Contrastive rhetoric, RB Kaplan

Tags: TESOL-FRANCE, English, students, text organization, contrastive rhetoric, America, student text, textual features, student texts, professional chemist, speakers, linguistic resources, Hebrew versions, German versions, vocabulary knowledge, speaker, outline, the writing process, speakers of other languages, written text, acceptable evidence, mathematical logic, text genres, text argument, discourse unit, compositional skills, language and thought, Contrastive Rhetoric Robert B. Kaplan
Content: 21
2. Contrastive Rhetoric Robert B. Kaplan
This chapter begins by discussing the concept and origins of the term contrastive rhetoric. In a brief description of the writing process, the questions of appropriate topics, acceptable evidence and effective organization are discussed and culturally and linguistically specific ways of describing the world are described. A model for the writing process is presented, focussing on the impact of author, content, audience, purpose, time, place and genre of the writing situation. Finally, effective and ineffective examples of written English are presented and analyzed.
Introduction hat is contrastive rhetoric? Partly based on Whorfian ideas of the relationship between language and thought, it is an hypothesis claiming that (while mathematical logic may be universal) the logic expressed through the organization of written text is culture-specific; that is, it posits that speakers of two different languages will organize the same reality in different ways (Kaplan, 1988; 1987). That they should do so seems self-evident, because different languages provide different resources for organizing text. However, this filtering of text logic through language is largely unconscious; that is, learners of an L2: are not aware of the way in which their Ll influences the way they organize text logic, are not aware of the way in which an L2 organizes text logic, and are not aware that there is a difference. As Kellerman notes, "Coping with new ways of 'thinking for speaking [or writing an L2] ... ' means attending to features of context that are either not relevant or are defined differently in the native language... " (1995: 141). Initially, the idea underlying contrastive rhetoric arose from practical daily experiences of L2 writing teachers, who can, with astonishing accuracy, identify the first language of students writing in the L2 on the basis of the way in which they structure their texts. Christensen (1967) devised an outline-like
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methodology for examining the way in which propositions were related to each other in text. Kaplan (1966) applied that analytic mechanism to texts written in English by speakers of other languages to show that such writers organized their texts differently; he extended the analytic technique to a pedagogical method to help students become conscious of these differences. He believed that, if students could see differences between the way they organized text in their L 1 and the way "typical" English texts were organized, they could more closely approximate the text logic-the propositional relationships---{;haracteristic of English. Admittedly, the earliest work in contrastive rhetoric was significantly flawed, attempting to compare student writing in L2 with professional writing in Ll, ignoring differences in genre, and assuming that there was a single "general" text-logical structure for English. Subsequent research has demonstrated these flaws (Leki, 1991). Much recent work has concentrated on contrastive studies between two specific languages in which the constant was English text-logic and the variable was the text-logic of another language; there has now been fairly extensive study of English and some other languages (for which, see e.g., Kaplan, et al., 1983; Connor and Kaplan, 1987; Purves, 1988). More recent work, rather than attempting to generalize across genres, has focused on particular text genres (e.g., Cantor, 1994; Kaplan, et al., 1994; Lux, 1991; Mauranen, 1993; Swales, 1990a, 1990b; Touchstone, 1995; Touchstone, Kaplan and Hagstrom, 1995). The Act of There are four questions, entirely culturally based, that a writer must face at the start of any cross-linguistic exercise in writing: What can be discussed? What is evidence? How can that evidence most effectively be organized? To whom maya text be addressed? What Can Be Discussed? A native speaker of American English, may, for example, be willing to discuss intimate aspects of hislher sex life, but may be unwilling to discuss bathroom functions, labeling any attempt to do so as 'scatological.' English contains euphemisms for bathroom functions and facilities (pee pee, number one,
