Chinese Indirection and Thematic Progression in Chinese ESL Writing

Lorrita Ngor To Yeung


This study investigates how problems of thematic progression in Chinese ESL writing are attributable to differences in thematic development in Chinese and English.  Articles written by thirty English expert writers and thirty Chinese expert writers as well as essays written by thirty advanced ESL learners were closely analyzed.  Textual evidence shows that thematic development is quite often differently executed in Chinese and English. Comparative textual analysis and editing according to English conventions also indicate that Chinese ESL learners have their own ways of thematizing discourse, putting emphasis and using connectives in ways unexpected by English native speakers. These features, often found disrupting the flow of Chinese ESL texts, can be traced to conventions of topicalization in Chinese, which may in turn be accounted for by cognitive and cultural reasons, rather than just developmental factors.  Peculiarities in Chinese ESL thematization may well contribute to the impression of indirection and opacity of their writing.


thematic progression, ESL writing, problems of fluency, L1 influence, differences in thematic development in English and Chinese

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