Lexical Patterns in Written Text Unity in the Jordanian Universities
Anas Hashem Alsariera
Dr. Kamariah Binti Yunus
A Suggested Proposal Submitted to the Deanship of Graduate Studies in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for A degree of Doctorate of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics
This introduction provides a general overview of the study. This introduction attempts to provide a background of English used in Jordan where English is used widely in the Jordanian daily life prospective. It discusses the historical and status of English in Jordan. It also represents the challenges and difficulties of learning English at the Jordanian public universities mainly in writing skills. Finally, this chapter includes purpose of the study; it states the statement of the problem;the aims and objectives of the study, the research questions and the significance of the study.
1.1 Background of the Study
Methodology used in teaching English as a foreign language particularly for writing in English as a foreign language has experienced many changes throughout the past decades (Matsuda et al., 2006). During the phases of its development, many writing models and theories were sought to be the most appropriate at different levels of improvement (Yang, 2007). That is, some of these models were meant to focus only on the grammaticality of the text without referring to the unity and cohesion of the text. This shows the focus and interest of such models were only on the sentence level by pointing the errors and mistakes in the sentence over the written text but not beyond the sentence level (Lee, 2002a).
This indicates that course materials and text books are not adequate enough to teach students write skillfully since they basically focus on the grammaticality of the sentence without providing enough attention to text unity (Morris, 2007). However, Hoey (1991) criticizes the focus on the grammaticality and mastery of sentence structure. He demonstrates that the focus on grammar without treating the unity of the text does not sound an appropriate mechanism to produce actual writing. He argues that the use of conventional methods of writing does not help writers produce true writing and error free written text. In addition, the main goal of these conventional methods was to achieve awareness of the language system and to build students’ competence by means of controlled performance (Johns, 1990).
In connection, the researcher opines that teachers and learners of writing should not regard writing skills from a sentence level point view, but rather at the discourse level. This is similar to the opinion of Hoey (1991) who proposes that the teaching of writing should move further than the sentence level and the focus on the mastery of grammar. He focuses on the importance and the need to provide an awareness of what makes a text coherent and consequently acceptable. This, he adds, is a responsibility which must be laid on the shoulders of the teachers in both English as a second language (ESL) and English as a foreign language (EFL) setting. Consequently, because of all the drawbacks in language teaching methods of the past, especially concerning the writing skill, much research has been conducted to investigate and demonstrate how the writing skill can be improved in terms of a text’s cohesion and coherence (Johnson and Holland, 2001).
Similarly, the goal of the present research is to contribute to this development. In addition, this research is needed in the Jordanian learning situation where students face problems in producing coherent and cohesive written texts. Cohesion in EFL students’ written work, regarded as the most difficult issue that EFL students in Jordan face when attempting to produce a piece of writing, is often overlooked in EFL writing classes. Traditional teaching writing techniques in EFL classes have far too many disadvantages. In fact, cohesion in an EFL context provides a critical instructional opportunity for student writers and offers an appropriate avenue to produce coherent and unified written text that is rarely possible in the day-to-day operations of class through using conventional methods of teaching writing (Al Ali, 2006).
In a Jordan EFL writing context, there is usually no variation and the use of new approaches in teaching writing to EFL students. Teachers more often look at a written piece as a final product checking and reviewing their students’ writings word by word and correcting every single error they observe in their writing. This really is considered as time –consuming and labour intensive. Interestingly, however, their efforts are not appreciated or valued, for students still replicate their previous mistakes and errors (Khuwaileh, 2006).
This research which adopts the discourse analysis perspective is concerned with lexical repetition and patterning at the discourse level unlike other studies which are more concerned with errors and cohesion at sentence level. Discourse analysis is unlike other approaches as it deals with sentences as a unit connected with a particular function within the entire linguistic context and not as a separate unit (Paltridge, 2006). It helps language teachers to understand the processes involved in learning English as a foreign language by providing them with the appropriate teaching techniques. Discourse analysis also considers the EFL students’ writing difficulties and problems by proposing that the process of producing a written text is more than joining sentences to each other (Leki, 1995b).