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mens' room, lavatory, bathroom). Similarly, native speakers of American English may be reluctant to discuss death, using euphemisms in this register as well (the deceased, the dearly beloved, crematorium, mortuary park). Speakers of other languages may be reluctant to discuss their intimate relationships, but may find a discussion of bathroom functions or of death quite natural. What is "natural" in any given cultural context constitutes the key. What is Evidence? Confucianists are likely to regard the sayings of Confucius as evidence; devout Moslems may regard the precepts articulated in The Koran as evidence, and devout Christians are apt to quote The Bible as evidence. Inexperienced students may be unable to differentiate between an article in Time or Newsweek and an article in a scholarly journal with respect to the validity of evidence, or they may be willing to accept as evidence something said by Donahue, or Oprah Winfrey (or one of their guests) during their respective television programs. Indeed, it is this area of evidentiality that gets many students into trouble in the context of plagiarism. In many cultures, if someone has already said something well, there is no need for a student to revise it, and ifthe source is widely known (e.g., Confucius, The Koran, The Bible), there is no need to attribute it. It is perceived wisdom that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the academic world, the criteria for evidentiality are rather more complex, and the English-speaking world is marked by the capitalistic notion that not only ideas but the actual words in which they are couched are the property of the writer. Evidentiality is defined discipline by discipline, and students must learn what counts as evidence in English Academic Writing and recognize that the standards in other languages might be different. How can Evidence Most Effectively be Organized? Here is the crux of the matter. Writers arrange evidence in terms of their "... abilities to convey just those analyses of the event that are most compatible with the linguistic means provided by their languages ... " (Berman and Slobin, 1994: 12). Kellerman (1995: 138-139), citing Berman and Slobin's evidence, presents four versions of the same phenomenological event interpreted in four different languages to illustrate the point that the resources available to speakers of different languages prompt somewhat different presentations of the event:
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Below is a (slightly abbreviated) cross-language example showing how different languages 'filter' the way in which events are related. It comes from transcripts of children with different native languages relating the 'Frog Story' from a set of pictures without words (Berman and Slobin, 1994: 11). All of the children in these examples are native speakers: English And he starts running. And he tips him off over a cliff into the water. And he lands (9; 11) German Der Hirsch nahm den lungen auf sein Geweih und schmiB ihm den Abhang hinunter genau ins Wasser. [The deer took the boyan his antlers and hurled him down from the cliff right into the water.] (9; 11) Spanish El ciervo Ie llevo hasta un sitio, donde debajo habia un rio. Entonces el ciervo tiro al perro y al nifio at rio. Y despues, cayeron. [The deer took him until a place, where below there was a river. Then the deer threw the dog and the boy to the river. And then they fell.] Hebrew Ve ha'ayil nivhal, ve hu hitxillaruts. Ve hakelets rats axarav, ve hu higia lemacok she mitaxat haya bitsa, ve hu atsar, ve hayeled ve hakelev naflu labitsa beyaxad. [And the deer was startled, and he began to run. And the dog ran after him, and he reached the cliff that had a swamp underneath, and he stopped, and the boy and the dog fell into the swamp together.] (9; 7) Berman and Slobin claim that the difference between these excerpts is to some extent determined by the linguistic possibilities inherent in each of the languages. The first two, in English and German, describe the complexity ofthe fall via a series of adverbial particles and prepositional phrases (tips off, over a cliff, into the water; schmij3, den Abhang hinunter, ins Wasser). The verbs tip and schmeij3en
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[hurl] signify the manner in which the deer causes the fall. The Spanish and Hebrew versions resemble each other but differ from the English and German versions. In the former pair, the event is recounted as a series of episodes. First there is a description of location (cliff with river below, place with swamp underneath); then the deer acts and, as a result, the boy and the dog fall. Berman and Slobin point out that the verbs chosen (throw, fall, stop) are "bare descriptions of change of state, with no elaboration of manner" (Berman and Slobin, 1994: 12). Furthermore: These are not random differences between the narrative styles of these ... children, but rather show their abilities to convey just those analyses of the event that are most compatible with the linguistic means provided by their languages. English and German provide large sets of locative particles that can be combined with verbs of manner, thereby predisposing speakers toward a dense style of encoding motion events ... A different style arises in the other. .. languages, which rely more on simple change-of-state and change-of-Iocation verbs, ... predisposing speakers towards more extended analyses of motion events (Berman and Slobin, 1994: 12). The order of presentation appears to be very culture specific, conditioned by the linguistic