Hinkel, Eli, (2002) Second Language Writers' Text: Linguistic and Rhetorical Features. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, xx+370 pp, paperback ISBN:0-8058-4033-8, $39.99, ESL and Applied Linguistics Professional Series.
Georgette Jabbour, New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury Campus
INTRODUCTION The book is a contribution to applied linguistics, contrastive analysis, and corpus-based research of L2 text. It is important because it leads the way to the use of research outcomes in teaching. The strength of this large-scale research is that it lists the areas where flaws occur in second language writer's text. Hinkel uses corpus-based research results systematically to shed light on second language writers' divergences from first language texts. She uses a corpus of 1,457 essays written by speakers of seven languages: American English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Arabic to carry out the comparison between native and nonnative speakers' written performances. The number of essays each language group has on file decides the order in which the results are presented. These essays account for 434,768 words.
Hinkel's research delineates the difference in performance between English language writers and second language writers on the basis of 68 lexical, syntactic and rhetorical items of written responses to six prompts, in advanced first-year composition courses. The prompts come from a variety of sources such as the Test of Written English administered by Educational Testing Services, the Michigan Test of English Language Proficiency, and commonly used ESL and First Language composition textbooks. The prompts are referred to as ''Parents'', ''Grades'', ''Wealth'', ''Manner'', ''Opinion'', and ''Major''. The selection of items is based on textual functions of words, on word meanings, and on word frequencies. The main intent of the book is to serve the ESL community in planning and designing writing courses for college freshmen focusing on syntactic and lexical features of essay texts.
SUMMARY OF CONTENTS In the foreword, Robert Kaplan establishes the connection between Hinkel's work and the tradition of text linguistics, discourse analysis, and corpus linguistics, and theorizes the idea of ''second language acquisition'' by referring to Berman and Slobin (1994), and the idea of ''text'' by referring to Enkvist (1997), and Maurannen (1993). Kaplan underscores the importance of ''noticing'' in language learning.
In the preface, Hinkel shows that the importance of the book stems from the increasing number of international and immigrant students enrolling in American universities. The author states that the purpose of the book is to determine ''the specific syntactic, lexical, and rhetorical features [in L2 text] that differ from those in comparable NS text''. The back matter of the book consists of one hundred pages, including two appendices, a glossary, a reference list, an author index, and a subject index.
The appendices tabulate, by rank order, the 68 linguistic features used for the comparison between L1 and L2 writers' texts, coded by writers' country of origin. There are also 36 tables that contrast the most frequent 30 syntactic, lexical, and rhetorical features used in language group texts for each of the six essay prompts.
The book consists of a total of fifteen chapters presented in four parts. Part One consists of 72 pages and functions as a review of the development in grammar, discourse, and rhetoric on the basis of contrastive analysis, text linguistics, corpus analyses, and critical discourse analysis. It establishes the ground for the research by identifying syntactic, lexical, and rhetorical features in published texts, in composition research, and in features of L2 writing. ''Writing as text'', ''Research in Academic and ESL Written Discourse and Text'', ''Written Discourse and Text in Different Rhetorical Traditions'', ''The Goals and Politics of Teaching ESL Writing'' and ''The Study of Features of Second Language Text: Essays, the Data, and Methods of Analysis'' are the chapters in this part. The last chapter of all provides a listing of the 68 features used in the research, which falls into three categories, the largest being the linguistic area with 44 features, followed by subordinate clauses with 12 features, and by rhetoric with 12 features.
Part Two consists of 87 pages, and is by far the most useful report of the research. It classifies nouns, verbs, adjectives, subordinate clauses, and rhetorical features on the basis of corpus research of published texts, and on the basis of students' texts. For example, textual functions of nouns are stated as enumerative, interpretive, and resultative, among others. Text rhetorical features consist of coordination, exemplification, presupposition markers, hedges, and fixed strings. This part consists of five chapters: ''Nouns, Pronouns, and Nominals and Their Functions and Uses in Text'', ''The Verb Phrase and Deverbals and Their Functions and Uses in Text'', ''Adjectives and Adverbs and Their Functions and Uses in Text'', ''Subordinate Clauses and Their Functions and Uses'', ''Text-Rhetorical Features and Their Functions and Uses''.
