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Textual Theme in ESL Writing: A Pilot Study from the Systemic Functional Linguistic Perspective

Fri, October 18, 2:00 to 3:10pm, Kingsgate Conference Center, Mt. Lookout


This pilot study adopted the systemic functional linguistic analysis to investigate the use of Textual Theme, a device for connecting a sentence or clause with its context, in ESL (English as a second language) students’ reflective essay. In the previous publications, Textual Theme has been identified as a useful indicator for higher quality of academic writing. However, how ESL students’ first language (L1) background and second language (L2) proficiency interact on their use of Textual Theme and essays’ quality remains unknown. To study this problem, 40 ESL students’ reflective essays have been collected and analyzed by counting the frequency of Textual Theme every 100 T-unit. The study is in progress and all the data is being analyzed. It is hypothesized that L1 background and L2 proficiency will have interactive effects and that use of Textual Theme will correlate with the essays’ quality. Pedagogical improvement will be proposed.