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Title:Argumentative essays written by native speakers of Chinese and English: A study in contrastive rhetoric
Author(s):Eason, Cheryl Ann
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Language and Literature
Education, Bilingual and Multicultural
Language, Rhetoric and Composition
Abstract:Of the modes of writing required at American universities, argumentative writing may be the most important and the most difficult to master. Contrastive rhetoricians have claimed its mastery can be especially difficult for international students, who bring to English rhetorical conventions that do not meet American teachers' expectations. This study investigates structural differences between the writing of Chinese and American college students and how well the different structures meet teachers' expectations. The goal is to elucidate the expectations so they can be taught.
Fifty-six arguments were collected from four student groups: Chinese seniors majoring in English education--natives of Taiwan and overseas Chinese (both groups studying at a university in Taiwan), American seniors majoring in English education, and American developmental writers. The Chinese wrote in Chinese and in English. The essays' superstructures and T-unit arrangements were compared across the writer and language groups and with descriptions of Chinese essay structures and rhetorical prescriptions for argumentative writing in English. Four prospective Chinese ESL teachers and four American rhetoric teachers evaluated 20 of these texts which had been selected for evaluation on the basis of their structural features.
Major findings regarding the essays' structures include (a) the features of the writing of the Taiwan natives are quite consistent across both languages, whereas the overseas Chinese use features associated with writing Chinese more in their Chinese texts than in their English essays, (b) the writing of the Chinese and the American seniors in their native languages is more loosely organized than the writing of the Chinese in English and that of the developmental writers, and (c) the Chinese, unlike the Americans, do not refute point by point specific claims made by the opposition. Raters' responses to the essays suggest that (a) the topic-comment structure does not communicate well in English, (b) Chinese are less concerned with the ordering of ideas within paragraphs than Americans, (c) Chinese may define argumentation more narrowly than Americans, and (d) Americans' evaluations of essays' organization can be shaped by factors other than text structures. Implications of the findings for research and pedagogy are discussed.
Issue Date:1995
Rights Information:Copyright 1995 Eason, Cheryl Ann
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9624339
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9624339

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