
conjunctions. the reader cannot tell whether it contains mainly
Singer & Singers Reported Evaluation or the
writers evaluation.
*Unfulfilled This refers to a rhetori- Laboratory experiments are the clearest re-
Rhetorical cal unit at Paragraph/ search among all the others. Over 50 well or-
Function (UNFU) Macrostructure Level ganized laboratories shows that there is a rela-
which signals the tion between aggressive behaviour and TV vio-
reader through contex- lence where children do increase aggression
tual clues that it serves after watching violent TV programs. This ex-
a certain rhetorical periment is supported by many well known ex-
function. Yet the rhe- perts included Andison, 1977; Bandura, 1973;
torical function sig- Hearold 1979. This experiment also shows the
nalled has not been possible outcomes of violent TV viewing in-
fulfilled, owing to differ- cluded reduce inhibitation of aggression (Singer
ent kinds of expression & Singer 1988). (AL2 Paragraph 4: S10S13)
problems (e.g. faulty
sentence structure, er- This paragraph was categorised as UNFU for
roneous vocabulary 2 reasons:
choice or inappropriate a) Wrong use of vocabulary clearest research
use of conjunctions). in S10 blurs the rhetorical function of the
whole paragraph in relation to S78 (Re-
search shows that TV violence increases
children aggressive behaviour .However,
some researchers argue that TV violence
would only be a short-term effect .)

b) Unclear references: "This experiment blurs


the meaning of the Elaboration in S12S13.

Key:
* indicates that the same Rhetorical Function can be found at both lower and upper levels
( ) the abbreviated term used in the graphic representation of RFA

110
Rhetorical Functions at Macrostructure Level

Rhetorical
Definition Example
Function
TRUTH &
VALIDITY/
DISCOURSE
DEVELOP-
MENT
*Assertion Introduces a new topic which The effect of violent TV programme on chil-
(Ass) is not covered in a previous dren especially aggressive behaviour has
part of the text; often used been debated by academics over time. A lot
together with Evaluation of experiments have been done by sociolo-
gists and psychologists. However, they
have different point of views on the matter.
Psychologists tend to believe that the effect
could be long term whereas sociologists
believe that the impact is only short lived
and they claim that the effect has been
overstated. (AH6 S1S4)
*Evaluation Presents writers own opinion Upon reading all the evidence presented, I
(Eval) or judgment on a would think the long term effect of violent
fact/statement already intro- TV programmes has been overstated by
duced, or to be introduced in some professionals. I would think the
the text; often used together most important thing is for the parents to set
with Assertion up a good model behaviour for the children.
I also think that it is irresponsible to blame
everything on television. (AH6 S69S74, i.e.
Para. 13: EVALUATION OF S14)
Question Presents a question (includ- The question whether TV viewing has a
(Ques) ing an embedded question negative effect on childrens behaviour ahs
and a rhetorical question); already been discussed for several years. In
often used together with An- this paper, it will focus on examining
swer whether TV viewing has any effect on chil-
drens violent behaviour. (HKH2 S3S4)
Answer Provides a reply to a question After examining those three areas of ex-
(Ans) already presented in the text; periments towards the relationship between
often used together with TV viewing and its influences on childrens
Question aggressive behaviours, it seems that we do
not have strong enough evidence to support
the conclusion that TV viewing has definite
influences on childrens aggressive behav-
iour. Although the natural experiment in
1986 do support this conclusion, there is no
other experiment that can support it
strongly, consistently and objectively.
Therefore, we conclude that TV viewing do
have potential effect on childrens violent
behaviour but it is not necessarily intensified
their aggression behaviour. (HKH2 S28
S30)

111
Rhetorical
Definition Example
Function
Problem a) Expresses unfavourable Modern technology has, undoubtedly, im-
(Pro) conditions or unwelcome proved our living standard and made our
situations; life easier. Nevertheless, it has been fre-
b) Expresses needs and de- quently argued that the misuse of those
sires technologies may bring adverse effects to
This rhetorical function is of- us. One topic that aroused much public
ten used together with Solu- concern is whether TV viewing will have
tion any effects on childrens violent behavior.
(HKH3 S1S3)
Solution Puts forth a means or method Although we cannot come to a definite con-
(Sol) to tackle a problem already clusion on whether the statement in the
presented in the text; often introduction is appropriate or not, we can
used together with Problem generalize from what we have learnt that as
children is easily influenced by the things
around them, we should take much care of
them. (HKH3 S39ac)

This sentence presents the Solution of the


problem described in HKH3 S1S3 (cf.
above).
OTHERS
*Unidentified This refers to a rhetorical unit Singer & Singer point that experimental
Rhetorical at Paragraph/ Macrostructure studies in field settings have started the
Function Level whose rhetorical func- negative effects of television viewing. There
(UNID) tion cannot be worked out is no doubt that violent events occur on
from the context, owing to television programmes can produce more
different kinds of expression extreme perceptual or behavioral reactions
problems, such as for children. Although these studies are dif-
a) faulty sentence structure, ficult to control, overall they show a poten-
b) erroneous choice of vo- tial influence. They also indicate that proso-
cabulary or cial programmes may increase positive in-
c) inappropriate use of con- fluences. Because of logistical and ethical
junctions. considerations, the results of the studies
are not often affirmative. (AL4 Paragraph 8:
S25S29)

This paragraph was categorised as UNID


as the reader cannot tell whether it contains
mainly Singer & Singers Reported Evalua-
tion or the writers evaluation.

