Cognitive Predictors of Coherence in Adult ESL Learners’ Writing

Keywords: Coherence, second language writing, predictors of writing quality


Background. Coherence is considered one of the most important qualities of written discourse. Despite its fundamental importance, it is still considered a fuzzy and abstract concept in most English Second Language (ESL) contexts. Consequently, many ESL learners struggle to produce a coherent text. Morphological, phonological, orthographic awareness, vocabulary knowledge, and grammatical competence have been identified as predictors of writing quality in novice writers. There is, however, a lack of data to assess whether such linguistic skills also predict coherence in adult ESL learners’ writing.

Purpose. The purpose of the study was to find out the relationships among a set of linguistic skills measures which included morphological, phonological, orthographic awareness, vocabulary knowledge and grammatical competence and coherence in adult ESL learners’ writing.  

Methods. To testify to the potential predictors of coherence in ESL writing, adult university students (126) were assessed by the measures of the linguistic skills mentioned above in addition to four measures of coherence: two relatively reader-based measures (ILETS and the Holistic Coherence Scale) and two relatively text-based measures (Topical Structure Analysis and Topic Based Analysis). All measures of the study were proved valid and reliable.

Results. The findings revealed that vocabulary knowledge, morphological awareness, and grammatical competence were related to the coherence measures, particularly the reader-based measures. In contrast, measures of phonological and orthographic awareness generally did not correlate with the coherence measures.

Implication. Reasons for the associations among the variables of the study were discussed and areas for future research were offered.


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How to Cite
SaeedA., EverattJ., SadeghiA., & MunirA. (2022). Cognitive Predictors of Coherence in Adult ESL Learners’ Writing. Journal of Language and Education, 8(3), 106-118.