resources available in the L1 but also by customary modes of perception. To Whom maya Text be Addressed? All cultures define who may speak and to whom. Academic writing assumes an equality of addresser and addressee; that is, academic writing presumes a context in which peers discuss mutually held ideas. This notion implies that addresser and addressee are defined discipline by discipline; a professional chemist may address another professional chemist, etc. The undergraduate world is, however, differently structured, with an uneven distribution of power; the teacher is more powerful than the student. Students learning to write must learn to cope with this essentially schizoid environment in which they recognize that there is an unequal relationship but must pretend that the relationship is in fact an equal one. Aside from the classroom artificiality, different cultures also have internally consistent hierarchies, and some languages (e.g., Chinese, Japanese) are syntactically marked with elaborate politeness structures designed to deal with
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that complex hierarchy, differentiating between males and females, elders and juniors, and so on. English to a large extent lacks the syntactic marking (though the hierarchy of English-speaking society is certainly preserved in semantics - see, e.g., the difference between sweat and perspire). Scollon (1991) takes up the matter in the context of English and Chinese, and there are other studies of specific language pairs (e.g., Yoshikawa, 1978). Towards a Model Thus, text occurs within the phenomenological perception of the community of speakers; it is also constrained historically by the way text has been used in that community and by the kinds of genres available to that community. A speaker of English knows what a sonnet, for example, is, and what it may be used for; a speaker of English is unlikely to use a sonnet to transmit a culinary recipe; a speaker of Japanese is unlikely to use a haiku to transmit a business contract. Speakers of a language recognize certain genres and their uses, and therefore their text production is constrained within that knowledge. A speaker of English is unlikely to write an "eight-legged essay," while a speaker of Chinese may, even given that the form is obsolete, produce such a form if it is within the speaker's inventory of available genre. Additionally, there are four kinds of difficulty which may affect a text: Contingent difficnlty: use of arcane or technical reference (jargon) familiar only within certain sub-communities; Tactical difficulty: willingness of a writer to be understood only up to a point (perhaps because being fully explicit may be impolite, or politically awkward, or simply dangerous); Modal difficulty: presentation of a view of the human condition which is unfamiliar or inaccessible; e.g., the notion that a white person cannot understand the Black experience; Ontological difficulty: constraints created by the limits of the language itself, best illustrated by nonsense verse (e.g., in Alice in Wonderland or the poetry of e e cummings [sic.]). [See Steiner, 1978.]
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27 Table 1: Model of Text Generation and Reception
AvailabHity of different genre (HOW?)
Shared Experience (WHENIWHERE?)
Recognition of available genre (HOW?)
(WRITES)
Text (WHO?) OI-Generator
(WHAT?)
Receiver
performative ability, intent (WHY?) to cater to the perceptions of the receiver stance towards text, stance towards content
four kinds of difficulty (TO WHAT END?)
performative, ability, intent to cater to the perceptions of the generator, stance towards text and content
Effect On Generator contingent (arcane/technical references which need to be looked up) tacncal (willingness of the generator to be understood up to a point)
Effect on Text ontological (limitations of the language itself)
Effect on Receiver modal inaccessible or alien interpretations of the human condition) (after Kaplan, 1991)
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Oiven these various considerations, one may construct a rough model of what is involved in the generation of text in any language. Text may, of course, be either written or spoken - the focus here is on written text. (It is not clear to what extent the model for the generation of spoken text is identical to that for written text.) The text generator, text, and text receiver are connected by arrows pointing in both directions, because, obviously, the text generator is also invariably one of the text receivers; text generators normally read what they have written as part of the writing process. When text generator and text receiver are the same person, the shared world knowledge is perfectly matched; this is never the case with any other text receiver. This model addresses the question:
Who writes what to whom, to what
and how?
When the model is different across two languages, the task of text creation is difficult, because the information contained at some or all of the nodes of the model will be different; that is, the persona of the writer, the available genres, and the persona of the audience will be different in each language.
