Teachers College, Columbia University Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics, Vol 8, No 2 (2008)

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Knowing Your Reader: Text-External Influences on Textual Features in Résumé Construction

Drew S. Fagan

Abstract


In the field of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), great importance has often been placed on using language in authentic ways. As a result of the inability of many second language (L2) students to construct and adapt language for various academic and professional needs (St. John, 1996), genre analysis has gained attention as a framework for teaching ESL students to write texts they way they are constructed in authentic situations. However, the lack of empiricallyderived discipline-specific genre exemplars to practically utilize in the L2 writing classroom has prompted the need for (a) further analysis of various texts found outside of the classroom setting and (b) an investigation into how language is manipulated to meet the purposes of those texts. Following Bhatia’s (2008) and Cheng’s (2008) notions that students need to have practical genre exemplars to aid them in understanding how text-external influences (e.g., the purpose for writing and the reader’s expectations) affect linguistic choices, the focus of this paper is to demonstrate
how one type of professional text, the résumé, is constructed using a genre-based framework. The analysis follows a genre perspective of analyzing texts both linguistically, based on the English for Specific Purposes school of genre, and contextually, from the New Rhetoric school. In constructing this specific text, the writer's understanding of text-external influences, namely expectations the hiring company has for the desired applicant, was essential for the development of
organizational patterns and lexical construction of their résumés. This study highlights the importance of having not only an understanding of the linguistic knowledge needed to construct various texts, but also of the text-external influences on those linguistic choices.

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