How do textual features of L2 argumentative essays differ across proficiency levels? A multidimensional cross-sectional study

Jeong eun Kim, Hosung Nam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Using Biber’s (1988) multidimensional analysis, this study investigates textual variation in second language (L2) learners’ writing at different proficiency levels, and attempts to identify any developmental progression. The study used a corpus of 5200 argumentative essays written by 2600 students learning English as an L2. The results indicate that advanced L2 writing is fundamentally different from less advanced L2 writing: Advanced learners’ writing is closer to native speakers’ written discourse, while less advanced learners’ writing is closer to native speakers’ spoken discourse. The patterns of development vary across different sets of textual features. Informational (as opposed to involved) production and impersonal (as opposed to nonimpersonal) style showed gradual development as the learners’ proficiency increases. Nonnarrative (as opposed to narrative) production, elaborated (as opposed to situation-dependent) reference, and overt expression of persuasion did not show significant differences across the proficiency levels. The article offers pedagogical implications for practices of L2 writing instruction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2251-2279
Number of pages29
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov 1



  • Argumentative writing
  • Corpus linguistics
  • Cross-sectional research
  • Mixed-effects model
  • Multidimensional analysis
  • Second language writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

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