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Issues in Applied Linguistics

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Problematic ESL Content Word Choice in Writing: A Proposed Foundation of Descriptive Categories


Accurate and native-like word choice in writing is an important but problematic area of second language use. This paper presents an analytic foundation for pedagogical research and application which extends beyond the traditional 'superficial' categories of morphosyntactic rule violations and false cognates. Simultaneous 'complementary' analytic categories are proposed: the complexity of understanding word choice in written production entails the incorporation of several relevant theoretical and applied perspectives: lexical-semantics, syntax, text-analysis, pragmatics, language acquisition, cognition and memory, and pedagogical research. This study focuses on the first four as a necessary preliminary step. Major categories of word choice analysis are synthesized from both a theoretical perspective and from an empirical one, with an examination of data from ESL writers. The paper goes on to discuss implications for ESL pedagogy and further research.

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