A Master of Arts Thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) by Mary Kay Klein Entitled, "AUS Student Writers' Use of Clauses: Support for the Contrastive Rhetoric Hypothesis?," December 2009. Available are both Hard and Soft Copies of the Thesis.
Different theories exist regarding the characteristics of academic writing in English by students of other L1s. In 1966 Robert Kaplan proposed the contrastive rhetoric hypothesis, which has evolved over the years into the theory that L2 writing is culturally influenced by the learned rhetorical norms of the L1. In opposition to contrastive rhetoric stands the developmental hypothesis stating that problems with academic writing in English for students of different L1s are universal and stem from problems with mechanics such as grammar and vocabulary. After a review of the literature on the likely impact of Arabic rhetorical norms on L2 English writing, this paper compares the use of coordination and subordination in the written English of L1 Arabic speakers and L1 English speakers (NES). The data examined is a corpus of argumentative essays written in English by L1 Arabic speaking university students, a second corpus of argumentative essays written in English by L1 French university students, a third corpus of argumentative essays written by university students that are NESs from the US, and finally, a comparison with a corpus created from published academic essays. The ratio of the use of coordinate clauses to subordinate clauses by the different groups of L1 university student writers of English was chosen as a characteristic of the data that might serve as evidence to assess the contrastive rhetoric hypothesis. The results of the examination of the data indicated not only that Arabic L1 student writers use more subordinate than coordinate conjunctions in their argumentative writing in English, but also use more coordinate and subordinate conjunctions than any of the other writer groups examined, including the French L1 student writers. This finding does not support the developmental hypothesis, and lends support to the theory of contrastive rhetoric. The benefits of using corpus linguistics in a process writing approach when teaching academic writing in English to L1 Arabic speakers are discussed.