Implementation of Communication Strategies for Lexical Difficulties in Writing Production

Thamer Alharthi


Learning vocabulary is undeniably a key requirement for being successful in language learning. The lexicon therefore is an integral part of writing successful compositions, without which they become rather meaningless. In spite of this dynamic link, research in this field seems rather lacking in many shapes and forms; partly because of the inextricable link between vocabulary and reading and partly because of the relationship between learners’ communication strategies and vocabulary use to the extent current research overshadows that in vocabulary use in writing. This paper aims to classify the problems writers of English as a Foreign Language face, adopting a model proposed by Hemmati (2001) which follows Chomsky’s distinction between performance and competence errors. A study was carried out with thirty-one final year English students who were asked to write an argumentative essay, followed by oral retrospective interviews on their writing of the essay. The frequency of certain lexical problems varied according to the writing output the students were assigned, e.g. lexical gaps, mastery of aspects of known words and retrieval of word aspect problems in L2 writing. With regard to communication strategy, the study participants reported the use of such a strategy by following an order of preferences, e.g. prioritizing paraphrase, followed by circumlocution, then message replacement, and then body language. Significant correlations were found between participants’ lexical proficiency and the frequency of types of lexical problem they experienced as well as their particular choice of communication strategies. The paper ends by discussing the pedagogical and research implications of the study.

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