Discourse Markers In Academic Writing

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Introduction
Academic writing is a distinct genre that is marked with impersonal and formal style and complex structures making it a very difficult skill to acquire. Therefore, the importance of acquiring the writing skill in a way that enable learners to produce texts that are cohesive, coherent, and stylistically appropriate cannot be overstated. Cohesion and coherence are important features of successful academic writing; due to their importance, writing research continues to investigate how they can be achieved in EFL learner writing. In academic writing, it is especially important for the writer to “mark” texts to make them coherent. This can be achieved by using discourse markers because they signal what is important and set the connections
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Insufficient use of DMs may result in misunderstanding or lack of coherence in discourse. Therefore, knowledge of DMs can be considered a vital part of pragmatic and communicative competence. As Muller (2005:4) maintains that DMs are important and needs to be mastered by nonnative speakers. Although they are an integral part of communicative knowledge, they are rather marginalized in the foreign language curriculum (Romero Trillo, 2002). Discourse markers are not explicitly taught (Hellermann and Vergun, 2007).
According to Aimjer (2002), learners may overuse or underuse certain structures in their writing in comparison with native speakers. Hence, it is important to investigate those instances of misuse, overuse or underuse of those linguistic features considering that investigating learner errors reveals how L2 is acquired and identifies the strategies learners use in the acquisition process. It is important to understand how foreign language learners use discourse markers as acquiring them seems to be a problematic area for EFL
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What are the most frequent types and tokens of discourse markers in argumentative essays of Saudi EFL learners?
2. Is there a significant difference between discourse markers used by Saudi EFL learnerand native speakers?
3. Do Saudi EFL learners use any discourse markers inappropriately, with “inappropriate use” defined in terms of the context in which they occur?
4. Is there a relation between the number of discourse markers used and the overall quality of the writing?

Significance of the Study
The fact that discourse markers play a fundamental role in communicative competence generated interest in their relevance to second and foreign language acquisition. Over the past three decades a plethora of linguistic research on discourse markers as one of the fundamental factors in forming coherence and cohesion in both spoken and written discourse. Discourse markers are believed to be an intrinsic part of text cohesion and a facilitator of communicative competence as they play an important role in structuring the discourse and making it coherent. Therefore, analyzing DMs is part of studying text coherence and cohesion. The use of DMs by Saudi EFL learners is an underexplored area. Close analysis of learner corpora may reveal other spoken features in academic writing and disclose which discourse marker prevail in Saudi EFL advanced

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