LINGUIST List 28.3524

Fri Aug 25 2017

Review: Applied Linguistics: Matsuda, Manchón (2016)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <>

Date: 25-Jun-2017
From: Donna Bain Butler <">;>
Subject: Handbook of Second and Foreign Language Writing
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Rosa M. Manchón
EDITOR: Paul Kei Matsuda
TITLE: Handbook of Second and Foreign Language Writing
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Donna Patricia Bain Butler, Delaware State University



The Handbook of Second and Foreign Language Writing, edited by Rosa M. Manchón and Paul Kei Matsuda, provides a comprehensive view of theory and research in the field. It is an edited collection of key developments by authoritative authors, many of whom are known internationally for their contributions to second and foreign language (L2) writing. Editors Rosa M. Manchón (foreign language writing) and Paul Kei Matsuda (second language writing) enrich the field of Applied Linguistics by bringing them together. This Handbook is of value to researchers, graduate students, practitioners and other working professionals interested in state of the art achievements, developments, and future directions in L2 writing. It is self-contained volume that fills a longstanding void in the growing body of Applied Linguistics handbooks and encyclopedias. It is organized into six parts that move from “Mapping the terrain,” “Population and contexts,” “Learning writing,” “Teaching and assessing writing,” and “Researching writing” to “Interdisciplinary relations.”

In the Introduction, Rosa Manchón justifies a comprehensive L2 writing handbook, considering the “Past and future of L2 writing research” as an evolving, interdisciplinary field of inquiry. She carefully delineates the aims, scope, and structure of the Handbook, as well as future developments, with a useful reference section at the end. The editor explains the thematic selection of criteria that seeks “to achieve comprehensiveness” with organization into six parts that mostly follow an identical structure to “guarantee consistency” (p. 6). After “Mapping the terrain” in Part I, contributors to Parts II to VI provide an historical overview, follow with a “critical interpretation” of research in the areas covered by the chapters, and finish with a “critical reflection on future developments” (Manchón, p. 6). The editor closes the Introduction with an analysis of future theoretical and research developments based on summary accounts of the contributors, most of whom are prominent L2 writing scholars.

In Part I, Tony Silva authors Chapter 1, “An overview of the development of the infrastructure of second language writing studies.” He looks at the field’s evolution and “infrastructure” based on a study of its material, intellectual, and institutional “artifacts…and those who produce them” (p. 19). The chapter includes a definition of second language writing (L2W) studies, historical developments by decade which bring “greater diversity in nationality and geographic location (p. 27), important concurrent trends as in publication, the current status of the field as necessarily multi-disciplinary, and the bright future of L2W studies globally. Silva includes an extensive Appendix of selected journal articles and book chapters that collectively “provide an overview of the development of second language studies” (p. 34).

Three experts, Alan Hirvela, Ken Hyland, and Rosa M. Manchón, author Chapter 2 on “Dimensions in L2 writing theory and research: Learning to write and writing to learn.” Hyland begins with three main frameworks to help understand Learning to Write in L2 adult contexts with a focus on writers, texts, and readers. The different models suggest that we should assist our learners in becoming researchers of the texts they will need rather than adopt a single formula for teaching writing (Hyland, p. 51). Hirvela then focuses on writing as a tool for learning, especially in content areas (WCL). He says students should learn to engage in meaningful “adaptive” transfer of what they have learned in a writing course (p. 55), “… making it necessary to bring a stronger transfer lens to WCL scholarship” (p. 51). Last, Manchón introduces “L2 writing as a site for L2 acquisition” (p. 55), referring “to the motivation behind this orientation…and to the main issues of debate in current research agendas” (p. 55). She says, “The general consensus in the field is that both writing and the processing of feedback can bring about language learning benefits” (p. 57). Manchón closes by highlighting how chapter authors’ synthesis of theory and research help us analyze “the multi-faceted nature of L2 writing,” suggesting that future L2 writing research might pursue “closer links and more cross-fertilization among the three orientations” more fully explored in several other chapters in this Handbook (p. 59). Needless to say, the Reference section in this (and all subsequent chapters) is extensive and invaluable.

Alister Cumming contributes “Theoretical orientations to L2 writing” in Chapter 3. He reviews four sets of theories that have been dominant in recent decades: (1) contrastive rhetoric, (2) cognitive models of composing, (3) genre theories, and (4) sociocultural theory. Cumming gives an historical and conceptual overview of each theory as well as critical interpretation and research. He discusses what these “current theories provide researchers, educators, assessors, and learners of L2 writing,” including their limitations (p. 79). At the close of the chapter, Cumming identifies remaining issues and challenges to end Part I.

Chapter 4 introduces Part II with “ESL writing in schools,” defined as L2 writers in English-dominant contexts. According to authors Christina Ortmeier-Hooper, Shauna Wight, and Corey McCullough, literacy development has occurred in “fields like bilingual education and literacy studies… not traditionally marked a ‘second-language writing’ or composition/writing studies’” (p. 91). Authors, therefore, offer key terms for the “disciplinary positioning” of the research followed by four theoretical trends, three main research methods, five broad categories of major research findings, and three new directions needed to broaden the scope and depth of the research on ESL writers in schools (p. 103).