112
Rhetorical
Definition Example
Function
*Unfulfilled This refers to a rhetorical unit Laboratory experiments are the clearest
Rhetorical at Paragraph/Macrostructure research among all the others. Over 50 well
Function Level which signals the organized laboratories shows that there is a
(UNFU) reader through contextual relation between aggressive behaviour and
clues that it serves a certain TV violence where children do increase ag-
rhetorical function. Yet the gression after watching violent TV pro-
rhetorical function signalled grams. This experiment is supported by
has not been fulfilled, owing many well known experts included Andison,
to different kinds of expres- 1977; Bandura, 1973; Hearold 1979. This
sion problems (e.g. faulty experiment also shows the possible out-
sentence structure, erroneous comes of violent TV viewing included re-
vocabulary choice or inap- duce inhibitation of aggression (Singer &
propriate use of conjunc- Singer 1988). (AL2 Paragraph 4: S10S13)
tions).
This paragraph was categorised as UNFU
for 2 reasons:
a) Wrong use of vocabulary clearest re-
search in S10 blurs the rhetorical func-
tion of the whole paragraph in relation to
S7-8 (Research shows that TV violence
increases children aggressive behav-
iour .However, some researchers ar-
gue that TV violence would only be a
short-term effect .)

b) Unclear references: "This experiment


blurs the meaning of the Elaboration in
S12S13.

Key:
* indicates that the same Rhetorical Function can be found at both lower and upper levels
( ) the abbreviated term used in the graphic representation of RFA

113
114
Appendix 2: HKH4 Text and Rhetorical Function
Analysis
HKH4 - Text
Paragraph 1
1 The question whether TV viewing has a negative effect on childrens behaviour is
controversial.
2 There are two points of view.
3 One of these is that television viewing of violent programming leads to aggres-
sive behaviour of children.
4 This is extracted from Some Hazards Of Growing Up In A Television Environ-
ment by Jerome L. Singer & Dorothy G. Singer.
5 And the other is that there is no direct relationship between TV viewing and ag-
gressive behaviour.
6 This is extracted from Television Violence And Aggression by Jonathan L.
Freedman.
7 They are two opposite opinions.
8 However, they all use similar experiments to do the research.
9 They are laboratory experiments, field experiments and natural experiments.
10a In this paper, I will compare these three types of experiments one by one
b and make a judgement at the end.

Paragraph 2
11 The first one is laboratory experiment.
12a Singer & Singer (1986) said that many laboratory studies indicate children will
imitate or increase aggressive behaviour
b after watching violent programming.
13 This shows that there is a causal relationship between heavy television viewing
and childrens aggression.

Paragraph 3
14 However, Freedman (1986) has a different opinion.
15 He said different laboratory experiments have different outcomes.
16 Some of them are based on some factors, like anger.
17a The aggression may occur
b just because the person is angry.
18 Anger is apparently necessary in some studies and not in others.
19a Therefore, he thought that we cant make sure the aggressive behaviour of chil-
dren is due to anger or actually the heavy TV viewing.
b so there is no direct causal link between TV violence and aggressive behaviour.

Paragraph 4
20 The second one is field experiment.
21 It is more natural than laboratory experiment.
22a Singer & Singer (1986) said that field experiments indicate that there is an in-
crease in aggressive behaviour
b after watching violent TV programming.
23a However, Freedman (1986) said that the field experiments require much time and
money,

115
b and the most important of all, the kind of personality that can organize complex
arrangements.
24 For instance, in some studies which assuming boys in each cottage are independ-
ent of each other.
25a But when boys live together in the cottage,
b they will become dependent on each other.
26 Therefore, the analysis cannot be appropriate and reliable.

Paragraph 5
27 The third one is natural experiment.
28 It is bigger in size than field experiment.
29 It takes consideration of many factors, like parents viewing, no. of TV sets, pur-
chase of cable, as well as childrens sleep patterns or parental use of physical
force.
30 From this experiment, direct observations of the aggressive behaviour of children
made it clear that such reactions increased after the introduction of television
(Singer & Singer (1986))
31a However, Freedman stated one study which was held in the years 1949 to 1952
(Hennigan et al., 1982),
b there was a freeze on the introduction of television into American cities.
32a Hennigan et al. looked at the relationship between crimes rates and the freeze of
TV programming,
b and stated that if television affected crime,
c there would be a increase in crime rates in cities with television compared to
those without it.
33a Freedman thinks that what people actually watched is a mixture of television
programming,
b there is no evidence that diet of television affected aggressive crimes.

Paragraph 6
35 In conclusion, Singer & Singer suggested that heavy television viewing puts chil-
dren at risk of increased aggression and restlessness at least in the short run.
35a On the contrary, Freedman suggested that all the experiments have many vari-
ables,
b so we cannot conclude that there is a direct relationship between TV violence and
aggressive behaviour.
36 Above all, I will agree with Freedman.
37 It is because in different experiments, they have different outcomes.
38 Sometimes, the outcomes contradict our assumption.
39 Moreover, increased aggressive behaviour may be due to, let say, insufficient
sleep.
40a Therefore, we cant even convince ourselves
b to draw a fair conclusion
c and prove that there is a causal link between TV violence and aggressive behav-
iour.

116
HKH4 Rhetorical Function Analysis

Level PARAGRAPH 1

Ques
M

P Back + MeS

PS Ass
MeS

Ass Elab (1)


MeS

Elab Elab Comp


Comp Elab
Ass (1) (2) (2-4)
(24) (26) MeS

MeS
CSCS

FU/SS Ass Elab Elab Elab Comp Elab Eval Conc Elab MeS Coup
(1) (2) (3) (24) (5) (26) (7) (8) (10a)

Sent. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10a 10b

HKH4 Rhetorical Function Analysis

Level PARAGRAPH 2

M Ans (1)

Elab
P
(110 : Para. 1)

PS Elab RepE
(110) (11)

RepE
CS
(11)

Elab RepE ChF LCon


FU/SS (11)
(110) (12a) (12)

Sent. 11 12a 12b 13

117
HKH4 Rhetorical Function Analysis

Level PARAGRAPH 3

M Ans (1)

P Comp = Elab
(1213) (110 : Paras 1)

