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1.1 Background to the Study
Students often present their writings with lots of problems especially in the use of cohesive devices which most of the time serves as a barrier to the understanding of the essays written by students especially in academia. They need to be encouraged to ensure text flow through sequence of sentences, as this a criterion in the evaluation of academic writing. Writers should be directed to the ideas they wish to express, as well as the sentences they use to express those ideas (Holloway, 1981&Supong, 2010, Smith, 1988). Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines cohesive as an adjective, connected or related in a reasonable way to form a whole .Akindele (2011), Halliday and Hassan (1976), van Dijk (1992) is of the view that “cohesive devices are concerned with the principles of connectivity which bind a text together and force co-interpretation. Akindele (2011) added that linguistic analysis is interested in analysing sentence sequences in order to understand how meanings reflect mutual dependence in a text. It is generally believed that a text whether written or spoken is only meaningful when the various segments are brought together to make a unified whole.” This research work is aimed at evaluating a second language user’s ability in the use of English language to select appropriate grammatical and lexical devices for effective communication and formation of coherent text. Halliday and Hassan (1976) identified three functions of language. These are ideational, interpersonal and the textual functions.
This study focuses on the Use of Cohesive Devices in the writings of tertiary Students. In recent years, researches have given considerable attention to how tertiary institution students
actually write and what problems they usually encounter in their writing. The Publication of Halliday and Hassan’s Cohesion in English (1976) has stimulated effect of cohesion in text. Jose (2003:147) looks at cohesion as a means of improving teaching and testing writing, and Witte and Folgly (1960) use cohesion to characterize and rate compositions as high or low. The effects of cohesive devices on text comprehension and recall are investigated by Irwin (1980), while Tierney and Mosenthal (1981) examined causality relations between cohesion and coherence. .
In an attempt to understand Halliday’s systems and its implications, the researcher decided to investigate and find out whether cohesive devices play the same role in the three types of writings viz narratives, expository and argumentative, and also to establish whether these different kinds of texts make deference with regards to the relationship in function among cohesive devices. The researcher also sees cohesive devices to refer to those ties that make certain text readable and understandable which creates meaning relations. The understanding of how cohesive device creates meaning relations cannot be established without looking at cohesion and coherence and their relevancies in text; therefore, the role of cohesion and coherence would be clearly discussed especially as they relate to a particular form of writing. The term cohesion as seen by IIdiko (2008:20) involves “properties of text that contribute to the organization of discourse”. It refers to the connectedness of the surface elements in the text. Cohesive elements can be a word or a sentence structure and may or may not be adjacent to one another in the text. Cohesive devices can be categorized and counted. Writing research on cohesion and cohesive device is still in fairly basic stage, despite a huge number of studies which have appeared as shown above.
When students present their ideas in writing task, especially academic writing, they are encouraged to ensure a text flow through sequence of sentences, as this is criterion in the
evaluation of academic writing. Thus, writers should be directed to the ideas they wish to express, as well as sentences they use to express those ideas (Holloway, 1981). Sentences need to be connected to each other; if ideas or sentences are juxtaposed without being related to one another, it will be difficult or impossible for any reader to understand the sequence (Brostoff,& Leach,1981). To enhance the connectedness of sentences in a text, writers may use cohesion to join ideas between sentences to create texture (Halliday and Hassan: 1976:7). To help students achieve cohesion in their writing, tertiary institutions’ students need to be properly guided in learning and in the application of cohesive devices in their writings. Studies of cohesion in reading have shown that cohesion makes substantial contribution to readability, and this is the reason why cohesion studies are of interest (Irwin,1980).Two important studies, one by British scholar John and one that by Irwin, make clear the importance of cohesion to reading and comprehending. The findings demonstrated that the perception of cohesive relations in text develops overtime as students mature as readers.
Coherence on the other hand is seen as a property of text, focusing on the formal criteria that distinguishes text from non-text. Hellinan (1995) describes coherence as “a discourse processing concept”. The coherence structure of the text can be captured by looking at the relations between text parts. Coherence relations are classified in to subject matter (semantics or idealized) and presentational (pragmatics or interpersonal) relations depending on the source of the relations (Taboda & Mann, 2006). One of the widely explored subfield of second language writing is the construct of coherence. As one of the essential criteria for assessing writing, coherence has been regarded as a subjective and hazy concept which is hard to learn and teach (Crew, 1990& Lee, 2002).
The above discussion throws light on the importance of cohesive devices to language
development. Students in tertiary institutions are bound to encounter problems in the writing
situations in the formation of text. Therefore, this study aims at finding out the use of cohesive
devices in the writings of tertiary institutions’ students of Adamu Augie college of Education,
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The researcher has observed from every day writings of students of Adamu Augie college of Education, Argungu that students appear to be commonly guilty of certain errors emanating from the poor or in proper use of cohesive devices which in turn ends in the formation of in coherent discourse. Crew (1990) in Yina (1992) identified two problems with regards to incoherent writing that most tertiary students have. “One is using numerous connectives without discerning the semantic difference among them such as using “on the contrary” for “however”. Some writers tend to use connectives to maintain surface logicality in their writing. Sentences need to be connected to each other: if Ideas or sentences are simply juxtaposed without being related to one another, it will be difficult or impossible for the reader to understand the sequence of any discourse (Brostoff &Leach (1981): Inability of the students to differentiate the Semantic usage of such cohesive elements as ‘between’, ‘among’, ‘after’, as in he shared the mangoes between Ladi, Aisha, Ibrahim, and John, between each holidays there is an irritating delay. The man sat among husband and wife. Another problem as also identified by Yina (1992) is repetitive use of such connectors with similar function or meaning. Students tend to use although and but in the same sentence, likewise the use of ‘still’ and ‘yet’, ‘so’ and ‘therefore’, ‘but’ and ‘yet.’
Students tend to shift pronoun in their writing which may cause problem to the realisation of which antecedents is referred to by the reference material as in: The man who tried to arrest Ojukwu during the civil war was General Johnson. He employed strategic process to catch him, Although they tried their best he could but remained unsuccessful to arrest the man. It is these types of problems (errors) that validate the need to investigate in to the use of cohesive devices in students’ written discourse. The problems is that students of Adamu Augie College of
Education often display a complete lack of knowledge of the way in which elements in discourse (text) are hanged together to provide an intelligible discourse.
The researcher is moved by the second view because in most of students’ writings one can realise that the use of cohesive devices for proper communication is only maintained at the surface level. It is a fact that is demonstrated above that proper connectedness of sentences will provide an effective clue in the understanding of the text by the reader. Such readers will then tend to provide feedback with regards to the read text. To enhance the connectedness of sentences in text, writers may use cohesion via cohesive devices to join ideas between sentences to create texture (Halliday and Hassan: 1976). Therefore, the researcher considers this research work to be of great significance to both students and writers of English language.
1.3 Objectives of the Research
The objectives of this study are to find out:
1. the type of cohesive devices use by students in writing a narrative essay.
2. the type of cohesive devices use by students in expository writing.
3. the type of cohesive devices use by students in argumentative writing.
4. whether the cohesive devices use in argumentative, expository and narrative essays are different from each other.
5. the problems encountered by students in the use of cohesive devices in the three types of essay.
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