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SHEIKHBAHAEE UNIVERSITY

SCHOOL OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES

THE RELATIOHSHIP BETWEEN USE OF COHESIVE


DEVICES AND COMPOSITION QUALITY: A CASE
STUDY OF IRANIAN EFL LEARNERS

A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE


REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS
IN TEACHING ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

By
ALIREZA AMELI

Supervisor
Dr. A. AFGHARI

OCTOBER 2011
Sheikhbahaee University
School of Foreign Languages
Department of English

THIS IS TO CERTIFY THAT THE CONTENT, FORMAT AND QUALITY OF


PRESENTATION OF THE THESIS SUBMITTED BY

ALIREZA AMELI
ENTITLED:

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN USE OF COHESIVE


DEVICES AND COMPOSITION QUALITY: A CASE STUDY
OF IRANIAN EFL LEARNERS

IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF


M.A. IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHING IS ACCEPTED AND APPROVED BY
THE THESIS COMMITTEE.

SUPERVISOR: DR. A. AFGHARI

INTERNAL EXAMINER: DR. K. AFZALI

EXTERNAL EXAMINER: DR. GH. R. ZAREI

DEAN OF GRADUATE SCHOOL: DR. S. M. H. FEIZ


Table of Contents

Chapter Page

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Introduction.....1

1.2 Statement of the Problem....2

1.3 Research Question......3

1.4 Significance of the Study....3

1.5 Definition of Terms.........4

1.6 Outline of the Thesis...5

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1 Definition of Cohesion6

2.2 Differences between Cohesion and Coherence...9

2.3 Cohesive Devices...................................................................................11

2.3.1 Grammatical Cohesion.....12

2.3.1.1 Reference.......................................................................12

2.3.1.2 Ellipsis and Substitutions.......16

2.3.1.3 Conjunctive Relations18

2.3.1.4 Lexical Cohesion...............................23

2.4 Academic Writing...28

2.5 Previous Research on Cohesion in Essay Writing..30

2.5.1 Distribution of Cohesive Ties in Essay Writing...31

2.5.2 Cohesion and Writing Quality..38


Table of Contents

Chapter Page

2 (Continued)

2.6 Cohesion and Teaching EFL Writing.....42

3. METHODOLOGY

3.1 Introduction....46

3.2 Design of the Study....46

3.3 Participants......48

3.4 Instrumentation.......48

3.5 Procedures.......49

3.5.1 A Sample Analysis of Cohesive Ties Distributed

Across one Text......50

4. RESULTS

4.1 Introduction.54

4.1.1 An Overview of the Cohesive Ties in Descriptive and

Opinion Essays..54

4.1.1.1 Reference...55

4.1.1.2 Conjunction....57

4.1.1.3 Lexical Cohesion....63

4.1.2 Results of Essay Evaluation..66

4.1.3 The Use of Cohesive Devices in Relation to the

Quality of Writing...67
Table of Contents

Chapter Page

5. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

5.1 Overview....70

5.2 Cohesive Ties in Descriptive and Opinion Essays.71

5.2.1 Reference Category......71

5.2.2 Conjunction Category.......71

5.2.3 Lexical Category......73

5.3 Conclusion .....74

5.4 Implications of the Study...77

5.4.1 Pedagogical Implications.77

5.5 Limitations of the Study78

5.6 Suggestions for Further Research..78

REFERENCES..80

APPENDIX A.86

APPENDIX B.87

APPENDIX C.....89
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This thesis would not have been possible without the contributions of the following

people. First and foremost, I owe my gratitude my thesis supervisor, Dr. Afghary, for his

warm encouragement, guidance and support from the initial to the final stage. He always

worked hard and actively in order to provide me with in depth knowledge of the subject.

The completion of the thesis would not have been possible without his assistance.

In addition, I would especially like to thank all of my teachers and friends,

especially Dr.Tahririan, Dr.Zarei, Dr.Talebinezhad, and Dr. Kosha at Sheikhbahae

University for their kindness, assistance and encouragement.

Finally, I am indebted to my beloved parents, whose love, encouragement,

understanding and support are always with me in whatever I do.