In this regard, the present research intends to investigate the functionality of lexical patterns in achieving written text unity in English as a Foreign Language argumentative writing at university level in Jordan.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
English is a significant language that is taught in Jordan as a second language in all academic institutions affiliated to both the ministry of education and the higher education board. In order to learn English language, students should master all the language four skills; listening, reading, speaking, as well as writing. Many scholars believe that writing is very important skill and that it is a demanding skill. Learners are argued to develop this skill and to have proficiency and high level of creativity in writing. It is found that writing is useful for EFL learners in term of everyday life purposes, and it is a fundamental portion for academic purposes (Boice, 1987. p. 9). Goodson claims that there are many learners need to have a high quality of writing for different academic reasons such as learning, teaching, or conducting studies in the fields of interest (Goodson, 2016).
This means it is very essential to deal with one of the most important and controversial building blocks of writing when learning English as a foreign language. This refers to so called cohesion. (Halliday ; Hasan, 1976) identified cohesion as a notion that involves the relatedness of meaning between elements of a text. This definition involves both grammatical and lexical relatedness between the elements of the written text. (Grabe ; Kaplan, 2014).Cohesion has an important effect in academic writing; according to Halliday ; Hasan (2013), “it is the continuity provided by cohesion that enables the reader or listener to supply all the missing pieces, all the components of the picture which are not present in the text but are necessary to its interpretation” (p. 299).
Studies about the importance of lexical cohesion and cohesive devices in written discourse have been carried out by several scholars. Halliday and Hassan (1976) presented a taxonomy of cohesive devices for English which include five main categories; reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction and lexical reiteration. However, the major contribution in this filed goes back to Micheal Hoey (1991) who investigated the lexical cohesion and who identified the lexical cohesion as the most important form of cohesive devices, and it is in charge of creating texture unity. Furthermore, Hoey (1991) proposed a model for exploring the cohesiveness of texts of any existing texts, and that model was investigated by many researchers.
The work of Hoey, Halliday and Hasan’s Cohesion in English has encouraged a lot of interest among writing researchers concerned with the effect of cohesion in text (Witte & Faigley, 1981; McCulley, 1985; Tierney & Mosenthal, 1983; Connor, 1984; Carrell, 1982; Bamberg, 1984; 1986; Johns, 1986; Tanskanen, 2006) . Emi Emilia, Nurfitri Habibi, Lungguh Ariang Bangga (2018) provided an adequate analysis of cohesion of expositions tests. They investigated the cohesion of exposition texts written by eleventh graders of a school in Indonesia. The researchers found that the students still needed more guidance and time to produce well coherent texts. Abdul Rahman (2013) found that learners concentrate on the structural production of the sentences and ignore the rlatation of meaning that exist within the text. A study carried out by Khairunisa (2018) showed that despite the inaccurately use of cohesive devices, the whole meaning of written texts were not disturbed.
It is however highly essential for EFL students to pay more attention to language learning and to produce unified texts to make their thoughts and ideas heard in an effective way. University students in Jordan spend many years of learning EFL well-designed courses in writing but still encounter many problems when attempting to produce a written text. That is, a number of undergraduate students produce disconnected and incoherent sentences that result sometimes in meaningless written texts. These students who have already completed many years of learning EFL writing courses at university stage are still incompetent and unable to write a well-developed written text. In addition, B.A English Language and Literature students at university level in Jordan face difficulties in keeping the continuity of the written dialogues.
Despite the significance of lexical patterns in producing the continuity, unity and coherent of the texts, it is believed that it has not received the attention it deserves by previous research, particularly at university stage education in a Jordanian context. It also believes that many undergraduate students in the Jordanian universities produce weak pieces of writing.
