A Study on Cohesive Devices in the Writing Samples of Advanced Persian Learners

Document Type : Research Paper


1 PhD student in Genaral Linguistics, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran

2 Corresponding author, Assistant professor, Department of Persian Language and Literature and Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran



Cohesive devices play an integral role in creating fluent and integrated texts. According to a recent approach presented by Halliday and Matthiessen, systematic functional grammar, which was adopted in this study, divides cohesive devices into two categories, namely, grammatical and lexical. The purpose of the present study was to compare the use of cohesive devices in the advanced level learners’ writing samples at two teaching Persian centers in Mashhad, including teaching Persian to non-Persian learners at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad and Al-Mustafa Al-Alamieh. Overall, 200 writing samples were collected and analyzed. All advanced level learners in both centers participated in this study. Learner's gender was also taken into account. In order to analyze the significant difference between variables, the collected data were entered into the SPSS software (Version 23) and T-test was applied. The results of the study revealed that, the average use of repetition and reference that are related to lexical and grammatical categories were used more than the other cohesive devices in both institutes. The average use of hyponymy and metonym was low. Of all types of grammatical devices, reference was the most frequent and the least frequent were ellipsis and substitution; In addition, it was observed that there was a significant difference between performance of Persian learners in applying of some cohesive devices such as substitution and ellipsis, reference, metonym, hyponymy, and synonym; also there was a significant difference between male and female participants; in other words, females applied cohesive devices more frequently than their male counterparts.
Extended Abstract:
Cohesive devices play an integral role in creating fluent and integrated texts. Texts can be presented in both spoken and written forms. A text is defined as any kind of language presented in any medium that might be meaningful for those who are familiar with that specific language (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014, P. 3). According to Halliday and Matthiessen, (2014) systematic functional grammar focused most on text and clause which were analyzed as the main elements present in a text. Clause is defined as a unit where different kinds of meaning such as experimental, interpersonal and textual are unified into a singlesyntagm (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014, p. 74). Most elements of a clause structure serve more than one function in the clause and this is what Halliday and Matthiessen (2014) have called metafunction. In cohesive systems, there are different types of devices which make it possible for the existing constituents in the text to inter-connect with various parts of the clause in any distance from each other. Cohesive system is built around two categories: namely, 1. grammatical devices including conjunctions, reference and ellipsis, and 2. lexical devices including repetition, synonymy, antonym, hyponymy, meronym, and collocation. In any type of text, opinions and ideas should be organized and presented in a cohesive fashion in order to be comprehended better by the audience. So, cohesive devices are inevitable elements in texts which assist readers to understand a text. These devices are applied in different language learning skills and writing is one of those skills which creates great obstacles for language learners; if learners do not have enough information regarding how to use them, they will face many problems in conveying their ideas and thoughts. Although numerous researches have been conducted on cohesive devices in different fields of study and on different genres of writing; however, to the best of the authors of the present article, no research has been done on comparing the use of cohesive devices by non-native Persian learners studying at teaching Persian to non-Persian learners’ centers in Mashhad. By shedding light on this matter, the authors hope to create awareness raising regarding the correct usage of cohesive devices and promote the overall quality of writing among Persian learners in Mashhad. All in all, the purpose established for the present study was twofold: 1. Toanalyze pieces of writings written by advanced level Persian language learners in order to see how they apply cohesive devices (both grammatical and lexical) in their writings, and 2. To compare the two major teaching Persian language to non-native Persian learners’ centers in Mashhad. To do so, Halliday and Matthiessen’s (2014) systematic functional approach was applied for analyzing the data and the analysis of cohesive devices was done according to logical function. The study samples in the present study included 200 pieces of writings written by advanced level Persian learners who were graduating from Ferdowsi University of Mashhad’s teaching Persian language to non-native Persian learners’ center and Al-Mustafa Al-Alamieh’s teaching Persian language to non-native Persian learners’ center. These are the two main Teaching Persian centers in the city of Mashhad. These participants took part in a final exam in order to graduate. The final exam followed the main structure of the TOEFL exam. The advanced level learners were selected so as to make sure the learners were familiar enough with cohesive devices, text organization and presentation of ideas in texts. 100 writing samples were gathered from each institute (overall total of 200 writings). The study sample included all advanced level learners in both centers and so the study sample equaled the statistical population. Also, gender was the only variable that was taken into account. In other words, 50 samples were written by males and 50 written by females in each institute. The data was gathered in December 2019 and word limitation was also considered in data selection. Each text included 150 to 250 words which was the general requirement of the final exam. During data collection, the participants were asked to explain and elaborate on a topic of the same genre in both institutes. The data was collected, coded and then analyzed through the Statistical Package for social Sciences (SPSS) software (version 23).  A T-test (unpaired sample) was used to check the differences between dependent and independent variables. The collected data was analyzed twice in a month to check intra-rater reliability which was checked though the use of Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. The test results showed acceptable intra-rater reliability. Based on the results, learners in both institutes followed the same pattern in application of cohesive devices. Namely, repetition was found to be the most frequent kind of lexical devices and hyponym and meronym were the least used ones. Of all types of grammatical devices, reference was the most frequent and the least frequent ones were ellipsis and substitution; in addition, T-test results showed that there was a significant difference in applying cohesive devices between the writing samples in the two Persian language teaching centers (ellipsis and substitution, reference, hyponymy, meronym and synonym). The results revealed that although learners were at the same level they did not possess the same level of mastery over lexical and grammatical categories. The advanced level Persian learners at Al-Mustafa outperformed their counterparts at the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad’s teaching Persian to non-Persian center. Finally, the results of the present study revealed that there was a significant difference between gender and application of some cohesive devices such as antonym, reference, and conjunction; in other words, female Persian learners used cohesive devices more than their male counterparts. It is suggested that the non-Persian learners' teaching materials encompass a specific section regarding the importance of cohesive devices and their correct application in Persian.



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