PS Comp Elab
(1213) (14)

CS Elab LCon
(16) (1517)

Comp RepE Elab Elab Cau RepE LCon LCon


FU/SS
(1213) (14) (15) (16) (17a) (17) (1517) (19a)

Sent. 14 15 16 17a 17b 18 19a 19b

HKH4 Rhetorical Function Analysis

Level PARAGRAPH 4

M Ans (1)

P Elab
(110 : Para. 1)

PS Elab RepE Comp


(110) (20) (22)

Elab RepE Comp Exem LCon


(110) (20) (22) (23) (2325)

CS RepE Comp Elab


(20) (22) (24)

FU/SS Elab Eval RepE ChF Comp Coup Exem Conc Resu LCon
(110) (20) (20) (22a) (22) (23a) (23) (24) (25a) (2325)

Sent. 20 21 22a 22b 23a 23b 24 25a 25b 26

118
HKH4 Rhetorical Function Analysis

Level PARAGRAPH 5

M Ans (1)

P Elab
(110 : Para. 1)

PS Elab RepE Comp


(110) (2729) (2830)

Elab Eval RepE Comp


(110) (27) (2729) (2830)

CS Comp Elab RepE


(2830) (31) (32)

FU/SS Elab Eval Elab RepE Comp Elab Elab Cond Resu RepE LCon
(110) (27) (28) (2729) (2830) (31a) (31) (31c) (31b) (32) (3132)

Sent. 27 28 29 30 31a 31b 32a 32b 32c 33a 33b

HKH4 Rhetorical Function Analysis

Level PARAGRAPH 6

M Ans (1)

P Eval
Eval
(1-35
(135: :Para.
Paras1-5)
15)

PS Sum
Sum Eval
Eval
(133) (135)
(1-35)
(1-33)

CS Comp LCon
LCon
(34) (36-39)
(3639)

FU/SS Sum
Sum Just LCon Eval
Eval Just Elab Coup Lcon
LCon Purp Coup
(1-35)
(135) (35b) (35a) (1-35)
(135) (36) (37) (38) (36-39)
(3639) (40a) (40b)

Sent. 34 35a 35b 36 37 38 39 40a 40b 40c

119
Abbreviations for Rhetorical Functions used in RFA of HKH4:

Ans Answer Eval Evaluation


Ass Assertion Exem Exemplification
Back Background Just Justification
Cau Cause LCon Logical Conclusion
ChF Chronological MeS Metatextual Statement
Frame
Comp Comparison Purp Purpose
Conc Concession Ques Question
Cond Condition RepE Reported Evaluation
Coup Coupling Resu Result
Elab Elaboration Sum Summary

120
Appendix 3: Taxonomy of Grammatical Accuracy
Analysis

Category Definition Example


Derivational Wrong word form, which a) This is a violence program.
Morphology changes the word class b) I work hardly. For I work hard.
Spelling Wrong spelling the dipiction of violence in television
programs (AL4 S3)
Tenses Mistakes in tense form Thus heavy television viewing especially
viewing violent programs is positively cor-
related with concurrent and subsequent
aggressive behavior. Consequently, I be-
lieved heavy exposure to the mass media
would have effects on children. (AL5
S24S25)
Number Mistakes in a) There are three sources of informa-
Agreement a) Singular/plural form tion : experimental studies in labora-
b) Subject-verb agreement tory, field experiment, and correlational
studies . (HKL5 S8)
b) to keep an eyes on the production of
television programmes (AL1 S15c)
Nonfinite Mistakes in forms of a) There is no doubt that violent event
Forms a) Gerunds occur in television programmes can pro-
b) Infinitives duce more extreme perceptual or behav-
c) Participles ioral reactions for children. (AL4 S26)
b) the boys in the studies were initially
aggressive, although watching violent
program may gave them new idea .
(AL6 S40)
c) if the aggressive behavior is regard
as the effect of TV violence, how do we
measure aggression? (HKL2 S16)
Voice Mistakes in active/passive It found that T.V. had no effect on violent
voice crime or other serious crimes, but only on
petty theft. (AL1 S29)
Wrong Word Wrong choice of content or a) children confronted too much time
function word, i.e. a para- watching T.V. (AL1 S4)
digmatic error, which con- b) it is more supportive that violent
fuses the meaning, but the television really cause increase in ag-
reader can still understand gression of children. (HKL4 S32)
what the writer is trying to
say.
Missing This includes any obligatory The social scientists ^ that T.V. viewing,
Word word (except articles, collo- especially of more violent content may
cation and conjunctive de- influence children overt behavior. (AL1
vices) which is missing. S49)
Redundant A word which is redundant, Since the relationships between violent
Word or unnecessary, in the con- TV programs and aggressive behaviour
text were examined in many different ways,
therefore measurement errors might oc-
cur. (AL2 S3)