A Covey of Examples Students may be introduced to some taxonomy of genres like the following:
Table II: Taxonomy of Genres by Audience
self
shopping
diary
list
one Irnown other one unknown other small group known
greeting card check
personal letter business letter sermon
small group unknown
large group
application form
play, poem, novel, story
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A few example genres are provided to suggest what is being sought. Learners can fill in the rest of the taxonomy based on their own writing experience. Once various genres have been inserted into the taxonomy, attention may be given to identifying the features of each cell; e.g., a shopping list is a selected set of items, normally arranged in columnar order, and stated as nouns or brief noun phrases. Not much composing is required to prepare a shopping list. A diary, on the other hand, consists of brief complete sentences; it is narrative in form, recounting selected activities over some stipulated time period (e.g., daily, weekly). Because its purpose is to record events, it is often chronologically organized. The intent is not to comment to any significant degree on the meaning of events; rather, it is to enumerate events, so while composing is involved, it is only a matter of telling what happened, not a matter of transforming events into a story or some other more complex text form. Because a diary deals with past events, the tense is likely to be dominantly past. A personal letter may be seen as a sort of 'diary made public' ; one tells a friend or relative about what one has been doing. Questions may occur in a letter, but would be unlikely in either a shopping list or a diary. Furthermore, while a diary may be non-selective - it can list everything the writer remembers - a letter is more selective, since one may choose not to share everything that has occurred since the last letter. These explications of a few of the types are intended to serve as examples of the sort of analysis students may be asked to undertake. The taxonomy also permits the introduction of a discussion of audience. When one writes a shopping list, the audience is quite probably one's self. (If it is some other person, the list will require annotation.) In such a case, the world knowledge of writer and reader are absolutely co-terminus; the writer and the reader have the same knowledge, and there is no need to worry about presuppositions concerning shared information. Once one moves to a form in which even one other reader is involved (e.g., a personal letter), a different set of considerations must come into play; the writer is obliged to be concerned about the extent to which knowledge is shared between reader and writer and is obliged to explain some events in greater detail so that the reader has a context within which the event can be understood. In each case, students can be asked to define the audience in some detail. For example, in a sermon, the audience and the writer know each other quite well, since they are likely to be together on a weekly basis, but they know each other only in one very specific content - that in which a minister and hislher congregation interact. Some things can be considered shared, while
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others may not be shared to any significant degree. A minister may choose to deliver a sennon based on the story ofthe "Widow's mite"; in doing so, s/he may assume that his/her parishioners know the story and are prepared to grasp what the minister wishes to communicate. On the other hand, if the minister wishes to deal with a complex or controversial topic - for example, abortion - s/he must construct an argument rather than tell a story, with infonnation supplied to establish a common base of understanding, and probably s/he needs to avoid some of the more abstruse points of theology. A simple fonn may be chosen - for example, a process - and students may be asked to compose the process in different ways based on different audience assumptions; e.g., "How to Start a Car" assuming cultural and individual familiarity with cars, keys, and locks on the one hand, and on the other hand assuming little experience with this technology. The learners may not initially be asked to write such a text; it is enough for purposes of audience awareness to be able at first to construct an oral text. Up to this point, learners have been asked to manipulate events and impressions; it is time for learners to begin to manipulate ideas. The compositional skills required for texts of narration, description, process, classification, and definition are different from the compositional skills required for texts of analysis and synthesis. (See the important distinction between "knowledge telling" and "knowledge transfonning" in Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1987.) In the earlier stages of composition instruction, the objectives are to establish a comfort level with the writing activity, to provide practice in the manipulation of grammatical structures, and to increase vocabulary knowledge. All of these objectives can be met through the kinds of writing undertaken at the lower levels - narrative, descriptive, etc. These minimal skills are likely to carry over, to some extent (depending on how well they have been learned), to the essayist writing involved in argumentative, analytic, and synthetic writing. The compositional skills involved in these cognitively more complex activities are significantly different. Contrastive rhetoric analysis is based on an attempt to visualize the relative levels of subordination among the propositions that constitute a text. A proposition is not necessarily a sentence; it may be a phrase, a clause, a sentence, or a cluster of several sentences. In contrastive rhetoric analysis, a proposition is called a discourse unit, and a cluster of closely related discourse units is called a discourse bloc. A discourse bloc analysis looks something like an outline.
