The academic writing of Japanese students of English : contrastive rhetoric and its implications for an integrated approach to composition pedagogy
This thesis begins with the assertion that there are serious inadequacies in the academic writing of Japanese students of English studying at the post-secondary level in Japan. To substantiate this claim, Chapter 1 presents a preliminary profile of student writing, based on a survey of the literature, the testimony of established authorities, and representative samples of student compositions, establishing baseline parameters of infelicity in their written work and identifying key features that characterize such writing. This survey also reveals numerous problems inherent in the research carried out to date, including the fact that terminological confusions are widespread and findings tend to be impressionistic and anecdotal. Chapter 1 concludes with a statement of the basic premise of this thesis, claiming that given effective instruction, based on an integrated approach to composition pedagogy, Japanese EL2 students are capable of making significant improvements in their academic writing skills. Although purely descriptive, taxonomic approaches to the analysis of written discourse, such as the profile of student writing presented in Chapter 1, are often a useful initial heuristic, they also have a number of important limits, especially in accommodating cross-language linguistic evidence, and in providing a suitable basis for understanding the origins of students' writing difficulties. Such issues cannot be resolved at this level of analysis and need to be addressed within a framework of applied linguistic theory. Chapter 2 establishes this framework, exploring the evolution of research models in contrastive rhetoric and examining the influence of related areas of investigation in contrastive linguistics and discourse linguistics. Based on the assumption that language learners will transfer the rhetorical features of their native language to the target language, causing interference in second language writing, contemporary theories in contrastive rhetoric have moved beyond the boundaries of text itself to include the cognitive and sociocultural dimensions of language transfer, in particular the context in which text is produced, both situational and cultural. This research paradigm provides the theoretical basis for the investigations that follow, defining the conceptual parameters of the present study. Although contrastive rhetoric has been strongly influenced by movements within applied linguistics, it also has a direct relationship with both classical and modem rhetoric. Chapter 3 explores this relationship, examining the evolution of rhetoric and discourse education in the western tradition in an investigation designed to clarify the standards, norms, and conventions that define the writing canon of modem English prose, and to identify the historical antecedents of modem-day disciplines such as discourse analysis, text linguistics, and composition pedagogy. While the study of rhetoric helps specify the qualities that define effective writing in English, how they originated, and why they continue to be valued, the vi goal of research in composition pedagogy is to develop approaches, methods, and techniques for the classroom which will tell us how such writing should be taught. Chapter 4 provides an overview of composition pedagogy in both Li and L2 contexts, investigating the multiplicity of approaches to teaching writing cuffently proliferating in the field and the theoretical assumptions that underlie them. Chapters 5 and 6 provide a roughly parallel descriptive framework for Japanese rhetoric along cultural, historical, and educational dimensions, for if rhetorical transfer from Japanese can be presumed to be one the main reasons for students' writing difficulties in English, then it is essential to have a rigorous accounting of Japanese rhetorical conventions, including the cultural and educational contexts from which they arise. Chapter 5 defines the principal characteristics of Japanese rhetoric from a sociohistorical perspective, identifying formative elements in the culture that influence rhetorical values and preferences, while Chapter 6 assesses the educational environment in which writing skills are acquired in Japan in a survey of Li and L2 composition instruction and practice in Japanese schools. Building on the conclusions drawn from these investigations, Chapter 7 sets forth a proposal of pedagogic action designed to offer solutions to the writing difficulties of Japanese EL2 students in an approach to L2 composition instruction which integrates research in contrastive rhetoric, applied linguistic theory, and general pedagogic principles. This proposed pedagogy is tested in an empirical study of student writing based on a pretestlposttest, experimental/control group design, and the results are discussed in terms of the importance of integrating approaches to composition pedagogy along diachronic, synchronic, and human dimensions.