Part Three consists of 82 pages, and is entitled ''The Effect of Prompts on ESL Text''. It includes three chapters: ''The First Three Prompts'', ''The Second Three Prompts'', and ''The Differences That the Prompts Make''. This part is set up in reference to the linguistic features elicited earlier, regarding the listing of 68 features that form the backbone of the research, and in reference to the data reported in reference to the textual functions of nouns, verbs, adjectives, subordinate clauses, and text rhetorical features. The tabulation in this part represents the adjusted frequency rates of linguistic, lexical, and rhetorical features used in L1 and L2 writers' text, organized by language group and essay prompt. Each of the first two chapters include a 4-page listing of 68 features elicited for the prompts. The last chapter in this part presents ten most frequently used features in language group essays across prompts. These are: present tense, infinitives, third person pronouns, attributive adjectives, fixed strings, phrase level coordination, copula be as the main verb, private verbs, first person pronouns, and nominalizations.
The conclusion in Part Four consists of two chapters. In ''Determining Priorities in Teaching and Curriculum'', the author classifies research features into three priority classes, for inclusion in a teaching program. A top priority class, for example, includes ''Fixed Strings and Some Other Nouns'', ''Common Nouns and Expecting Verbs'', ''Personal Narrative Features'', and ''Cohesive Features''. In ''Epilogue'', the writer sheds light on the importance of awareness and noticing in L2 writing, and urges teachers and teacher trainers to consider the fact that there are priority items in teaching writing for academic purposes.
EVALUATION The book is a clear contribution to the field of research in second language writing and composition for college freshmen. It is comprehensive in the sense that it considers grammar, lexis, and rhetoric as essential elements in teaching. It makes use of findings in the applied linguistics fields of corpus linguistics, and of text and contrastive analysis to identify criteria for a comparative study of L1 and L2 text.
The writer's position is that native students produce text that heralds published text, and that the differences between native and non-natives students' text are the problem areas that need to be remedied. The research corpus consists of 434,768 running words of text, treated as seven sub-corpora representing six essay prompts. The largest number of essays are the native speakers', amounting to 242 essays in 71,153 words. All other sub-corpora consist of a lesser number of words, except for the Indonesian (IN) sub-corpora.
Hinkel's position regarding a hierarchy of texts may, however, not be shared by other L2 writing researchers such as Grant and Ginther (2000), who believe that L2 writing is idiosyncratic. Hinkel's use of lists of linguistic features is reminiscent of Biber's lists (1988) that developed a theory of text variation based on dimensions, but Hinkel's research does not deal with variation. Sinclair's view of the strong relation between discourse analysis and corpus linguistics is not tackled in Hinkel's research background, despite the fact that she makes reference to Sinclair's work, and work done by his proponents. All this seems to support the idea that Hinkel is establishing her own way of looking and analyzing L2 text. By denying a place to the term ''corpus linguistics'' in her research, Hinkel seems to emphasize the idea that corpus linguistics does not connect to L2 text because it deals with published texts, limiting by this the scope of the term.
Hinkel's strength lies in the fact that she led her research not into a study of language variation as corpora based research commonly leads to, but into pinning down language areas that are useful to include in an L2 writing text. Hinkel's book is a must read for curriculum designers who want to incorporate outcomes of corpus research in language teaching, writing instruction in particular.
REFERENCE Grant, L. and Ginther, A. (2000) ''Using Computer-Tagged Linguistic Features to Describe L2 Writing Differences. Journal of Second Language Writing, 9 (2), 123- 145
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Georgette Jabbour is Assistant Professor of ESL, and ESL Program Coordinator at the English Department of New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury Campus. Her interests are corpus linguistics, ESL literacies and writing.