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The similarity in appearance is misleading. First, an outline is a planning document; under ideal circumstances, an outline can be recovered from a text, but in most circumstances it is difficult or impossible to recover an outline (though it is certainly possible to create an outline which reflects the structure of the text). Although a discourse bloc analysis looks like an outline, it has a rather different purpose. The further to the left a unit is placed, the higher it is in dominance of the text. The further to the right a discourse unit is placed, the less dominant it is in the text. Those discourse units occurring furthest to the right often consist of examples and illustrations supporting the text argument. Such discourse units are subordinate to ones placed further to the left. Some discourse units are, of course, parallel to each other - or coordinate. Let us look at an analysis of a shorter text in which it is possible to get down to the level of individual discourse units. (The sentences are numbered for ease of reference.) On the trail of the first Americans (1) It has been believed for a long time that the first inhabitants of America were people from NorthEast Asia. (2) Anthropologists believe that small bands of nomadic hunters followed herds of animals across the Bering Straits land bridge and into what is now Alaska, later spreading throughout North and South America. (3) There is now some evidence to support this belief. (4) Examination of 20 teeth and 64 tooth sockets of paleo-Indians (the first Americans) which were discovered in Chile in 1936 shows a number of common characteristics which are also found in Asiatic teeth. (S) These characteristics include a shovel-like slope on the front and back of the incisors, an L-shaped ridge on the chewing surface of the lower molars, small bumps on the chewing surface ofthe lower molars and three-rooted front molars. (6) Since dental features are genetically determined and do not change over long periods of time, it is significant that these teeth are similar to the teeth of northeast Asians (as well as the teeth of present-day North and South American Indians). (7) For example, 353 teeth of paleo-Indians, present-day Indians, and northeastern Asiatics were examined, and all had the shoveling on the incisors. (8) Of 8,000 white American and European teeth, less than one-third had this feature. (9) These findings, then, corroborate the theory that the first
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Americans came from northern China, Mongolia, Japan, and Asiatic Siberia (Chedd, 1954).
In this text, evidence is systematically introduced to support the initial contention. A detailed analysis might look like the following table. (The major semantic link [having to do with teeth] is printed in bold italics; there are also other sets of semantic links through the text.) On the basis of this information it is possible to define the intended audience.
Table III
1. I. Topic statement: " ... the first inhabitants of America were people
from northeast Asia ...." [Note relationship to title.]
2.
1. Support: " ... Anthropologists believe that small bands of
nomadic hunters followed herds of animals across the
Bering Straits land bridge and into what is now Alaska..."
a. Support: " .. .later spreading throughout North and South
America... "
3. A. Claim of Evidence: " ... There is now some evidence to support
this belief .."
4.
1. Evidence:" ...Examination of 20 teeth and 64 tooth sockets of
paleo-Indians ... which were discovered... shows a number of
common characteristics which are also found in Asiatic teeth...."
a.. Definition: " ... (the first Americans) ..."
b. Location: " .. .in Chile... "
c. Datinl:: " .. .in 1936... "
5.
d. Detailed support: "...These characteristics include: ..."
(I.) List: " ... a shovel-like slope on the front and back of
the incisors, ..."
(II.) List: " ... an L-shaped ridge on the chewing surface of
the lower molars,
(III.) List: "... small bumps on the chewing surface of the
lower molars and..."
(IV.) List: " ...three-rooted front molars ..."
6.
e. Argument:" .. .dental features are genetically determined
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(I.) Support: and do not change over long periods of time,
f. Argument:".. .it is significant that these teeth are similar to
the teeth of northeast Asians ... "
(I.) Sub-Argument: "... (as well as the teeth of present-
day North and South American Indians )... "
7.
2. Evidence: " ... For example, 353 teeth of paleo-Indians,
present-day Indians, and northeastern Asiatics were examined,
and all had the shoveling on the incisors.
8.
3. Evidence: " ... Of 8,000 white American and European teeth,
less than one-third had this feature ..."
9. B. Summary and Recapitulation: "... These findings, then, corrobo-
rate the theory that the first Americans came from northern China,
Mongolia. Japan. and Asiatic Siberia ..."
