LINGUIST List 13.924

Wed Apr 3 2002

Diss: Text/Corpus Ling: Cahill "Contrastive Rhetoric"

Editor for this issue: Karolina Owczarzak <>


  1. ishamcook, Text/Corpus Ling: Cahill "Contrastive Rhetoric, Orientalism..."

Message 1: Text/Corpus Ling: Cahill "Contrastive Rhetoric, Orientalism..."

Date: Tue, 02 Apr 2002 19:39:56 +0000
From: ishamcook <>
Subject: Text/Corpus Ling: Cahill "Contrastive Rhetoric, Orientalism..."

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago
Program: Department of English
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 1999

Author: David I. Cahill 

Dissertation Title: 
Contrastive Rhetoric, Orientalism, and the Chinese Second Language Writer

Linguistic Field: 
Text/Corpus Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Applied Linguistics

Subject Language: 
Japanese, English, Chinese, Mandarin

Dissertation Director 1: Marcia Farr
Dissertation Director 2: John S. Rohsenow
Dissertation Director 3: Clark Hulse
Dissertation Director 4: Elliot Judd

Dissertation Abstract: 

The field of contrastive rhetoric examines contrasting rhetorical
structures across languages with the goal of predicting the
difficulties experienced by students learning to write essays in a
foreign language. The paradigmatic contrast is between Western
languages such as English, exemplifying "linearity" and "directness"
and Eastern languages such as Chinese and Japanese, exemplifying
"nonlinearity" and "indirectness". This dissertation deconstructs the
tropes of linearity and nonlinearity, as well as the Orientalism
inherent in the contrastive paradigm, and critically re-examines the
English, Chinese, and Japanese essayist traditions. The "rhetoric" of
contrastive rhetoric is shown to operate by selectively reducing the
rhetorical repertoires of counterposed languages to discrete
contrasting instances, while evidence of alternative text structures
that do not fit the contrast is downplayed or ignored. The prime
examples in contrastive rhetoric of Asian essay structure are the
four-part Chinese "qi cheng zhuan he" and Japanese "ki sho ten ketsu",
whose third steps are said to represent a "turn". An investigation of
Chinese and Japanese scholarship on these two structures shows that
the "turn" is not a rhetorical move of "circularity" or "digression"
as assumed in the English-language scholarship but serves as the
occasion to develop an essay further by alternative means, though
there appears to be no consensus in the Chinese and Japanese
scholarship on the methods by which to develop essays.

This dissertation also presents an ethnographic study of English
majors at a foreign-language college in Beijing, China, revealing that
Chinese students are not taught to write "indirectly"; what little
training they receive in essay writing is generally modeled on British
and American composition textbooks. Asian students may be more like
native-English speaking students than is commonly believed, since both
native and nonnative speakers confront the same cognitive and
developmental processes in learning to write academic
English. Contrastive rhetoric is finally critiqued as unworkable, and
in its place a non-contrastive comparative rhetoric is advocated
according to which the rhetorical repertoires of various languages
would be juxtaposed and analogous text structures highlighted as
potential rhetorical universals aiding second language writers through
positive transfer.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue