Writing Conversations: Exploring How Metalinguistic Understanding Fosters Young ESL Learners’ Writing in Classrooms


The purpose of this article has two main objectives: firstly, to investigate and identify the syntactic structures employed by young ESL writers in their compositions; and secondly, to explore how ESL writers’ metalinguistic understanding of syntactical construction affect their writing. The study involved the analysis of essays from 92 ESL secondary students of advanced and intermediate proficiency levels. A manual linguistic analysis was conducted, utilizing a coding framework that assessed various syntactic complexity features at the sentence, clause, and phrase levels. The second set of data was obtained from semi-structured interviews and elicitation task with 12 students, chosen from the corpus sample. The results revealed a consistent pattern among advanced writers, characterized by a higher frequency of relative clauses, finite subordinate clauses, prepositional phrases, coordinate phrases, and adverbials as sentence openers. Despite inferential statistics suggesting a potential developmental pattern, a detailed examination of students' essays indicated that conceptualizing and measuring syntactic complexity solely based on the presence of specific syntactic features might be insufficient. The in-depth analysis showed that certain features, such as minor sentences, could not be adequately captured using the syntactic complexity measures employed in many prior studies. Additionally, the elicitation tasks also revealed that students’ metalinguistic understanding of syntactical construction does affect their writing, which suggest explicit teaching of syntactical constructions and varied sentence structures could enable more effective written communication.

Author Information
Nur Najla Zainal Anuar, Rabdan Academy, United Arab Emirates

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2023
Stream: Foreign Languages Education & Applied Linguistics (including ESL/TESL/TEFL)

This paper is part of the ACE2023 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Anuar N. (2024) Writing Conversations: Exploring How Metalinguistic Understanding Fosters Young ESL Learners’ Writing in Classrooms ISSN: 2186-5892 The Asian Conference on Education 2023: Official Conference Proceedings https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2186-5892.2024.136
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2186-5892.2024.136

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