Certain generalizations can be drawn from this analysis. Before any generalizations are attempted, it is important to reiterate that no single pattern can represent the complexity of genres available in English or in any other language. While the potential number of available genres in English (or in any language) is very large, academic essayist English does demonstrate certain regularities. Such texts often display complex patterns of semantic collocations which signal the relative relationship of propositions to each other. Further, academic essayist texts often display relatively complex patterns of subordination; there are often many levels of subordination in a text. (At the same time, both relatively simple and excessively complex patterns of subordination tend to mark the text as non-standard; thus, there seems to be a parabolic curve of complexity, with English academic essayist text falling roughly at the apogee of the parabola.) There is nothing in this text type that does not directly contribute to the flow of the argument; tangential information is not comfortably accommodated in such texts. Finally, it appears that the text progresses in a linear fashion from statement of aboutness to termination. This latter phenomenon belies the possibility of the template three- and five-paragraph essay and the notion that the three-paragraph essay has the obligatory features introduction, body, and conclusion. The presence or absence of introduction and conclusion depends on the nature of the text. The illustrative text above does not contain a formal conclusion (although it does contain a
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summaryirecapitulation of the thesis). It might be argued that the first sentence of this text constitutes an introduction, though, more realistically, the first sentence seems to state the thesis of the text. The propositions of this text are not necessarily equated with grammatical sentences. It may be useful to look at a non-standard text. The following text was written by a native speaker of Tsez who speaks Russian as a second language and is learning English. Language Policy in the Former USSR (1) Soviet period is the most intensive for language planning activities and therefore the understanding not only mechanisms of Soviet language policy, but also the political, historical and demographic context in which all these decisions were taken are of crucial significance to understanding the present day language situation in [name of geographic area] as well as any other regions. (2) In general two factors determined the character ofL[anguage] Pol[icy] in Soviet Union, which are: demographic on the one hand, and political on the other. (3) The significance both of them difficult to overestimate. Political factors: (4) When the soviet power had been established the administration was faced with two pressing requirements: mass communication and mass education. (5) The majority of the indigenous population remained to be uneducated, the majority of the former languages remained to be unwritten. (6) Within this particular situation a certain Language policy become necessary. (7) However its realization was mostly determined by Central Policy, which took into consideration one or another ideological concepts. (8) At the same time those ideological concepts could be realized within certain political and psychological context. (9) The following factor also played significant role in L[anguage] Pol[icy] in Soviet union: it was believed that the contact of different cultures and languages is at least potentially beneficial. (10) Based on this assumption many liders of national minorities work toward the realization of this goal. (11) The first effort of the government toward
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the promotion of Russian naxodil vseobshuju podderzhku i ponimanije v nacionai'nyx regionax ... This text can profitably be compared with the one entitled "On the trail of the first Americans," which is roughly similar in length. Both are English academic essayist texts. (The latter text is, obviously, marked by some surfacelevel non-native speaker characteristics which will be ignored in this analysis.) Table IV 1. I. Topic Statement: " ... Soviet period is the most intensive for language planning activities and A. Explanation: "...therefore the understanding not only mechanisms of Soviet language policy, but. .. " B. Explanation: " . .. also the political, historical and demographic context in which all these decisions were taken are of crucial significance to understanding the present day language situation in [name of geographic area] as well as any other regions ...." [NB: The thesis statement invokes Soviet language policy, but the argument moves quickly to the language policy situation in a particular former Soviet territory. ] 2. C. Explanation: " .. .In general two factors determined the character ofL[anguage] Pol[icy] in Soviet Union, which are: ..." 1. Specification: " ... demographic on the one hand..." 2. Specification: " ... and political on the other..." 3. D. Explanation:" ... The significance both of them difficult to overestimate .... " 4. E. Explanation:" ... When the soviet power had been established the administration was faced with two pressing requirements: 1. Specification: "... mass communication and mass education ..." 5. F. Parenthetical material: " ... The majority of the indigenous population remained to be uneducated, the majority of the former languages remained to be unwritten ... " 6. G. Parenthetical Material: " ... Within this particular situation a
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certain Language policy become necessary ...."
[NB: One must assume that the particular situation is the absence of literacy
described in 1. F, but this argument does not follow from 1. A-E. Thus, this is
a topic shift.]
7. H. Contrast: " ... However its realization was mostly determined by
Central Policy, ... "
1. Specification:"... which took into consideration one or another
ideological concepts..."
8.
2. Explanation: ".. .At the same time those ideological concepts
could be realized within certain political and psychological
context. .. "
9. I. Explanation: "... The following factor also played significant role
in L[anguage] Pol[icy] in Soviet union: ... "
1. Explanation: " .. .it was believed that the contact of different
cultures and languages is at least potentially beneficial. ..."