The following piece of writing is taken from a student’s paragraph shows the difficulty to follow the flow of ideas and thoughts. (see the appendix)
“One of the most relaxing places I have visited recently is Ajloun Natural Forests resorts inn in Ajloun Reservoir, Jordan. It is a hotel located about 60 kms from Amman. They offer to the visitors to choose between rooms and cottages . While staying at the resorts, you can enjoy a wide variety of activities including the sun bathing, the nature, and the quietness of the place. These much of activities will make you feel relaxed and fine. It has many facilities, such as sport center and a food court where you will find plenty of restaurants with different types of food. Another feature of the hotel is that you can hire a guide to go sightseeing with friends with friends or family. Finally, I would recommend whoever have a chance to visit it and try its neat and cleanrooms and facilities” .
In line (1), one student wrote relaxed, and fine. The student wanted to employ a cohesive device called complex paraphrase by providing two different adjectives to describe the activities provided the resorts, but it is clear that he failed to employ the second adjective, which is fine, successfully. He also failed to keep the co-refrence tie correctly when he used the pronoun “they’ instead of it to refer to Ajloun Natural Forests resorts inn. The above examples show the misuse of cohesive devices by that student. Thus, it is difficult to follow the flow of ideas and thoughts in a way or another.
The research will investigate academic texts written by undergraduate Jordanian students who are currently studying English Language and its Literature at the southern Jordanian public universities; Mu’tah University, Al-Hussien Bin Talal University, and Balqa Applied University- Karak branch.
The present study aimed at investigating the effect o f teaching lexical patterns (Hoey, 1991) to Jordanian universities students. It will analyze and examine the lexical features of academic texts produced by those universities’ students. In a narrow sense, the study’s objective is to examine the academic writing and identify features of their writing profile. However, the current research looks to add a better understanding of used strategies by students at the Jordanian public universities since writing is an essential skill that English language learners should obtain and enhance. It is, however, hoped that this study which intends to investigate the functionality of lexical patterns in achieving written text unity in English as a Foreign Language academic writing at university level.
1.3 Research Objectives
The present study aimed at investigating the effect o f teaching lexical patterns (Hoey, 1991) to Jordanian universities students. It will analyze and examine the lexical features of academic texts produced by those universities’ students. In a narrow sense, the study’s objective is to examine the academic writing and identify features of their writing profile. However, the current research looks to add a better understanding of used strategies by students at the Jordanian public universities since writing is an essential skill that English language learners should obtain and enhance. It is, however, hoped that this study which intends to investigate the functionality of lexical patterns in achieving written text unity in English as a Foreign Language academic writing at university level. In relation to this issue, this study aims to achieve the following objectives.
a) To analyze which lexical patterns are generated from students’ use of lexical repetition.
b) To investigate how lexical patterns contribute towards the unity of students’ argumentative writing.
1.4 Research Questions
In order to achieve the objectives of this research study, the present study aims at addressing the following research questions:
Q1: Which lexical patterns are generated from EFL students’ use of lexical repetition?
Q2: How do lexical patterns contribute towards the unity of students’ writing?
Q3: What are the strategies that the research can recommend in order to enhance students’ writing?
1.5 The Significance of the Study
The present study is conducted to assist English as foreign language (EFL) learners at secondary school education level to understand the significance of the use of lexical cohesion, particularly lexical patterns, in written essays produced by Jordanian university students. This study would help EFL learners by providing them with new knowledge and skills to produce meaningful written texts. Even though an EFL learner might possess practical knowledge of the grammar of the target language, they might not possess the ability to generate coherent written essays. Therefore, this study which examines lexical patterning hopes to provide learners with a deeper understanding and insight to enhance their awareness of the significance of lexical links and bondages in creating unified written essays.
