For many years, linguists, ESL writing teachers, and especially students have puzzled over the phenomenon where non-native English writers' sentences are grammatically correct, but their paragraphs and complete essays often appear illogical to native English speaking readers. From the perspective of Kaplan's original contrastive rhetoric theory where American rhetoric is "linear," Korean L2 writers' apparently circular rhetoric causes problems. Even though Korean writers are trying to write paragraphs that are logical for native English readers, this illogical output results in Korean ESL students being perceived as poor writers. In order to discover more about the nature of the rhetorical problems Korean ESL writers face, this study reports on a close contrastive analysis of a corpus consisting of 25 Freshmen Korean ESL students' unedited, first draft essays and 25 Freshmen native-English speaking American Freshmen's unedited, first draft essays randomly collected from a series of 1st year writing classes at a U.S.-based university. The analysis focused on areas where the logical flow breaks down from a native English reader's perspective. The Topical Structure Analytical approach (TSA), developed by Lautamatti (1987), was used to analyze the data. Results show that both American and Korean Freshmen have difficulty controlling topical subjects and discourse topics in their writing. Instead, they often introduced irrelevant subtopics that did not advance overall topic development, making their writing difficult for general readers to follow. The key finding of the study shows that to overcome these rhetorical weaknesses, both Korean and American Freshmen need to be educated in academic writing regardless of their first language.



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


Document Type





Intercultural Rhetoric, Academic Writing in English, Korean Language, Korean Culture



Included in

Linguistics Commons