The acquisition of second language writing

Authored by: Charlene Polio

The Routledge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415479936
eBook ISBN: 9780203808184
Adobe ISBN: 9781136666896


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This chapter reviews what is known about the acquisition of written language by examining studies from both L2 acquisition and L2 writing pedagogy. I will focus here on the language used by learners as they learn to write in their L2. Thus, the scope of the chapter will be limited to linguistic issues such as accuracy, complexity, the lexicon, and, to a lesser extent, fluency and cohesion. It will not focus on higher level matters such as learning the structure of specific genres, understanding audience conventions, or adapting to cultural writing norms. This is not to say that such issues are not important. Indeed, Flowerdew and colleagues (Flowerdew 2001, Flowerdew and Li, 2009) have argued, for example, that Chinese scholarly writers and other non-native speakers face more obstacles with regard to content and discourse structure than language. In fact, when writing is used to accomplish certain goals in society, native-like proficiency may not be necessary. When viewed from a language development perspective, however, even such advanced writers may have problems that are interesting. For example, a lack of mastery of English articles reflects incomplete language development, and infelicitous collocations may shed light on frequency issues.

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