This research study is also useful for EFL teachers. It would provide them further insights that can be used for further significance and enhance their teaching methods. It is hoped that the findings of this study will enable the teachers to provide more constructive feedback to their learners rather than merely providing comments on whether the written work is good or not. It would also help them by providing suggestions on the kind of teaching materials and textbooks that are to be utilized. It will also provide suggestions to curriculum planners and material writers and designers to integrate components that emphasizes lexical cohesion, specifically lexical patterning practices.
In this regard, the findings and results of this research study can contribute significantly to research on lexical patterning in a Jordanian EFL context.
1.6 Limitations of the Study
This research is based only on Jordanian universities students in Jordan. The relatively small size sample used might not provide it the statistical support for any conclusive findings that may be directly generalizable to the whole Saudi university student population in similar or different academic majors in other public or private university. Yet, the findings achieved from the chosen sample from this case study can provide practical insights on students’ basic writing performance and their use of lexical patterns, as there is scant research in this area in Saudi.
In this research, two EFL teachers participated in analyzing their perceptions on the functionality of lexical patterns and teaching of basic writing courses. Although, this might seem like a limitation, it is important to note that these EFL teachers comprise the total number of teachers who teach the EFL general writing courses at university level. This research acknowledges the fact that there might also have been other controlling factors in students’ learning environment during the time of conducting the main study that might have had an effect on their writing performance. This is why the triangulation methodology was used as a vehicle for cross validation.
Also, the study will be confined to lexical cohesion in general writing from a discoursal point of view and excludes the problems that students face at sentence level and this might have some bearing on the results of the study. Although every attempt will be made to remind participants to give their fair and honest perceptions in the use of these research instruments, the validity of their views and perceptions cannot be altogether ascertained.
1.7 Definition of Terms
This section discusses the concepts and terms that are operationalized in this research study. These terms include coherence, cohesion, lexical cohesion, lexical bonds, lexical repetition, and lexical patterning.
Coherence: It is the “measure of the extent to which the reader or listener finds that the text holds together and makes sense as a unity” (Hoey 1991: 265-6). Coherence is concerned with the readability of the written text in which an interaction between the writer and the reader is held through words and lexis. This means that a reader should understand and comprehend the function of every succeeding lexical unit of a written text in the development of its overall cohesion (Widows, 1978; McCarthy, 1991; Lee, 1996).
Cohesion: It is the relationship between elements that can be semantically joined together to form a semantic chain in the written text regardless of their structural status (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). It is the property of textual organizations as it contributes to the overall coherence of the written text (Winter, 1979; Philips, 1985; Hoey, 1991; Johnson and Johnson, 1998).
Lexical Cohesion: Lexical cohesion is the predominant means of lexical bondage between sentences and clauses in written discourse (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). It is the semantic relationship between words and lexis within a written text. It is the product of lexical relation (Hoey, 1991; De Beaugrande and Dressler, 1981). It is an important semantic property or feature of written text (Eggins, 1994; Morris, 2007).
Lexical Bonds: Lexical bonds are defined as the building blocks of lexical cohesion that are used to identify text, (Halliday & Hasan, 1976; Hasan, 1984; Martin, 1992). They refer to the connection that exists between a pair of sentences by virtue of there being an above average number of links relating them. They include hyponym, meronymy, synonymy, and antonymy (Hoey, 1991; 2001; Klebanov, 2005).
Lexical Repetition: It refers to the occurrence of one or more items in sentences that by themselves tell the reader or listener nothing new but reinstates some element (s) from earlier sentences so that something new can be said about them (Hoey, 1991, 2001). Lexical repetition is a significant semantic feature that occurs in different forms to create unified, coherent, and meaningful written texts (Halliday and Hasan, 1976; Murphy, 2003). Lexical repetition has a significant role in written text cohesion. It is a crucial semantic strategy that helps to make written texts coherent (Hoey, 1991).
Lexical Patterning: According to Hoey (1991), lexical patterning refers to the emergence of the different types of sentences that are connected lexically through the use of the different types of lexical repetitions.