Corpus-based analysis of cohesion in written English essays of Nigerian tertiary learners
Adeyemi, Remilekun Iyabo
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The English language is the second and official language of Nigeria. English language teachers continue to complain about the poor quality of undergraduates written English texts in Nigerian universities. One of the identified reasons for the writing deficiency is the problem of cohesion and coherence. This thesis examines how Nigerian learners, who are ESL learners, achieve cohesion in their written texts, how cohesion is related to coherence in the learners’ texts, and the areas in which they show underdevelopment in their usage of cohesive devices compared to their native counterparts. Communicative competence in academic writing is crucial to the general academic performance of students at the tertiary level of education. Tertiary learners’ need to demonstrate some forms of cohesion and coherence in their text presentations. A comparative analysis was carried out using the NLEC (Nigerian learner English corpus) and LOCNESS (Louvain corpus of native English student essays) to examine if and how learners achieve cohesion in texts. The study also used the theory of contrastive rhetoric as an interpretative framework for the analysis to interpret potential alternative composition styles, choices and use of cohesive devices by Nigerian learners that may not be due to underdevelopment but to cultural differences. The analysis of reference and conjunctive cohesion was done first using the complete data of LOCNESS and NLEC. This was followed by the analysis of ellipsis, substitution and lexical cohesion using a sample of 20,000 words from LOCNESS and NLEC respectively. The extraction of reference and conjunctive cohesive devices as well as cluster patterns was done using the WordSmith Tools 5.0. To examine the similarities and differences in the use of reference and conjunctive cohesive items between LOCNESS and NLEC, a chi-square test of independence was done. The likelihood ratio chi-square was also used in the analysis to verify the results. The log-likelihood calculator was used for the analysis of ellipsis, substitution and lexical cohesion using a sampled data of 20,000 words from LOCNESS and NLEC to determine the significance of the difference between the frequency scores of the two groups in order to determine over and underuse. The results show significant differences in the use of specific cohesive devices in the two corpora in the areas of conjunctions and lexical cohesion. The Nigerian learners demonstrated underdevelopment in their use of conjunctions and lexical reiteration. The two types of cohesive devices are the major areas Nigerian learners significantly differ from their L1 counterparts. The analysis evinced the NLEC learners significantly overuse some conjunctive elements and underuse the others. Lexical repetition is also overused by the learners as referential cohesive device. The theory of contrastive rhetoric enabled a better understanding and interpretation of the different rhetorical patterns observed in NLEC writing. Some of the differences identified in the Nigerian learners’ texts were traced to the L1 influence. The study indicates that the overuse of cohesive devices in the learners’ essays impede the overall quality of the Nigerian learners’ essays.
- Humanities