In Chapter 5, Icy Lee considers “EFL writing in schools” by examining the key issues, salient research findings, and practical implications (p. 131). The author critically reflects on diversity and context, classroom practices, writing teacher education, and research with primary schoolchildren. Lee’s alternative research methodologies reflect these issues, and her conclusion suggests a “synthetic approach” in EFL writing research that includes a cross-disciplinary approach (p. 134).
Next comes Chapter 6 with Dana Ferris covering “L2 writers in higher education.” The author covers disciplinary traditions for theory, research, and practice in a mostly U.S. focused, undergraduate, academic context with major research insights that might apply to other L2 writing contexts.

Miyuki Sasaki reviews “L2 writers in study-abroad contexts” in Chapter 7. Here, L2 writing is based on functional views that include different kinds of knowledge for L2 writing competence as well as on traditional models of text construction that require linguistic components. Sasaki’s chapter offers a general history followed by research findings that suggest promising new frames for theory, participants, and data for investigation that include sociolinguistic knowledge as well as more complex target genres for studying L2 writing in a globalized world (p. 177).

In Chapter 8, Melinda Reichelt deals with “L2 writing in languages other than English.” The author offers “some broad, rather tentative assertions” (p. 185) to expand our knowledge of “the ways, reasons, and motivation levels for writing in non-English L2s” that may contrast with writers composing in L2 English (p. 181).

“Academic writing for publication in a multilingual world,” by Theresa Lillis and Mary Jane Curry, is the topic of Chapter 9. Authors review four influential research traditions and summarize their key contributions with a focus on disciplinarity, key ideologies underpinning research and theory in this field, and ongoing debates.

In Chapter 10, Susan Parks discusses “Workplace writing: From text to context.” She situates the research within mainstream and second/foreign language research on writing, reviews relevant research as it applies to applied linguistics, and delineates several areas for future research. Her definition of “workplace writing” refers to “both the processes of text production and textual products” in non-academic context.

Part III, “Learning Writing,” begins with Chapter 11, “Focus on texts and readers: Linguistic and rhetorical features” by William Grabe and Cuio Zhang, who together provide a selective survey of written discourse analysis that begins with a summary from the 1970s to 2000 (Kaplan & Grabe, 2002). Authors delineate five subfields and then rearrange the categorization to reflect recent trends dealing with the role of genre, technology and automated texts, and corpus analysis. They conclude with “relatively little strong evidence that applications of text analysis lead unequivocally to improved writing instruction, improved writing outcomes, or improved learning of new content from writing tasks” (p. 260).

Chapter 12, by Julio Roca de Larios, Florentina Nicolás-Conesa, and Yvette Coyle, provides a “Focus on writers: Processes and strategies.” The authors explore the origins and development of L2 writing processes and strategies research, the main theories informing this research, the main methods used, and recent findings produced in four research areas revealing “crucial points of intersection between cognitive skills, personal attitudes and socio-culturally and linguistically diverse contexts (Cumming 2013)” (p. 273). Future developments include concerns that “need to be fully explored across different contexts and populations” to increase generalizability and potential application of findings (p. 281).

Charlene Polio and Ji-Hyun Park address “Language development in second language writing” in Chapter 13. Although the authors stress that the “interplay of nonlinguistic variables and language cannot be understated” (p. 287), especially when “goals both follow and determine language development” as per Cumming (2012), they take a narrow view of writing development. They review studies that examine “vocabulary, morphology, syntax, and formulaic language with regard to complexity, accuracy, frequency, and emergence” (p. 287). Authors conclude that teaching implications cannot be drawn from much of the research (p. 302).

Chapter 14 deals with “The development of digital literacies” by Paige Ware, Richard Kern, and Mark Warschauer. The authors find a recurring theme across different fields of study that point to a “new theoretical, empirical, and pedagogical framework” that conceptualizes literacies as “multiple, dynamic, dialogic, and situated” (p. 308). They summarize five theoretical research lenses, main methods (with a focus on the qualitative), and four major shifts in the development of digital literacies that highlight collaborative authorship, intercultural complexity, network contexts, and multimodal production. Authors close with future developments, articulating issues that inform them.

Diane Pecorari authors Chapter 15 by examining “Writing from sources, plagiarism and textual borrowing.” Her review shows how these three elements are “inextricably intertwined, and are central concerns in second- and foreign-language writing, an area which has traditionally placed a strong emphasis on academic writing” (p. 329).

Christine Tardy, in Chapter 16, explores the relationships between “Voice and identity.” She joins these two concepts into a single discussion because they “have been particularly useful in understanding the mediation of the social and individual” aspects of L2 writing scholarship (p. 349).

Multicompetence and multilingual writing” comprise Chapter 17. Here, Carol Rinnert and Hiroe Kobayashi review “key issues for researchers and multilingual writers focusing on how writing ability develops across languages” (p. 365). Authors include useful figures that model text construction, sources and kinds of writing knowledge, and evolving repertoire of writing knowledge.

