W. N. Winser, University of Adelaide, Australia.
Shifts in semiotic style among Asian learners of academic writing in English.
The argument that experience is ordered by language (Halliday & Matthiessen, 1999)
can be used to develop a view of students’ experience in learning to write academic
English as a Foreign Language that involves a necessary shift in their construal of
themselves, their studies and of textuality. This argument can be developed in
Hasan’s terms as a change in semiotic style (Cloran et al., 1996) that is likely to be
occasioned by their experiences as students in an English speaking country. The
students’ own Asian cultures’ semiotic style is an important factor for consideration
by those teaching English as a FL, as students are required to master differing
rhetorical and grammatical patterns if they are to succeed in their programmes. The
demands of working in English, which is linguistically quite distant from their
languages (Chinese, Indonesian, Korean), and of living in an English speaking,
Western cultural environment, can be expected to affect their semiotic style in a
discernible way if these theoretical views are valid.
This thesis will be explored within the context of an Australian University, by
providing an outline of possible factors, both contextual and textual, impacting on
graduate students in a number of disciplines, as they approach their writing tasks.
There will be a discussion of supporting data in student written texts across
disciplines including Commerce, Nursing and Gastronomy, at genre and
grammatical levels, and a more specific case study examination of one student’s
experience in writing a short thesis will be presented. The textual data consists first,
of eight postgraduate Diploma and Masters degree short essays written as part of
courses taken in the above disciplines, and second, a succession of drafts of various
sections of a Masters thesis in Gastronomy, written as the final requirement in this
Halliday, M.A.K., & Matthiessen, C.M.M., (1999) Construing experience through meaning,
Cloran, C., Butt, D & Williams, G., (1996) Ways of saying, ways of meaning, London, Cassell.