121
Category Definition Example
Collocation Wrong choice of, redun- The third town had no access to televi-
dant, or missing, word, i.e. sion of all until 1973. (AL3 S46)
a syntagmatic error, which
is against conventional id-
iom or usage
Articles Wrong choice of, redun- In the real world, there are many condi-
dant, or missing, articles tions that are out of ^ researchers con-
trol ... (HKL2 S17a)
Conjunctive Wrong choice of, redun- From the past researches, long time in
Devices dant, or missing, linking TV viewing can cause shorts sighted, but
words (except articles) people concerns much about it ... (HKL2
S2)
Anaphoric/ Wrong choice of pronouns Even though there can carry out a field
Cataphoric to refer to a person/object experiment, many technical problems
Pronouns already/to be mentioned in should be solved. It should contact with a
the text large of sample(AKL2 S18S19)
Sequencing The sequencing of (part of) Singer & Singer point out theoretically
a phrase/clause is not cor- that television viewing of violent pro-
rect. grams definitely increases childrens ag-
gression. (AL4 S11)
Word Wrong punctuation within a in todays television programs (AL5
Punctuation word, e.g. apostrophe S3)
Internal Wrong or missing punctua- the introduction of new media, such
Punctuation tion within a phrase/clause, as cable T.V. makes viewing television a
within & e.g. commas, semicolons, more common and more frequent enter-
between quotation marks tainment (AL6 S2)
Phrases or
Clauses
Sentence-final Wrong punctuation at the Needless to say, every such scheme has
Punctuation end of a sentence its advantages and disadvantages, The
point is that it is essential for the gov-
ernment and authorities concerned to
keep an eye on the production of televi-
sion programs. (HKL1 S15)
Tangled The phrase/clause is tan- The one talked by Jonathan L. Freed-
Construction gled, which makes it im- man is not done by himself but the quot-
possible to count discrete ing of the experiments done by Henni-
mistakes. Yet despite the gan et al in 1982. (HKL4 S25)
entanglement, the reader
can still understand what
the writer is trying to say.
Total Commu- The whole phrase/clause is The opposite of Jonathan L. Freedman
nication tangled, which makes it are Jerome L. Singer and Dorothy G.
Breakdown impossible to count discrete Singer who said that childrens aggres-
mistakes, nor can the sive behavior permit more difinitive
reader understand what the causal. (HKL4 S14)
writer is trying to say.

122
Appendix 4: Frequency of rhetorical functions
identified at the lower and upper levels of
Australian/Hong Kong high-/low-rated essays

Table A4.1a: Frequency of rhetorical functions at the lower levels in Australian high-rated
essays.
Rhetorical Function FU/SS Level CS Level PS Level Total frequency
TRUTH & VALIDITY
11 5 8 24
Assertion
(1.68%) (2.83%) (5.20%) (2.43%)
19 1 4 24
Justification
(2.90%) (0.57%) (2.60%) (2.43%)
53 8 11 72
Concession
(8.09%) (4.52%) (7.14%) (7.30%)
44 21 19 84
Evaluation
(6.72%) (11.86%) (12.34%) (8.52%)
Reported 27 9 14 50
Evaluation (4.12%) (5.09%) (9.09%) (5.07%)
CAUSE & EFFECT
15 3 1 19
Cause
(2.29%) (1.70%) (0.65%) (1.93%)
87 26 16 129
Result
(13.28%) (14.69%) (10.39%) (13.08%)
23 23
Condition 0 0
(3.51%) (2.33%)
32 1 33
Purpose 0
(4.89%) (0.57%) (3.35%)
DISCOURSE
DEVELOPMENT
130 55 45 230
Elaboration
(19.85%) (31.07%) (29.22%) (23.33%)
15 7 2 24
Exemplification
(2.29%) (3.96%) (1.30%) (24.34%)
44 13 13 70
Comparison
(6.72%) (7.35%) (8.44%) (70.99%)
73 15 15 103
Coupling
(11.15%) (8.48%) (9.74%) (10.45%)
10 10
Alternation 0 0
(1.53%) (1.01%)
Summary 0 0 0 0
9 3 3 15
Restatement
(1.37%) (1.70%) (1.95%) (1.52%)
32 10 3 45
Logical Conclusion
(4.89%) (5.65%) (1.95%) (4.56%)
Chronological 27 27
0 0
Frame (4.12%) (2.74%)
Metatextual 4 4
0 0
Statement (0.61%) (0.41%)
OTHERS
Unidentified
0 0 0 0
Rhetorical Function
Unfulfilled
0 0 0 0
Rhetorical Function
Total frequency 655 177 154 986
at each level (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)

123
Table A4.1b: Frequency of rhetorical functions at Paragraph Level in Australian high-rated
essays.
Rhetorical Function Paragraph Level
TRUTH & VALIDITY
Evaluation 19 (25.68%)
DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
Background 5 (6.76%)
Metatextual Statement 4 (5.41%)
Elaboration 46 (62.16%)
OTHERS
Unidentified
0
Rhetorical Function
Unfulfilled
Rhetorical Function 0
Total frequency at each level 74 (100%)

Table A4.1c: Frequency of rhetorical functions at Macrostructure Level in Australian high-


rated essays.
Rhetorical Function Macrostructure Level
TRUTH & VALIDITY/
DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
Assertion 6 (8.11%)
Evaluation 68 (91.89%)
Question 0
Answer 0
Problem 0
Solution 0
OTHERS
Unidentified
0
Rhetorical Function
Unfulfilled
0
Rhetorical Function
Total frequency at each level 74 (100%)

Key:
The numbers in parentheses are the percentages of each rhetorical function at the respective
level.

124
Table A4.2a: Frequency of rhetorical functions at the lower levels in Australian low-rated
essays.
Rhetorical Function FU/SS Level CS Level PS Level Total frequency
TRUTH & VALIDITY
15 8 6 29
Assertion
(2.58%) (5.06%) (3.75%) (3.22%)
8 2 2 12
Justification
(1.38%) (1.27%) (1.25%) (1.33%)
26 3 1 30
Concession
(4.47%) (1.90%) (0.63%) (3.33%)
12 6 3 21
Evaluation
(2.06%) (3.80%) (1.88%) (2.33%)
Reported 25 7 9 41
Evaluation (4.30%) (4.43%) (5.63%) (4.56%)
CAUSE & EFFECT
20 2 22
Cause 0
(3.44%) (1.27%) (2.44%)
44 13 10 67
Result
(7.56%) (8.23%) (6.25%) (7.44%)
6 6
Condition 0 0
(1.03%) (0.67%)
22 22
Purpose 0 0
(3.78%) (2.44%)
DISCOURSE
DEVELOPMENT
131 55 28 214
Elaboration
(22.51%) (34.81%) (17.50%) (23.78%)
9 2 3 14
Exemplification
(1.55%) (1.27%) (1.88%) (1.56%)
31 6 5 42
Comparison
(5.33%) (3.80%) (3.13%) (4.67%)
46 7 4 57
Coupling
(7.90%) (4.43%) (2.50%) (6.33%)
14 14
Alternation 0 0
(2.41%) (1.56%)
3 1 4
Summary 0
(0.52%) (0.63%) (0.44%)
5 5
Restatement 0 0
(0.86%) (0.56%)
19 8 1 28
Logical Conclusion
(3.27%) (5.06%) (0.63%) (3.11%)
Chronological 12 12
0 0
Frame (2.06%) (1.33%)
Metatextual
0 0 0 0
Statement
OTHERS
Unidentified 44 12 33 89
Rhetorical Function (7.56%) (7.60%) (20.63%) (9.89%)
Unfulfilled 90 27 54 171
Rhetorical Function (15.46%) (17.09%) (33.75%) (19%)
Total frequency 582 158 160 900
at each level (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)

