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Lexical Cohesive Devices in Arab Students' Academic Writing: Implications for Teaching Vocabulary

El-Gazzar, Nevine Kamal
A Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) by Nevine Kamal El-Gazzar Entitled, "Lexical Cohesive Devices in Arab Students' Academic Writing: Implications for Teaching Vocabulary," May 2006. Thesis Advisor is Dr. Fatima Badry. Available are both Soft and Hard Copies of the Thesis.
This study investigated the use of English lexical cohesive devices by 40 undergraduate Arab students enrolled in advanced academic writing classes at the American University of Sharjah. The data were quantitatively analyzed to examine the correct and incorrect usage of different lexical connectors in expository texts. Further examination of the lexical errors revealed the difficulties encountered and the strategies L2 learners used to deal with their lexical problems. An understanding of such strategies would illuminate appropriate approaches for teaching L2 writing and vocabulary. Based on relevant research on discourse analysis research, the researcher constructed a cohesive scale to assess the use of lexical items in L2 English academic essays. The scale contained eight areas of evaluation, repetition, reference, synonymy, hyponymy, antonymy, inclusion, derivations/inflections, and collocations. The findings supported the hypothesis and revealed that the students' writing demonstrated weak lexical cohesion due to lack of connector variety, inappropriate use of connectors, long distance between cohesive ties in a chain, and uncertain inference that led to several interpretations. The results indicated that exact repetition was strongly favored as it was the most frequently used lexical connector in the writing samples. It was suggested that the subjects had limited vocabulary knowledge that did not enable them to express their ideas clearly, precisely, and made them prone iv to produce lexical and grammatical errors. Such inadequate lexical knowledge did not enable them to produce well-structured texts. Therefore, it seems that second language instruction needs to focus on expanding the vocabulary knowledge of nonnative speakers as well as familiarizing them with academic rhetorical features to help them to succeed in English academic settings. In addition, writing teachers need to engage their students in conscious learning tasks that are designed to make them aware of the gaps in their lexical knowledge and provide them with more opportunities to encounter new words in different semantic and formal contexts.
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