A cross-linguistic analysis of the writing of prospective first year students in Xhosa and English

Zannie Bock, Phakamani Dadlana


This article paper aims to characterize typical linguistic and discourse features of academic writing in Xhosa and English among prospective Xhosa-speaking students at the University of the Western Cape so as to account for strengths and weaknesses in the writing and provide possible ‘points’ for pedagogic intervention.  It presents an analysis of a sample of entrance essays written by prospective these students in English and Xhosa. The analysis is in terms of a framework which considers aspects of argument, register and syntax.  The analysisIt aims to highlight strengths and weaknesses in student writing and to ascertain the extent to which these characteristics are language- specific or cross-linguistic.  The results of the analysis suggest that the ability to argue coherently in an appropriate register is the defining mark of good writing in any language, and that control over the syntax of the language is particularly important for these students when writing in English.   The ability to write well, like certain aspects of style, seems to be a generic ability and affects students’ performance in both languages.


Die doel van hierdie artikel is om tipiese linguistiese en diskoerskenmerke van die akademiese skryfwerk in Xhosa en Engels van voornemende Xhosasprekende studente aan die Universiteit van die Wes-Kaap te beskryf.  Hiermee word gepoog om die sterktes en leemtes in die studente se skryfwerk te verantwoord en om bepaalde riglyne vir pedagogiese intervensie te beskryf. Die artikel sluit ‘n analise in van ‘n aantal toegangsessays wat deur hierdie studente in Engels en Xhosa geskryf is. Die analise is gedoen aan die hand van ‘n raamwerk wat aspekte van argumentasie, register en sintaksis in aanmerking neem met die oog daarop om die sterktes en leemtes in studenteskryfwerk uit te lig en om vas te stel tot watter mate hierdie eienskappe taalspesifiek of kruislinguisties is. Die resultaat van die analise dui daarop dat die vermoë om koherent in ‘n bepaalde register te argumenteer die onderskeidende kenmerk is van goeie skryfwerk in enige taal en dat beheer oor die sintaksis van die taal veral belangrik is vir hierdie groep studente as hulle in Engels skryf. Die vermoë om goed te kan skryf blyk, net soos sekere stylaspekte, ‘n generiese vermoë te wees wat studente se prestasie in beide tale beïnvloed.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5785/18-1-8


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