Cognitive strategies and second language writers: A re-evaluation of sentence combining

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Despite scant empirical evidence and questionable theoretical support, sentence-combining continues to be one of the most widely used instructional alternatives to formal grammar instruction in second language writing instruction. This study explored the cognitive strategies that second language writers engaged in during sentence-combining tasks in order to determine: 1) the cognitive demands of sentence-combining tasks, 2) if different types of sentence-combining tasks require different levels of cognitive strategies, and 3) the extent to which sentence-combining tasks require second language writers to attend to aspects of cohesion and evaluation. Nine advanced-level second language writers participated in think-aloud protocols (Ericsson & Simon, 1980, 1984) as they completed both controlled and open sentence-combining tasks. The protocols were analyzed according to the type of cognitive strategies used during sentence-combining tasks. The results showed that these second language writers engaged in restating content, constructing meaning, and higher and lower-level planning as they completed sentence-combining tasks. Between-task comparisons indicated that open sentence-combining tasks required significantly more higher-level planning than controlled sentence-combining tasks. Finally, these second language writers evaluated the appropriateness of their constructions but did not attend to aspects of cohesion during sentence-combining tasks. Relevant theoretical and pedagogical implications for second language writing instruction ore discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-75
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Second Language Writing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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