Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Teaching and Learning (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

D. Mary A. Avalos

Second Committee Member

Arlene Clachar

Third Committee Member

Randall Penfield

Fourth Committee Member

Mary Faraci


The growth of multicultural and multilingual student populations in community colleges has presented difficulties for instructors who teach academic writing. This study was motivated by the desire to understand the challenges faced by novice writers from diverse ethnolinguistic backgrounds, African-American, Haitian, and Hispanic, in a South Florida community college as they grappled with the register features which defined academic writing. One major challenge has been the tendency to transfer the register feature of clause structure typical of speech into academic texts. An analysis of clause structures using writing samples collected from 45 community-college students, 15 from African-American, Haitian and Hispanic students respectively, showed the degree to which the students relied on their speech by using hypotactic and paratactic clauses instead of the main and embedded clauses characteristic of the written academic register The study has expanded on previous research which had focused on native versus nonnative English speakers (ESL) in English-language programs, by including African American students who are speakers of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and, therefore, speak English as a second dialect (ESD) as well as Generation 1.5 students (Haitian and Hispanic), who have command of conversational English, come to the U.S. as first or second generation immigrants, and graduated from U.S. high schools, but they lack the written academic skills to perform at the college level. A challenge faced by African American AAVE speakers is that the dialect occurs predominantly in spoken discourse, and students may go to school without any exposure to written discourse in their home language. On the other hand, many Generation 1.5 students such as Haitians and Hispanics speak native languages, which have standardized orthographies, and these students may go to school having been exposed to register features of written discourse in Haitian Creole (or French) and Spanish.


Registers; Systemic Functional Linguistics; Clause Structures; Hypotactic; Paratactic; Main; Embedded; AAVE; Generation 1.5