125
Table A4.2b: Frequency of rhetorical functions at Paragraph Level in Australian low-rated
essays.
Rhetorical Function Paragraph Level
TRUTH & VALIDITY
Evaluation 2 (2.04%)
DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
Background 8 (8.16%)
Metatextual Statement 4 (4.08%)
Elaboration 36 (36.73%)
OTHERS
Unidentified
15 (15.31%)
Rhetorical Function
Unfulfilled
33 (33.67%)
Rhetorical Function
Total frequency at each level 98 (100%)

Table A4.2c: Frequency of rhetorical functions at Macrostructure Level in Australian low-


rated essays.

Rhetorical Function Macrostructure Level


TRUTH & VALIDITY/
DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
*Assertion 5 (5%)
*Evaluation 12 (12%)
Question 7 (7%)
Answer 27 (27%)
Problem 0
Solution 1 (1%)
OTHERS
*Unidentified
15 (15%)
Rhetorical Function
*Unfulfilled
33 (33%)
Rhetorical Function
Total frequency at each level 100 (100%)

Key:
The numbers in parentheses are the percentages of each rhetorical function at the respective
level.

126
Table A4.3a: Frequency of rhetorical functions at the lower levels in Hong Kong high-rated
essays.
Rhetorical Function FU/SS Level CS Level PS Level Total frequency
TRUTH & VALIDITY
3 1 4 8
Assertion
(0.99%) (1.39%) (5.48%) (1.79%)
7 4 2 13
Justification
(2.32%) (5.56%) (2.74%) (2.91%)
22 1 1 24
Concession
(7.29%) (1.39%) (1.37%) (5.37%)
18 7 7 32
Evaluation
(5.96%) (9.72%) (9.59%) (7.16%)
Reported 27 9 7 43
Evaluation (8.94%) (12.50%) (9.59%) (9.62%)
CAUSE & EFFECT
10 1 11
Cause 0
(3.31%) (1.39%) (2.46%)
31 6 4 41
Result
(10.26%) (8.33%) (5.48%) (9.17%)
9 9
Condition 0 0
(2.98%) (2.01%)
12 12
Purpose 0 0
(3.97%) (2.69%)
DISCOURSE
DEVELOPMENT
71 23 33 127
Elaboration
(23.51%) (31.94%) (45.21%) (28.41%)
2 1 1 4
Exemplification
(0.66%) (1.39%) (1.37%) (0.89%)
31 10 8 49
Comparison
(10.26%) (13.89%) (10.96%) (10.96%)
25 4 29
Coupling 0
(8.28%) (5.48%) (6.49%)
Alternation 0 0 0 0
2 1 3
Summary 0
(0.66%) (1.37%) (0.67%)
1 1 2
Restatement 0
(0.33%) (1.37%) (0.45%)
16 8 24
Logical Conclusion 0
(5.30%) (11.11%) (5.37%)
Chronological 12 12
0 0
Frame (3.97%) (2.69%)
Metatextual 3 1 4
0
Statement (0.99%) (1.39%) (0.89%)
OTHERS
Unidentified
0 0 0 0
Rhetorical Function
Unfulfilled
0 0 0 0
Rhetorical Function
Total frequency 302 72 73 447
at each Level (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)

127
Table A4.3b: Frequency of rhetorical functions at Paragraph Level in Hong Kong high-rated
essays.
Rhetorical Function P Level
TRUTH & VALIDITY
*Evaluation 7 (14.89%)
DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
Background 5 (10.64%)
*Metatextual Statement 6 (12.77%)
*Elaboration 29 (61.70%)
OTHERS
*Unidentified
0
Rhetorical Function
*Unfulfilled
0
Rhetorical Function
Total frequency at each level 47 (100%)

Table A4.3c: Frequency of rhetorical functions at Macrostructure Level in Hong Kong high-
rated essays.
Rhetorical Function Macrostructure Level
TRUTH & VALIDITY/
DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
Assertion 0
Evaluation 0
Question 6 (14.63%)
Answer 33 (80.49%)
Problem 0
Solution 2 (4.88%)
OTHERS
Unidentified
0
Rhetorical Function
Unfulfilled
0
Rhetorical Function
Total frequency at each level 41 (100%)

Key:
The numbers in parentheses are the percentages of each rhetorical function at the respective
level.

