Challenges in the Use of Discourse Markers in English as Second Language (ESL) Writing: Evidence from Selected Grade Twelve Pupils in Kitwe District, Zambia

Clara Mulenga Mumbi, John Simwinga


The role of discourse markers (DMs) in English text production and comprehension has long been recognized to the extent that in Zambia, where English is taught and used as a second language (ESL), these linguistic entities constitute specific teaching/learning topics at both Junior and Senior Secondary School levels in the country. The expectation is that by the end of Senior Secondary School pupils are able to use these units competently resulting in the production of coherent pieces of discourse. The purpose of this study was to examine challenges experienced in the use of DMs in composition writing by a sample of 150 Grade Twelve (G12) ESL learners selected from three secondary schools in Kitwe district, Zambia in the 2014 academic year. The data were collected from 300 scripts comprising two samples of written pieces of discourse produced by each of the 150 pupils. The researcher employed a descriptive research design with text analysis as a specific research approach based on the perspective of written discourse as a rule-structured object or product of a completed activity. A four-stage qualitative approach was applied in data analysis, guided by Fraser’s (1999) taxonomy of discourse markers, involving marking and scoring out of 20 each of the 300 scripts, locating the DMs used in each of the 300 scripts, classifying each of the DMS according to its communicative function as either propositional or non-propositional and, finally, identification and cataloging of instances of inappropriate uses of DMs as a reflection of the challenges experienced. The findings indicate that participants experience a multiplicity of challenges in the use of DMs. The study concluded with specific recommendations for both pedagogy and further research.


ESL, Writing, Discourse Markers, Grade Twelve Pupils.

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