Construing CSL Writing as Meaning-Making: A Genre-Based Approach

  • Fei-Wen ChengEmail author
Part of the Educational Linguistics book series (EDUL, volume 31)


Although a genre approach to writing instruction has emerged as the most widely advocated pedagogy in second language (L2) writing instruction, little empirical research has examined its effects on Chinese as a Second Language (CSL) writing. The purpose of this study is thus to address this research gap by examining the effects of a Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) approach to genre instruction on the textual quality of CSL writing. This approach is taken as the instructional framework due to its emphasis on explicit awareness of language as learning to write. This pedagogical approach was implemented in two CSL courses at tertiary level and the primary data consist of 32 essays and 16 students’ responses to an evaluation questionnaire on this pedagogical approach. The quantitative analysis shows that writers of pre-intermediate level made statistically significant progress in terms of content, organization, word choice and grammar, as evident in the differences between the scores in the pre- and post-test essays. Most participants indicated positive response to the evaluation questionnaire with regard to the effectiveness of this approach in enhancing their Chinese writing competence. The findings suggest that instruction based on this approach may hold great potential for enhancing students’ genre awareness and subsequent writing quality.


  1. Achugar, M., & Colombi, M. C. (2008). Systemic functional linguistic explorations into the longitudinal study of advanced capacities: The case of Spanish heritage language learners. In L. Ortega & H. Byrnes (Eds.), The longitudinal study of advanced L2 capacities (pp. 36–57). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Bassetti, B. (2005). Effects of writing systems on second language awareness: Word awareness in English learners of Chinese as a foreign language. In V. Cook & B. Bassetti (Eds.), Second language writing systems (pp. 335–356). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  3. Bourke, J. (2005). The grammar we teach. Reflections on English Language Teaching, 4, 85–97.Google Scholar
  4. Byrnes, H. (2009). Emergent L2 German writing ability in a curricular context: A longitudinal study of grammatical metaphor. Linguistics and Education, 20, 50–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Byrnes, H. (2013). Positioning writing as meaning-making in writing research: A introduction. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22, 95–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Caffarel, A. (2006). Learning advanced French through SFL: Learning SFL in French. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Advanced language learning: The contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 204–224). London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  7. Chen, C.-Y., & Shi, M.-L. (1999). A note on NP-topics in second language acquisition of Chinese. Studies in English Literature and Linguistics, 25, 133–157.Google Scholar
  8. Chen, H.-C., Hsu, C.-C., Chang, L.-Y., Lin, Y.-C., Chang, K.-E., & Sung, Y.-T. (2013). Using radical-derived character E-learning platform to increase learner knowledge of Chinese characters. Language, Learning and Technology, 17, 89–108.Google Scholar
  9. Cheng, F.-W. (2008). Scaffolding language, scaffolding writing: A genre approach to teach narrative writing. Asian EFL Journal, 10, 167–191.Google Scholar
  10. Colombi, M. C. (2002). Academic language development in Latino students’ writing in Spanish. In M. J. Schleppegrell & M. C. Colombi (Eds.), Developing advanced literacy in first and second languages: Meaning with power (pp. 67–86). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  11. Colombi, M. C. (2009). A systemic functional approach to teaching Spanish for heritage speakers in the United States. Linguistics and Education, 20, 39–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cumming, A. (1990). Metalinguistic and ideational thinking in second language composing. Written Communication, 7, 482–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duff, P. A., & Li, D. (2002). The acquisition and use of perfective aspect in Mandarin. In R. Salaberry & Y. Shirai (Eds.), Tense-aspect morphology in L2 acquisition (pp. 417–453). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gebhard, M., Chen, I.-A., Graham, H., & Gunwan, W. (2013). Teaching to mean, writing to mean: SFL, L2 literacy, and teacher education. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22, 107–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gebhard, M., Chen, I.-A., & Britton, L. (2014). “Miss, nominalization is a nominalization:” English language learners’ use of SFL metalanguage and their literacy practices. Linguistics and Education, 26, 106–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Halliday, M. A. K. (1994). An introduction to functional grammar (2nd ed.). London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar
  17. Halliday, M. A. K., & Matthiessen, C. (2014). Halliday’s introduction to functional grammar. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Harklau, L. (2002). The role of writing in classroom second language acquisition. Journal of Second Language Writing, 11, 329–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harman, R. (2013). Literary intertextuality in genre-based pedagogies: Building lexical cohesion in fifth-grade L2 writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22, 125–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Huang, J., & Mohan, B. (2009). A functional approach to integrated assessment of teacher support and student discourse development in an elementary Chinese program. Linguistics and Education, 20, 22–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kuo, J. Y., Wu, J.-S., & Chung, S.-C. (2011). Computer assisted learning of Chinese shape classifiers. Journal of Chinese Language Teaching, 8, 99–122.Google Scholar
  22. Leki, I. (2009). Preface. In R. Manchon (Ed.), Writing in foreign language contexts: Learning, teaching, and research (pp. xiii–xxvi). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  23. Liardét, C. L. (2013). An exploration of Chinese EFL learner’s deployment of grammatical metaphor: Learning to make academically valued meanings. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22, 161–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Macken-Horarik, M. (2002). “Something to shoot for”: A systemic functional approach to teaching genre in secondary school science. In A. M. Johns (Ed.), Genre in the classroom: Multiple perspectives (pp. 17–42). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  25. Macken-Horarik, M. (2008). A “good enough” grammatics: Developing an effective metalanguage for school English in an era or multiliteracies. In C. Wu, C. Matthiessen, & M. Herke (Eds.), Proceedings of the ISFC 35: Voices around the world (pp. 43–48). Sydney: 35th ISFC Organizing Committee.Google Scholar