128
Table A4.4a: Frequency of rhetorical functions at the lower levels in Hong Kong low-rated
essays.
Rhetorical Function FU/SS Level CS Level PS Level Total frequency
TRUTH & VALIDITY
9 3 5 17
Assertion
(3.69%) (4.41%) (9.80%) (4.68%)
3 1 3 7
Justification
(1.23%) (1.47%) (5.88%) (1.93%)
12 3 15
Concession 0
(4.92%) (4.41%) (4.13%)
6 1 1 8
Evaluation
(2.46%) (1.47%) (1.96%) (2.20%)
Reported 11 2 3 16
Evaluation (4.51%) (2.94%) (5.88%) (4.41%)
CAUSE & EFFECT
3 3
Cause 0 0
(1.23%) (0.83%)
17 4 21
Result 0
(6.97%) (5.88%) (5.79%)
10 10
Condition 0 0
(4.10%) (2.76%)
12 12
Purpose 0 0
(4.92%) (3.31%)
DISCOURSE
DEVELOPMENT
48 17 7 72
Elaboration
(19.67%) (25%) (13.73%) (19.83%)
4 2 6
Exemplification 0
(1.64%) (2.94%) (1.65%)
14 3 2 19
Comparison
(5.74%) (4.41%) (3.92%) (5.23%)
16 3 1 20
Coupling
(6.56%) (4.41%) (1.96%) (5.51%)
1 1
Alternation 0 0
(0.41%) (0.28%)
1 1 2
Summary 0
(0.41%) (1.96%) (0.55%)
3 1 2 6
Restatement
(1.23%) (1.47%) (3.92%) (1.65%)
3 3
Logical Conclusion 0 0
(1.23%) (0.83%)
Chronological 4 4
0 0
Frame (1.64%) (1.10%)
Metatextual 1 2 3
0
Statement (0.41%) (3.92%) (0.83%)
OTHERS
Unidentified 18 9 5 32
Rhetorical Function (7.38%) (13.24%) (9.80%) (8.82%)
Unfulfilled 48 19 19 86
Rhetorical Function (19.67%) (27.94%) (37.25%) (23.69%)
Total frequency 244 68 51 363
at each level (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)

129
Table A4.4b: Frequency of rhetorical functions at Paragraph Level in Hong Kong low-rated
essays.
Rhetorical Function Paragraph Level
TRUTH & VALIDITY
Evaluation 2 (3.85%)
DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
Background 5 (9.62%)
Metatextual Statement 6 (11.54%)
Elaboration 12 (23.08%)
OTHERS
Unidentified
5 (9.62%)
Rhetorical Function
Unfulfilled
22 (42.31%)
Rhetorical Function
Total frequency at each level 52 (100%)

Table A4.4c: Frequency of rhetorical functions at Macrostructure Level in Hong Kong low-
rated essays.
Rhetorical Function Macrostructure Level
TRUTH & VALIDITY/
DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT
*Assertion 0
*Evaluation 1 (2.5%)
Question 5 (12.5%)
Answer 6 (15%)
Problem 0
Solution 2 (5%)
OTHERS
*Unidentified
3 (7.5%)
Rhetorical Function
*Unfulfilled
23 (57.5%)
Rhetorical Function
Total frequency at each level 40 (100%)

Key:
The numbers in parentheses are the percentages of each rhetorical function at the respective
level.

130
Appendix 5: Frequency of grammatical errors identified
in Australian/Hong Kong high-/low-rated essays

Table A5.1: Frequency of grammatical errors identified in Australian high-rated essays.


Essay
Error Total:
category AH1 AH2 AH3 AH4 AH5 AH6 Each
category
Derivational 2 5 2 2 1 12
0
Morphology (5.56%) (14.29%) (5.13%) (8.33%) (3.13%) (6.03%)
1 4 1 5 2 13
Spelling 0
(3.03%) (11.11%) (2.86%) (12.82%) (6.25%) (6.53%)
2 2
Tenses 0 0 0 0 0
(6.06%) (1.01%)
Number 4 7 5 8 3 9 36
Agreement (12.12%) (19.44%) (14.29%) (20.52%) (12.50%) (28.13%) (18.09%)
Nonfinite 1 4 2 7
0 0 0
Forms (3.03%) (11.11%) (5.13%) (3.52%)
1 1
Voice 0 0 0 0 0
(3.13%) (0.50%)
3 1 1 2 7
Wrong Word 0 0
(9.09%) (2.78%) (2.56%) (6.25%) (3.52%)
1 3 1 1 2 8
Missing Word 0
(2.78%) (8.57%) (2.56%) (4.17%) (6.25%) (4.02%)
Redundant 4 3 1 2 10
0 0
Word (12.12%) (8.33%) (2.56%) (8.33%) (5.03%)
2 4 4 2 3 2 17
Collocation
(6.06%) (11.11%) (11.43%) (5.13%) (12.50%) (6.25%) (8.54%)
3 1 10 3 4 2 23
Articles
(9.09%) (2.78%) (28.56%) (7.69%) (16.67%) (6.25%) (11.56%)
Conjunctive 3 1 2 3 9
0 0
Devices (9.09%) (2.86%) (8.33%) (9.38%) (4.52%)
Anaphoric/
Cataphoric 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Pronouns
1 2 1 2 6
Sequencing 0 0
(3.03%) (5.56%) (2.86%) (8.33%) (3.02%)
Word 1 3 1 5
0 0 0
Punctuation (2.86%) (7.69%) (3.13%) (2.51%)
Internal 8 7 4 10 5 7 41
Punctuation (24.24%) (19.44%) (11.43%) (25.64%) (20.83%) (21.88%) (20.60%)
Sentence-final 1 1 2
0 0 0 0
Punctuation (9.09%) (2.56%) (1.01%)
Tangled
0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Construction
Total
Communication 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Breakdown
Total: 33 36 35 39 24 32 199
Each essay (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)