List of Tables
Table Page

1-3 The Frequency of Cohesive Ties in Descriptive Essay 4.....51

2-4 Cohesive Ties Used in Descriptive Essays...55

3-4 Cohesive Ties Used in Opinion Essays....55

4-4 Reference Use in Descriptive Essays...55

5-4 Reference Use in Opinion Essays....56

6-4 Conjunction Use in Descriptive Essays...58

7-4 Conjunction Use in Opinion Essays....58

8-4 Extension Conjunction Ties in Opinion Essays...61

9-4 Extension Conjunction Ties in Descriptive Essays......62

10-4 Elaboration Conjunction ties in Descriptive Essays .62

11-4 Elaboration Conjunction Ties in Opinion Essays..62

12-4 Enhancement Conjunction Ties in Descriptive Essays..63

13-4 Enhancement Conjunction Ties in Opinion Essays...63

14-4 Lexical Cohesion Use in Descriptive Essays.64

15-4 Lexical Cohesion Use in Opinion Essays...64

16-4 Mean, Standard Deviation, Range, and Other Statistics

Related to the Descriptive Essay Scores66

17-4 Mean, Standard Deviation, Range, and Other Statistics

Related to the Opinion Essay Scores......67

18-4 Correlation between Essays Scores and Cohesive Devices in

Descriptive Essays..68

19-4 Correlation between Essays Scores and Cohesive Devices in

Opinion Essays.....68

I
Abstract

This study investigated the use of cohesive features in descriptive and opinion essays

written by Iranian university students, using both quantitative and qualitative

methods. Fifty essays were collected from twenty five university students majoring

TEFL and assessed by three raters. Halliday and Hasan's (1976) taxonomy of

cohesive devices and their framework for analysis were used. The findings indicated

that the students had employed a variety of cohesive devices with different

frequencies in their writing. Lexical devices were the most frequently ones used

comprising 68.49 % of all ties in descriptive essays and 70.42% in opinion essays,

followed by the reference category constituted of 25.02% of all ties in descriptive

essays and 23.33% in opinion essays. Finally, the conjunction category with 6.49% of

ties for descriptive essay and 6.25% for opinion essays was the last frequent ones.

There was no statistically significant relationship between the number of cohesive ties

used and the quality of writing.

Key words; Cohesive ties, Writing quality, Cohesion, Coherence


List of Abbreviations

ACCD.. Academic

BNC.British national corpus

COCA .Corpus of contemporary of America

English

SPOKSpoken

FIC Fiction

MAG......Magazine

III
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
INTRODUCTION

1.1 Introduction

A functional grammar is a conceptual framework that looks at language from the

perspective of how it is used. A language can be viewed as a system of meanings where

the realization of meanings is expressed through grammatical and lexical forms. In

recognition of this view, discourse analysis is a study of language that sheds some light

on how, and why, the text means what it does (Halliday, 1994). Thus, the subject of

discourse analysis is a text that is formed to express some meanings and those meaning

relations constitute texture. Texture in the context of functional grammar is a matter of

how meanings are realized through structure and cohesion. Cohesion is the object of

interest in this thesis, as it shows how meaning relations in the text contribute to its unity.

Cohesion is concerned with lexico-grammatical ties that show relations between

messages in the text, and texture within the text is created through the use of such

cohesive ties (Halliday & Hasan, 1989). The study of cohesion provides an insight into

how texts are organized and meanings are expressed through investigating the patterns of

cohesion that help to understand the text in terms of its representation of ideas. For

example, patterns of lexical cohesion make the reader focused on the field of the passage,

patterns of reference devices ease the readers track of entities mentioned in the passage,

and patterns of conjunctive relations show the purpose of the passage (Martin & Rose

2007, pp. 18-20). Hence, investigation of the text as regards the use of cohesive ties

shows how meanings are realized and contribute to the consistency of that text. Cohesion

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can be analyzed within any text; however the analysis of cohesive devices in the EFL

academic texts plays an important and extensive role. This is due to the fact that this

aspect of texture in essay writing reveals how students organize their texts by showing

meaning relations between sentences. Thus, Halliday and Hasans (1976) theory on

cohesion is particularly applicable in the EFL field, where looking at the patterns of

cohesion in students essays, reveals how students face the meanings in the text in order

to create a piece of writing that express an intended message. Since the theory of cohesion

in terms of the texts of EFL learners is new to Iranian teachers and learners, this thesis

seeks to gain a deeper view of how this concept is applied in essays written by Iranian

students.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Writing plays an important role in our personal and professional lives. It, by

definition, is an act of communication, a purposeful means of addressing an audience and

is currently viewed in academic circles as more than just a tool for communication.

