Coherence Errors in Iranian EFL Learners' Writing: A Rhetorical Structure Theory Approach

Document Type: Research article

Authors

1 Associate Professor in Shiraz University

2 Shiraz University

Abstract

One of the key elements in the organization of any piece of writing is its coherence. To date, many propositions have been given regarding the definition, analysis, and evaluation of text coherence. In the current study, Mann and Thompson's (1988) Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) was adopted as the method of text analysis to detect the coherence breaks in writing samples. In order to see what problems Iranian EFL learners have with regard to text coherence, 64 essays in descriptive and argumentative genres written by male students of a language institute in Shiraz were analyzed. The essays were analyzed for discourse errors using RST. The findings indicated that Iranian EFL learners committed eight different types of coherence errors, namely irrelevant content, violation of completedness, violation of connectedness, incorrect place, incorrect relation, crossed dependency, scattered units, and topic. The reason behind these errors partly came from the learners' tendency to write in an inductive order, and partly from their inability to coherently connect the constituent parts of their texts together. Genre difference was also proved to be significant in the number of coherence relations and in the type and number of coherence errors. In general, descriptive writing samples were more coherent than argumentative ones.
Keywords: Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST), coherence errors, descriptive writing, argumentative writing, genre.

Keywords


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