131
Table A5.2: Frequency of grammatical errors identified in Australian low-rated essays.
Essay
Error Total:
category AL1 AL2 AL3 AL4 AL5 AL6 Each
category
Derivational 17 4 1 15 37
0 0
Morphology (6.85%) (3.33%) (1.89%) (13.27%) (5.83%)
5 4 2 3 4 7 25
Spelling
(2.02%) (3.33%) (3.77%) (6.25) (7.55%) (6.20%) (3.94%)
6 2 5 1 2 2 18
Tenses
(2.42%) (1.67%) (9.43%) (2.08%) (3.77%) (1.77%) (2.83%)
Number 37 24 11 7 11 30 120
Agreement (14.92%) (20%) (20.75%) (14.58%) (20.75%) (26.55%) (18.90%)
Nonfinite 14 5 2 2 3 13 39
Forms (5.65%) (4.17%) (3.77%) (4.17%) (5.66%) (11.50%) (6.14%)
3 1 2 6
Voice 0 0 0
(1.21%) (1.89%) (1.77%) (0.94%)
15 10 4 2 2 33
Wrong Word 0
(6.05%) (8.33%) (8.33%) (3.77%) (1.77%) (5.20%)
27 8 4 5 7 0 51
Missing Word
(10.89%) (6.67%) (7.55%) (10.42%) (13.21%) (0%) (8.03%)
Redundant 27 10 2 4 2 45
0
Word (10.89%) (8.33%) (3.77%) (8.33%) (1.77%) (7.09%)
15 4 2 2 3 1 27
Collocation
(6.05%) (3.33%) (3.77%) (4.17%) (5.66%) (0.89%) (4.25%)
6 7 7 2 5 12 39
Articles
(2.42%) (5.83%) (13.21%) (4.17%) (9.43%) (10.62%) (6.14%)
Conjunctive 2 2 3 1 3 11
0
Devices (0.81%) (1.67%) (6.25%) (1.89%) (2.66%) (1.73%)
Anaphoric/
15 13 3 10 1 42
Cataphoric 0
(6.05%) (10.83%) (5.66%) (20.83%) (1.89%) (6.61%)
Pronouns
2 2 2 1 7
Sequencing 0 0
(0.81%) (1.67%) (4.17%) (0.89%) (1.10%)
Word 7 1 1 1 1 1 12
Punctuation (2.82%) (0.83%) (1.89%) (2.08%) (1.89%) (0.89%) (1.89%)
Internal 21 14 12 2 10 12 71
Punctuation (8.47%) (11.67%) (22.64%) (4.17%) (18.87%) (10.62%) (11.18%)
Sentence-final 6 6 1 7 20
0 0
Punctuation (2.42%) (5%) (1.89%) (6.20%) (3.15%)
Tangled 8 3 1 12
0 0 0
Construction (3.23%) (2.50%) (0.89%) (1.89%)
Total
15 1 2 2 20
Communication 0 0
(6.05%) (0.83%) (3.78%) (1.78%) (3.15%)
Breakdown
Total: 248 120 53 48 53 113 635
Each essay (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)

132
Table A5.3: Frequency of grammatical errors identified in Hong Kong high-rated essays.
Essay
Error Total:
category HKH1 HKH2 HKH3 HKH4 HKH5 HKH6 Each
category
Derivational 2 2 2 6
0 0 0
Morphology (5.71%) (10%) (8.33%) (4.65%)
2 2 1 2 2 9
Spelling 0
(5.71%) (14.29%) (5%) (8.33%) (11.76%) (6.98%)
2 1 1 1 1 6
Tenses 0
(5.71%) (7.14%) (5.26%) (4.17%) (5.88%) (4.65%)
Number 11 6 6 1 9 2 35
Agreement (3.14%) (42.86%) (30%) (5.26%) (37.50) (11.76%) (27.13%)
Nonfinite 2 1 1 4
0 0 0
Forms (5.71%) (5.26%) (4.17%) (3.10%)
1 1 2
Voice 0 0 0 0
(2.86%) (7.14%) (1.55%)
1 2 1 3 7
Wrong Word 0 0
(2.86%) (10%) (5.26%) (17.65%) (5.43%)
3 1 2 2 1 9
Missing Word 0
(8.57%) (7.14%) (10.53%) (8.33%) (5.88%) (6.98%)
3 1 2 1 7
Redundant Word 0 0
(8.57%) (7.14%) (10.53%) (5.88%) (5.43%)
4 1 2 4 3 1 15
Collocation
(11.43%) (7.14%) (10%) (21.05%) (12.50%) (5.88%) (11.63%)
1 4 2 4 11
Articles 0 0
(7.14%) (20%) (10.53%) (23.53%) (8.53%)
Conjunctive 2 2
0 0 0 0 0
Devices (10.53%) (1.55%)
Anaphoric/
Cataphoric 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Pronouns
Sequencing 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Word
0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Punctuation
Internal 3 1 2 4 2 12
0
Punctuation (8.57%) (5%) (10.53%) (16.67%) (11.76%) (9.30%)
Sentence-final 1 2 1 4
0 0 0
Punctuation (5.71%) (10%) (5.26%) (3.10%)
Tangled
0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Construction
Total
Communication 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Breakdown
Total: 35 14 20 19 24 17 129
Each essay (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)