Therefore, the ability to convey meaning proficiently in written texts is a critical skill for

academic and professional success. Indeed, college freshmen writing skills are among

the best predictors of academic success (Geiser & Studley, 2001), and even outside of

academia, writing skills continue to be important and are an important attribute of

professional competence (Light, 2001). However, many students, particularly those

attempting to write in their second language, rate writing activities among the least

enjoyable or beneficial for learning English (Barkhuizen, 1998; Spratt, 2001). As such,

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developing a better understanding of characteristics of good writing is an important

objective, both for theoretical and practical reasons.

The misuse of cohesive devices has been identified as a common problem faced by EFL

writers. In terms of the communicative nature of writing, cohesion is regarded as an

essential textual component not only for creating organized texts, but also for rendering

the content comprehensible to the reader. Many researchers have explored the connection

between the use of cohesive devices and the quality of writing produced.

In order to gain further insight into this area of debate, this study will investigate Iranian

EFL learners use of cohesive devices and the relationship between the number of

cohesive devices used and the writing quality.

1.3 Research Question


The present study intends to investigate whether there is any relationship between

the use of cohesive devices and the quality of writing in descriptive and opinion essays.

To this end, the following question was formulated:

Is there any relationship between the use of cohesive devices and the quality of

writing in descriptive and opinion essays?

1.4 Significance of the study

Writing is one of the most authentic and interactive ways of transferring thoughts

and ideas to others. Halliday (1985) refers to writing as an explanatory act, requiring great

judgment. The ability to express ones ideas in writing in a foreign language coherently

and accurately is a major achievement that even many native speakers of English never
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truly master (Celce- Murcia, 2001). Learning to write a text clearly and efficiently is a

long process that requires much practice and sometimes explicit and formal instruction.

For students who have not yet acquired all the skills needed to translate their ideas into a

coherent text, writing is a difficult task (Halliday, 1985).

So, this study will provide English writing teachers with opportunity to see how the EFL

learners use cohesive devices in their writings whilst comparing and contrasting the

various devices used. Additionally, the findings of this study are expected to give

contribution to the field of discourse analysis in the part of cohesive devices. It is also

expected to enrich our understanding, both in theoretical and applied terms, of Halliday

and Hasan`s theory in building the cohesion in written text.

1.5 Definition of terms

A series of key words used in this study are defined below:

1.5.1 Cohesion

A linguistic system that extends through the text and binds together larger chunks of

discourse, as well as forming smaller discourse units (Halliday, 1976).

1.5.2 Academic Writing

The forms of expository and argumentative prose used by university students and

researchers to convey a body of information about a particular subject. (Heinnemann,

2006).

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1.5.3 Definition essay (Descriptive essay)

A type of formal essay in which the writer defines a word, term, or concept in depth

by providing a personal commentary (Northland, 2011).

1.5.4 Opinion essay (Argumentative essay)

A type of formal essay which presents the author's point of view on a particular

subject, supported by reasons and examples. (Writing an opinion essay, 2011)

1.6 Outline of the thesis

This study is organized in five chapters:

In chapter one, introduction, the problem under study will be introduced;

significance of the study and research questions will be presented as well. In chapter two,

literature review, will be discussed. In chapter three, the method of the study, some

information about the participants, as well as the procedure of data collection and

analyses will be introduced. In chapter four, results and findings of the study will be

discussed and finally in Chapter five, conclusion and some implications based on the

findings of the study will be presented.

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CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
LITERATURE REVIEW

In this chapter, initially the fundamental ideas concerning cohesion as a text-

forming device by presenting the definition of cohesion and the difference between

cohesion and coherence will be discussed. Secondly, the basic terminology connected

with the concept of cohesion, with a focus on Halliday and Hasan's view of cohesion, will

be elaborated on, as a base measure of coherence. Thirdly, we will have an overview of

the importance of academic writing in scholarly advancement and also discuss previous

research on cohesion in essay writing by reviewing related studies on distribution of

cohesive devices in essay writing as well as the relationship between cohesion and

writing quality. Finally, an overview of cohesion and its relation to teaching EFL writing

will be presented.

2.1 Definition of cohesion

Cohesion is a very important issue in the discipline of linguistics. It plays a crucial

role in text analysis, thus it (in the context of academic texts) requires a precise definition.

Various definitions of cohesion have been offered by researchers and linguistics.