10. 2. Explanation: " .. .Based on this assumption many liders of
national minorities work toward the realization of this goal
11. J. Explanation: " ... The first effort of the government toward the
promotion of Russian naxodil vseobshuju podderzhku i ponimanije
v nacional'nyx regionax...
Much of the development in this text occurs largely at the same level; that is, there isn't much subordination. Further, it will be noted that the argument does not flow smoothly; there is the substantial parenthetical section - a digression which interrupts the text flow, and there is a good deal of jumping around from topic to topic without developing any topic adequately. The logical structure of the text is not marked by the presence of "advance organizers." Clyne (1994) presents a number of contrastive analyses of various languages (see, esp., Ch. 5, section 5.2 - 5.8, pp. 168-175). Clyne's analysis is derived from a set of five cultural parameters he proposes:
Form vs. Content - English cultures more strongly foreground form while other cultures are more content oriented (186); Verbal vs. Literate - English cultures stress the written language as the main medium of effective communication while other cultures stress oral language (189);
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Rhythm of Discourse - English cultures tend to stress symmetry and do not stress positive politeness while other cultures function differently in both contexts (190); Directionality - English cultures tend to be unique in their emphasis on linearity (190); Abstractness vs. Concreteness - English cultures tend to stress concreteness and reasoning (191). These parameters are not to be interpreted as polar oppositions; rather, certain culturally-defined writing practices tend to move in one or the other direction along the posited continua. It seems to me that this sort of analysis of student texts can help students to understand how to organize a text and how to avoid some of the more egregious faults that occur in student text organization-some deriving from first language interference, but some deriving as well from inexperience with text organization. A purpose of such analysis is to bring to consciousness what is typically not perceived. The issue is summarized by Mauranen in a contrastive text linguistic study of Finnish and English: ... [writers] differ in some of their culturally determined rhetorical practices, and these differences manifest themselves in typical textual features. The writers seem not to be aware of these textual features, or the underlying rhetorical practices. This lack of awareness is in part due to the fact that textlinguistic features have not been the concern of traditional language teaching in schools .... Such phenomena have therefore not been brought to the attention of [writers] struggling with writing ... Nevertheless, these sometimes subtle differences between writing cultures, often precisely because they are subtle and not commonly observable to the non-linguist, tend to put. .. [L2 writers] at a rhetorical disadvantage in the eyes of [Ll] readers ....This disadvantage is more than a difference in cultural tastes, since it may not only strike readers as lack of rhetorical elegance, but as lack of coherent writing or even thinking, which can seriously affect the credibility of non-native writers (1993: 1-2; emphasis added). The technique can be used as well in helping students to understand
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summarization, and more generally in helping students to abstract meaning from reading texts. In the classroom, students can be asked to analyze texts they have read; ideally, small groups can work together, and several small groups working on the same text can subsequently compare their analyses and discuss discrepancies. It is perhaps too painful for students to analyze their own texts initially. Teachers may wish to submit for analysis texts written in a prior term. Teachers need to model the approach several times before students are asked to undertake their own analyses. A problem is that texts of reasonable length are required to facilitate the process, and longer texts take more time to analyze. The technique produces results, and students' sense of text organization improves as a result of contrastive rhetoric analyses. Thus, contrastive rhetoric posits that speakers of two different languages will organize the same reality in different ways. That they should do so seems self-evident, because different languages will provide different resources for organizing text. The techniques discussed here are intended to bring these differences to awareness and to help students perceive how text in an L2 (English, in this case) is organized and how that organization may differ from the learner's Ll. Robert B. Kaplan is Emeritus Professor, Applied Linguistics at the University of Southern California. Dr. Kaplan is the past Editor-in-Chief and currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, which he founded in 1980 and serves on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals. He has previously served as President of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, TESOL, the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs and several other organizations. He has authored or edited 27 books and written more than 100 articles or chapters in books.
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RB Kaplan

File: contrastive-rhetoric.pdf
Author: RB Kaplan
Published: Wed Jul 19 15:54:51 2017
Pages: 18
File size: 0.78 Mb


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