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Table A5.4: Frequency of grammatical errors identified in Hong Kong low-rated essays.
Essay
Error Total:
category HKL1 HKL2 HKL3 HKL4 HKL5 HKL6 Each
category
Derivational 2 2 4
0 0 0 0
Morphology (1.98%) (2.22%) (1.27%)
2 3 1 6
Spelling 0 0 0
(5.56%) (2.97%) (2.70%) (1.90%)
1 3 6 1 5 16
Tenses 0
(2.78%) (2.97%) (6.67%) (2.78%) (13.51%) (5.06%)
Number 3 18 8 18 6 7 60
Agreement (8.33%) (17.82%) (50%) (20%) (16.67%) (18.92%) (18.99%)
1 7 4 1 13
Nonfinite Forms 0 0
(2.78%) (6.93%) (4.44%) (2.70%) (4.11%)
4 4 1 9
Voice 0 0 0
(3.96%) (11.11%) (2.70%) (2.85%)
1 4 11 2 1 19
Wrong Word 0
(2.78%) (3.96%) (12.22%) (5.56%) (2.70%) (6.01%)
3 7 4 4 18
Missing Word 0 0
(2.97%) (7.78%) (11.11%) (10.81%) (5.70%)
Redundant 5 18 16 3 3 45
0
Word (13.89%) (17.82%) (17.78%) (8.33%) (8.11%) (14.24%)
6 4 3 8 2 2 25
Collocation
(16.67%) (3.96%) (18.75%) (8.89%) (5.56%) (5.41%) (7.91%)
4 5 4 2 5 20
Articles 0
(11.11%) (4.95%) (4.44%) (5.56%) (13.51%) (6.33%)
Conjunctive 1 3 1 0 3 0 8
Devices (2.78%) (2.97%) (6.25%) (0%) (8.33%) (0%) (2.53%)
Anaphoric/
1 12 1 2 1 0 17
Cataphoric
(2.78%) (11.88%) (6.25%) (2.22%) (2.78%) (0%) (5.38%)
Pronouns
2 2 4
Sequencing 0 0 0 0
(1.98%) (5.41%) (1.27%)
Word 2 1 3
0 0 0 0
Punctuation (5.56%) (0.99%) (0.95%)
Internal 5 3 1 9 4 1 23
Punctuation (13.89%) (2.97%) (6.25%) (10%) (11.11%) (2.70%) (7.28%)
Sentence-final 2 5 1 0 2 2 12
Punctuation (5.56%) (4.95%) (6.25%) (0%) (5.56%) (5.41%) (3.80%)
Tangled 1 1 2 1 5
0 0
Construction (2.78%) (0.99%) (2.22%) (2.78%) (1.58%)
Total
1 3 1 1 1 2 9
Communication
(2.78%) (2.97%) (6.25%) (1.11%) (2.78%) (5.41%) (2.85%)
Breakdown
Total: 36 101 16 90 36 37 316
Each essay (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)

134
Appendix 6: Comparison of frequencies and relative
rankings of error types: High-rated essays versus low-
rated essays/Australian essays versus Hong Kong
essays

Table A6.1: Comparison of frequencies, percentages and relative rankings of error types:
high-rated essays versus low-rated essays.
Essay groups
High-rated essays Low-rated essays
Error types (AH+HKH) (AL+HKL)
Frequency and Relative Frequency and Relative
percentage ranking percentage ranking
Derivational Morphology 18 (5.49%) 6th 41 (4.31%) 10th
Spelling 22 (6.71%) 5th 31 (3.26%) 13th
Tenses 8 (2.44%) 12th 34 (3.58%) 11th
Number Agreement 71 (21.65%) 1st 180 (18.93%) 1st
Nonfinite Forms 11 (3.35%) 10th 52 (5.47%) 7th
Voice 3 (0.91%) 16th 15 (1.58%) 17th
Wrong Word 14 (4.27%) 9th 52 (5.47%) 7th
Missing Word 17 (5.18%) 7th 69 (7.26%) 4th
Redundant Word 17 (5.18%) 7th 90 (9.46%) 3rd
Collocation 32 (9.76%) 4th 52 (5.47%) 7th
Articles 34 (10.37%) 3rd 59 (6.20%) 5th
Conjunctive Devices 11 (3.35%) 10th 19 (2.0%) 15th
Anaphoric/Cataphoric
0 17th 59 (6.20%) 5th
Pronouns
Sequencing 6 (1.83%) 13th 11 (1.16%) 19th
Word Punctuation 5 (1.52%) 15th 15 (1.58%) 17th
Internal Punctuation 53 (16.16%) 2nd 94 (9.88%) 2nd
Sentence-final Punctuation 6 (1.83%) 13th 32 (3.36%) 12th
Tangled Construction 0 17th 17 (1.79%) 16th
Total Communication
0 17th 29 (3.05%) 14th
Breakdown
Totals 328 (100%) 951 (100%)

Key:
The numbers in parentheses are the percentage of each error type in the respective grouping.

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Table A6.2: Comparison of frequencies, percentages and relative rankings of error types:
Australian essays versus Hong Kong essays.
Essay groups
Australian L2 Hong Kong
Error types (AH+AL) (HKH+HKL)
Frequency and Relative Frequency and Relative
percentage ranking percentage ranking
Derivational Morphology 49 (5.88%) 6th 10 (2.25%) 14th
Spelling 38 (4.56%) 11th 15 (3.37%) 12th
Tenses 20 (2.40%) 13th 22 (4.94%) 8th
Number Agreement 156 (18.71%) 1st 95 (21.35%) 1st
Nonfinite Forms 46 (5.52%) 7th 17 (3.82%) 9th
Voice 7 (0.84%) 19th 11 (2.47%) 13th
Wrong Word 40 (4.80%) 10th 26 (5.84%) 7th
Missing Word 59 (7.07%) 4th 27 (6.07%) 6th
Redundant Word 55 (6.59%) 5th 52 (11.69%) 2nd
Collocation 44 (5.28%) 8th 40 (8.99%) 3rd
Articles 62 (7.43%) 3rd 31 (6.97%) 5th
Conjunctive Devices 20 (2.40%) 13th 10 (2.25%) 14th
Anaphoric/Cataphoric
42 (5.04%) 9th 17 (3.82%) 9th
Pronouns
Sequencing 13 (1.56%) 17th 4 (0.90%) 18th
Word Punctuation 17 (2.04%) 16th 3 (0.67%) 19th
Internal Punctuation 112 (13.43%) 2nd 35 (7.87%) 4th
Sentence-final Punctuation 22 (2.64%) 12th 16 (3.60%) 11th
Tangled Construction 12 (1.44%) 18th 5 (1.12%) 17th
Total Communication
20 (2.40%) 13th 9 (2.02%) 16th
Breakdown
Totals 834 (100%) 445 (100%)

Key:
The numbers in parentheses are the percentage of each error type in the respective grouping.

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