Text Composition in a Second Language
L1 Transfer or L2 Proficiency?
We investigated the influence of the language of writing (L1 versus L2) and the condition of writing (direct writing vs. writing via translation) on generic (obligatory and compositional) elements and discourse patterns (idea units and speech act functions) of texts composed by L2 writers with different proficiency levels in L2. The novelty of this investigation is the pragmalinguistic analysis of the texts produced by L2 writers. In our analysis, we concentrate on higher levels of text representation. The texts composed by L2 writers are advertisements of products and services. To avoid as much as possible an exercise- and educational effect, we had to find a task that for all participants would be novel but realistic, motivating, and feasible. Writing an advertisement seemed to fulfil these requirements best. A total number of 20 participants engaged in the data collection procedure, ten of whom were short-residence beginners and ten were long-residence advanced L2 users.
Each participant was asked to write three advertisements in the following order of conditions: Directly in Dutch (L2d-text); Directly in Russian (Lid-text) and Translation from Russian into Dutch (L2t-text). We did not look for "reverse" transfer explicitly. However, some evidence was found for a reverse transfer hypothesis in our data, especially for the long-residence group. The results of our study show that advanced L2 writers produced direct Russian texts (Lid-text) with higher total numbers on all analyzed elements than beginning L2 writers. Their texts consist of more idea units and contain a greater variety of speech act functions.Another tendency is that long-residence L2 writers elaborate more in the direct L2 condition than in the L2 translation condition. This finding contradicts the results of the study by Kobayashi (1984), which is surprising because L2 writers elaborate most in the condition in which they had to combine cognitive higher-order processing with lower level grammatical and lexical processing during writing.
Article language: Dutch