Bamberg states that cohesion "describes a linguistic system that extends through the text

and binds together larger chunks of discourse, in addition to forming smaller discourse

units" (quoted in Palmer 1999, p. 63). Reinhart defines cohesion as "'the overt linguistic

devices for putting sentences together [which comprise] connectedness [in a text]' or

linear concatenation'" (quoted in Stoddard, 1990, p. 13). Hoey (1991) gives another

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definition that cohesion is the way certain words or grammatical features of a sentence

can connect that sentence to its predecessors in a text. Markel (1984) provides a definition

of cohesion as it elevates a random collection of sentences to the status of a text, and in

the process imparts meaning, insight, and purpose to those sentences. He claims that

without cohesion, the text can hardly be said to exist at all, for cohesion provides the

textual means for initiating comprehension and sense. The above definitions of cohesion

seem to indicate that this concept is complex but it is possible to agree on some common

aspect of cohesion, namely that cohesion is like a glue sticking elements to hold a text

together (Gabrielatos, 1999, p.16).

One of the most popular views on cohesion is that of Halliday and Hasan's model.

Halliday and Hasan (1976) propose that cohesion refers to the range of possibilities that

exist for linking something with what has gone before" (1976, p.10). Also, they claim that

"cohesion is part of the system of a language" and it is a semantic concept that regards

meaning relations in the text. For the cohesion to take place the interpretation of some

elements in the discourse needs to depend on the other one. In simple terms cohesion is

about the relations between two elements, the presupposing and the presupposed. The

cohesive relations are established only if there are two items linked with each other, and

such items have a cohesive force. These elements that are cohesively related create a tie.

The notion of a tie is central in the analysis of cohesive properties of a text by providing a

systematic account of patterns of texture (Halliday and Hasan, 1976, pp. 3-5). Halliday

and Hassan add that cohesion is "a relation in the system" where the writer opts for "sets

of possibilities" to make the text "hang together". Also cohesion is viewed "as a process

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in the text" which means "it is the instantiation of this relation in the text" (1976, pp. 18-

19).

A text is a meaningful unit composed of experiential, logical, and textual meanings,

and the role of cohesion is to provide texture by being one of the concepts that help to

create a text. However, Halliday and Hasan stress that cohesion is not a sufficient part of

creating a text but a necessary "text-forming component", thus, there are other

components, such as information structure or thematic patterns. They assert that

"cohesion expresses the continuity that exists between one part of the text and another",

and thus has a crucial role in creating a text (Halliday and Hasan 1976, pp. 298-299).

Conner (1984) simplifies cohesion as one aspect of what forms textually in a text.

Stoddard (1990) in her book, Text and Texture: Patterns of Cohesion, suggests that

one way to give unity to a text as well as to provide pattered predictability that fulfills

reader expectations and thereby eases the processing of a text is use of cohesion.

Moreever, redundancy can be reduced using cohesion because texts would be redundant

without the use of cohesive ties.

Stoddard (1990) identifies six properties of cohesion. She postulates that the

cohesive elements are perceived as patterns of cohesion with regard to number, distance,

directionality, re-entry, intersection, and type. These may relate to functions of the

cohesion as outlined above. For example, if the number of cohesive ties is greater per

node, then the text would be perceived as more unified. Also, the distance between the

ties should not be kept too long to avoid a difficulty in the interpretation of these links.

The other aspect of cohesion is directionality, which is concerned with the position of the

cohesive elements. This means they may occur before or after the node unless the reader's

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expectations are fulfilled. Also, to be cohesive, the ties need to show "a repetitive

pattern". The repetition of ties contributes to the unity of the text, which creates texture.

Additionally, when the cohesive patterns intersect, the cohesion ties are easier to process.

The other property of cohesion is the choice of the type of ties on the part of the writer,

which contribute to the perception of the texture of a text. It is the writer who makes the

availability of patterns for the writer. (pp. 20-23).

Cohesive relations may be grammatical or lexical. Halliday and Hasan (1976)

distinguish types of grammatical cohesion and lexical cohesion, but it should be kept in

mind that the distinction between cohesion expressed through grammar or vocabulary is

the matter of degree.

Those cohesive relations may occur within or between sentences. However,

cohesive relations within sentence are not as striking as between the sentences because

cohesion across sentences is more conspicuous since cohesive ties are the only source of

texture, and within the sentence there are also structural relations. Thus, the analysis of

intersentence cohesion is worthwhile since this description reveals variable aspects of

cohesion (Halliday & Hasan, 1976).

It is important in the text analysis to take into account what items from the sentence

enter into cohesive relations and what kind of a tie is involved.

2.2 Differences between cohesion and coherence

Some linguists state that cohesion and coherence differ somehow because some

texts may not show explicit cohesive ties and still be coherent but some texts that contain