Rhetorical diversity and the implications for teaching academic English

Zhongshe Lu, Lan Li, Karen Ottewell


Contrastive rhetoric has been studied since the 1960s, but its significance in the practice and pedagogy of teaching academic English is now more important than ever due to the expansion of English Medium Instruction. As Kaplan (1966) noted, L2 students’ research papers can often seem “out of focus” because they are employing a rhetoric and sequence of thought which “violate the expectations of the native reader” (p. 13). Exploring this cultural impact on university-level student writing in English is the focus of a joint research project between Tsinghua University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Cambridge University supported by the Tsinghua University Initiative Scientific Research Programme. Using corpora of Chinese L1 student writing in English, research conducted by Tsinghua and Hong Kong PolyU shows that linking words or connectives are a rhetorical problem for Chinese L1 students due to a misunderstanding and improper presentation of logico-semantic relations between discourse units.


L2 writing; contrastive rhetoric; cohesion; linking words; academic literacy; Chinese learners of English

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