Arabic Language Influence on the Iraqi EFL Tertiary Learners’ Use of Grammatical Cohesive Devices in their Argumentative Essays


  • Jasim Mohammed Abbas Universiti Kebangsaan
  • Muhammad Subakir Mohd. Yasin
  • Kemboja Ismail



grammatical cohesion, reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, Arabic rhetoric


This study intends to shed light on the significant role that language rhetoric and cultural differences play in affecting the EFL learners’ written discourse. Thus, it investigates the effects of Arabic language as a mother tongue (L1) on the use of English grammatical cohesive devices in the argumentative essays of 20 Iraqi EFL tertiary students in their third year study in English Department, College of Arts, Al Iraqiya University. By identifying Arabic rhetoric and the cultural differences that are involved in the students’ use of grammatical cohesion, it will be able to determine which types of grammatical cohesion are actually influenced and which are more affected. In addition, it intends to identify the effects of Arabic as L1 through exploring the Iraqi students’ appropriate and inappropriate uses of English grammatical cohesive devices in their argumentative essays. To achieve this, it employed two writing tests: pre and post as well as a background educational questionnaire. First, a background educational questionnaire was administered on 90 students. It included some questions which asked the participants about the usefullness and role of Arabic writing in general and grammatical cohesion in specific in their English essays. Next, a diagnostic test, including two topics, was given to the participants and they were asked to choose one of them in order to write an argumentative essay. The purpose of this test was to elicit information about the students’ ability to use appropriately the different types of grammatical cohesion in their argumentative essays. For post- pre-test, the participants received a training in cohesion and coherence similar to CATW approach in which they were trained, in a whole semester, on way to read a passage critically and make a paraphrase and then write an argumentative essay based on this paraphrasing. At the end of the semester, they sat for a final test in which two reading passages were given to the students and they were asked to write an argumentative based on them. The findings of the two writing tests, based on a qualitative content analysis, indicated that the participants, in the final test, used more appropriate uses of the four types of grammatical devices (reference, substitution, ellipsis and conjunctions). Based on a contrastive analysis, the results also revealed that the influence of Arabic in the pre test was very clear. In contrast, the influence of L1 in the final test was considerably less than that in the pre-test. Additionally, the results of the questionnaire showed that Arabic writing and its grammatical cohesive devices have a big influence on the use of English grammatical devices in the students’ argumentative essays.