In “Collaborative writing,” Chapter 18, Neomy Storch focuses on the production of a written text. Her review provides a rationale for implementing collaborative writing in L2 contexts, drawing on constructionist theories of learning but focusing mainly on Swain and “the importance of producing language for language learning” (p. 387).

In Chapter 19, Making use of teacher written feedback,” Lynn Goldstein examines research over the past 30 years that gives a “nuanced look at written teacher feedback on content and rhetoric and student revision” (p. 407). With respect to rhetoric, Goldstein reports on “studies that focus on written teacher feedback on and student revision of discourse level issues” (p. 407).

Chapter 20, “Key issues of debate about feedback on writing,” introduces Part IV: “Teaching and assessing writing.” Fiona Hyland, Florentina Nicolás-Conesa, and Lourdes Cerezo focus on (a) key areas of debate and discussion in feedback research, (b) the value of written corrective feedback and its links to second language acquisition research, (c) the expansion of contexts for research on feedback, and (d) the role of computer-mediated feedback (p. 434).

In Chapter 21, “Writing centers and second and foreign language writers,” Carol Severino and Jane Cogie examine two significant issues in the literature on tutoring second language writers: that is, “how directive or nondirective tutoring should be and whether higher-order concerns…such as content, organization and argument should always be addressed before lower-order concerns…such as syntax, vocabulary, and grammar” (p. 453).

In Chapter 22, Sara Cushing Weigle reviews “Second language writing assessment.” Her discussion looks at how the topic has been conceptualized by applied linguistics and composition before an historical overview, current research trends, and future directions (p. 473).

Part V, “Researching writing,” is introduced by Christine Pearson Casanave in Chapter 23, “Qualitative inquiry in L2 writing.” Her discussion of particular studies exemplifies several types of qualitative inquiry that may overlap, pertaining to both L1 and L2 writing.

In Chapter 24, Rosa Manchón reviews representative quantitatively-oriented L2 writing research. Like Casanave’s review in the previous chapter, Manchón’s “Quantitive inquiry in L2 writing” centers on L2 English writing. Mixed methods research, she reminds us, “are only ‘marginally mixed’ in that the research approach in its origin will be either quantitative or qualitative,” (Teddlie, 2003, p. 533).

Part VI, the final section, deals with “Interdisciplinary relations.” It is introduced by Chapter 25, “Second language writing and culture,” where Dwight Atkinson reviews L2 writing studies that attempt to conceptualize culture. He takes a “loosely historical-chronological approach” followed by a review of current issues in L2 writing research, giving prominence to critical studies.

In Chapter 26, “L2 writing and SLA studies,” Rosa Manchón and Jessica Williams explore two SLA-L2 writing interfaces: (1) the role of language proficiency in developing L2 writing expertise, and (2) the role of writing and instruction in the acquisition of L2 competencies. They mention “three areas of inquiry where writing research can and should overlap with SLA research: how written language develops, the role of general proficiency in writing ability, and the potential role of writing and written feedback in L2 acquisition” (p. 579). Authors believe that this last area “has the most potential to inform writing instruction as well as general language instruction” (p. 579).

Finally, Alan Hirvela and Diane Belcher end the volume with Chapter 27, “Reading/writing and speaking/writing connections: The advantages of multimodal pedagogy.” The authors explore research that integrates these three skills needed to develop academic literacy. Although authors chose to separate the reading-writing and speaking-writing connections for this text, they conclude “that still more will be gained by examining reading-speaking-writing interactions together” (p. 606).


The Handbook of Second and Foreign Language Writing is a “must have” for researchers, teachers, and their graduate students globally who want to know more about the many facets of learning, teaching, and researching writing in L2 English, “featured most prominently in empirical research and pedagogical thinking” (p. 4). Throughout this text with its comprehensive references, readers will know more about what theoretical developments to pursue, what research/ applications to explore, what research methods to apply, and what disciplinary boundaries to cross in second and foreign language (L2) writing scholarship.

The Handbook of Second and Foreign Language Writing meets its goals by providing (i) foundational information on the emergence and subsequent evolution of L2 writing, (ii) state-of-the-art surveys of available theoretical and research (basic and applied) insights, (iii) overviews of research methods in L2 writing research, (iv) critical reflections on future developments, and (iv) explorations of existing and emerging disciplinary interfaces with other fields of inquiry.

It is a highly coherent volume that illuminates the past and opens up future research potential: empirically and theoretically. It does as editors intended by being both (a) a retrospective critical reflection that situates L2 writing research in historical context with past achievements, and (b) a prospective critical analysis of future directions in terms of theory, research, and applications. It is an indispensable resource for all critical students and practitioners of applied linguistics L2 writing research.


Donna Bain Butler, Ph.D., teaches at Delaware State University (2016-present). Her research publications focus on multilingual writers crossing cultures of learning, teaching, and assessment. Her book, Developing International EFL/ESL Scholarly Writers, Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton (2015), contains valid, reliable tools for learning and assessment.

Page Updated: 25-Aug-2017