Cognitive and Linguistic Deficits in Second Language Writing

Hosni El-Dali


The purpose of the present study is twofold. In its theoretical part, it focuses on accounts of L2 acquisition that are cognitive in nature and those that are linguistic in orientation. My discussion of these two accounts is based on the premise that it is perfectly proper for Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research to postulate theories of its own to explain its own area.  It is, also, appropriate for SLA research to take insights and methods from other disciplines when they are useful to it.  In its empirical part, the present study reports on the outcomes of an experiment carried out by the author on (15) second language learners.  The experiment was designed to examine the written output of foreign students enrolled in the English Language Institute at the University of Pittsburg, USA.  It attempts to find answers for the following questions: (1) are students’ errors in grammatical structures, as they will appear in their written output, due to deficiency in their conscious grammar rules, or to deficiency in their abilities to transfer this knowledge (if it exists) to other language tasks such as writing compositions in English?, (2) can conscious rules of grammar guide students’ performance in monitoring (self-correcting) their written output once their attention is drawn to an error?, and (3) what is the role of ‘attention’ in shaping L2 learners’ linguistic behaviors in essay writing, unfocused and focused correction tasks?  The implications of the overall results for current theories of SLA is discussed.


Linguistic approaches to L2 acquisition; Cognitive approaches; Attention, Knowledge representation

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