  26. Macken-Horarik, M., Love, K., & Unsworth, L. (2001). A grammatics “good enough” for school English in the 21st century. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 34, 9–23.Google Scholar
  27. Macken-Horarik, M., Sandiford, C., Love, K., & Unsworth, L. (2015). New ways of working ‘with grammar in mind’ in School English: Insights from systemic functional grammatics. Linguistics and Education, 26, 145–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Manchón, R. M. (2009). Broadening the perspective of L2 writing scholarship: The contribution of research on foreign language writing. In R. M. Manchón (Ed.), Writing in foreign language contexts: Learning, teaching, and research (pp. 1–19). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  29. Manchón, R. M. (Ed.). (2011a). Learning-to-write and writing-to-learn in an additional language. Philadelphia/Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  30. Manchón, R. M. (2011b). Situating the learning-to-write and writing-to-learn dimensions of L2 writing. In R. M. Manchón (Ed.), Learning-to-write and writing-to-learn in an additional language (pp. 3–14). Philadelphia/Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Manchón, R. M. (2011c). Writing to learn the language: Issues in theory and research. In R. M. Manchón (Ed.), Learning-to-write and writing-to-learn in an additional language (pp. 61–82). Philadelphia/Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Martin, J. (2009). Genre and language learning: A social semiotic perspective. Linguistics and Education, 20, 10–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mohan, B., & Huang, J. (2002). Assessing the integration of language and content in a Mandarin as a foreign language classroom. Linguistics and Education, 13, 405–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moore, J., & Schleppegrell, M. (2014). Using a functional linguistics metalanguage to support academic language development in the English Language Arts. Linguistics and Education, 26, 92–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ortega, L. (2012). Epilogue: Exploring L2 writing-SLA interfaces. Journal of Second Language Writing, 21, 404–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Polias, J., & Dare, B. (2006). Towards a pedagogical grammar. In R. Whittaker, M. O’Donnell, & A. McCabe (Eds.), Language and literacy: Functional approaches (pp. 123–143). London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  37. Ryshina-Pankova, M. (2006). Creating textual words in advanced learner writing. The role of complex theme. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Advanced language learning: The contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 164–183). London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  38. Ryshina-Pankova, M. (2015). A meaning-based approach to the study of complexity in L2 writing: The case of grammatical metaphor. Journal of Second Language Writing, 29, 51–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ryshina-Pankova, M., & Byrnes, H. (2013). Writing as learning to know: Tracing knowledge construction in L2 German compositions. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22, 179–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schleppegrell, M. J. (2004). The language of schooling: A functional linguistics perspective. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbuam.Google Scholar
  41. Shen, H., & Ke, C. (2007). Radical awareness and word acquisition among non-native learners of Chinese. Modern Language Journal, 91, 97–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Swain, M., & Lakpin, S. (1995). Problems in output and the cognitive processes they generate: A step toward second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 16, 371–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tardy, C. M. (2009). Building genre knowledge. West Lafayette: Parlor Press.Google Scholar
  44. Teruya, K. (2006). Grammar as a resource for the construction of language logic for advanced language learning in Japanese. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Advanced language learning: The contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 109–133). London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  45. Teruya, K. (2009). Grammar as a gateway into discourse: A systemic functional approach to SUBJECT, THEME, and logic. Linguistics and Education, 20, 67–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Troyan, F. J. (2014). Leveraging genre theory: A genre-based interactive model for the era of the common core state standards. Foreign Language Annals, 47, 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tsai, C.-H., Kuo, C.-H., Horng, W.-B., & Chen, C.-W. (2012). Effects on learning logographic character formation in computer-assisted handwriting instruction. Language, Learning and Technology, 16(1), 110–130.Google Scholar
  48. Urquhart, S., & Weir, C. J. (1998). Reading in a second language: Process, product, and practice. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  49. Wang, M., Perfetti, C., & Liu, Y. (2003). Alphabetic readers quickly acquire orthographic structure in learning to read Chinese. Scientific Studies of Reading, 7, 183–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wee, L.-H. (2007). Unraveling the relation between Mandarin tones and musical melody. Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 35, 128–144.Google Scholar
  51. Weissberg, R. (2008). Critiquing Vygotskian approach to L2 literacy. In D. Belcher & A. Hirvela (Eds.), The oral-literate connection (pp. 26–45). Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  52. Williams, J. (2012). The potential role(s) of writing in second language development. Journal of Second Language Writing, 21, 321–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Yasuda, S. (2015). Exploring changes in FL writers’ meaning-making choices in summary writing: A systemic functional approach. Journal of Second Language Writing, 27, 105–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Foreign Languages DepartmentNational Chiayi UniversityChiayi CountyTaiwan

Personalised recommendations