Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2005 12:26:35 +1000 From: Bernard McKenna Subject: What Writing Does and How it Does it
EDITORS: Bazerman, Charles; Prior, Paul TITLE: What Writing Does and How it Does it SUBTITLE: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR: 2004
Bernard McKenna, University of Queensland Business School, University of Queensland.
Although this book incorrectly claims that the growth in discourse analysis studies has been largely in the area of spoken language, it nevertheless provides much useful theoretical and practical guidance for those teaching written discourse analysis. Primarily oriented to composition scholars (p. 5), it nevertheless provides much that is useful to any discourse analyst. The authors point out that three aspects need to be understood before reading the book for, indeed, one can select from the various chapters without having to read the book in its entirety. Each of the eleven chapters has been organized "around a basic question that can be used to interrogate a text". The first six chapters show how to analyse texts, while the latter five consider the analysis of textual practices. There are some significant contributors such as Tom Huckin, Jack Selzer, and Charles Bazerman, but the contributions by some less high profile are quite strong as well.
In Chapter 1, Thomas Huckin discusses Content Analysis, or "what texts talk about", pointing out the difference between thematic or rhetorical patterns in texts and formal stylistic approaches such as register analysis. In analysing the former, Huckin clarifies the difference between conceptual analysis and relational analysis. His exposition of twelve research publications using content analysis research that deploys various forms and levels of qualitative and quantitative data, as well as deductive and inductive approaches, provides an excellent introduction to the novice researcher. Also useful is his suggested procedure and critique of the research conducted so far.
The under-researched area of the role of cognitive, social, linguistic and rhetorical figures (poetics) in everyday texts is the basis of Philip Eubanks' Chapter 2. Without providing much by way of methodological justification, Eubanks analyses three texts by Microsoft's Bill Gates for their narrative strategy. He then explains how these strategies have an argumentative function by tapping into the "distributed cognition" of its audience.
Ellen Barton attempts a large project in Chapter 3 by showing how Linguistic Discourse Analysis reveals the workings of language. She begins by explaining the two foundational linguistic terms, structure (units of language) and function (its purposeful use). Novice practitioner-researchers will find her clear definitions very useful, as well as her explanation of the differences between structural linguistics and those that are anthropological and sociological. She then shows how the qualitative work of Chafe and the quantitative work of Biber can converge. Using Huckin's "Context Sensitive Discourse Analysis" Barton explains that bottom-up and top-down analysis can reveal the rich features of text, "those features that point to the relation between a text and its context".
Second language teachers will find Marcia Z. Buell's explanation of the complexity of Code Switching for Second Language Users in Chapter 5 extremely useful. She points out that code switching identifies shifts in social identities, relationships and contexts. Although this happens in single-language situations, it is a significant aspect in second-language users as an indication of the facility they reveal in adopting the non-native language. Her case study of an African college student's composition helps to make this point.
Also in Part 1 is Charles Bazerman outline of the basic concepts of intertextuality (Chapter 4) and The Multiple Media of Texts (Chapter 6) by Anne Francis Wysocki.
The five chapters in Part II analyse textual practices, beginning with Paul Prior's explanation of how texts come into being (Chapter 7). This rather ambitious attempt to plot the writing process by tracking the changes in a sociology student's writing over ten months, although admirable, did not quite seem to come together. Prior separates composing and inscription, as well as the various dimensions of authorship (animator, author, principal). The third element of his analysis is the process of intertextuality and the dialogic influences of real and imagined audiences. The method he uses is extremely complex and thorough, but one wonders whether the effort is worth the research yield.
Kevin Leander and Paul Prior, in Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 (Children's Writing) by George Kamberelis and Lenora de la Luna provide excellent mini-ethnographies revealing the role that talk plays in the development of school genre written text. In Chapter 8, the authors develop Biber's understanding that "bundles of linguistic features vary with the whole range of situational features, not just mode". Using fieldnotes, audiotape and videotape, they describe two studies. In the second, they track the "talk to text" of a classroom discussion of Huck Finn. Although useful, it is surprising to me that the subject position of Tony, the Afro-American who is agitated about the use of "nigger" in Twain's book, is not explored very well. To my mind, this should raise questions about the methodology. This is where I think Kamberelis and de la Luna's study was more satisfying. The reason for this fuller understanding, to my mind, is that they explicitly organize their study around three co-constitutive dimensions, text, context, and politics. Using an inductive approach based on multiple forms of data, they provide two case studies. The second of these analyses the interaction of talk and text in a fifth grade laboratory-based science- writing event. What was of most interest here, although muted in the account, is the capacity of children not only to imitate the genre functions that are required, but to do so with a sense of irony or parody (in this case intertextually drawing from Beavis and Butthead and Arnold Schwarzenegger). This study practically elaborated the Vygotskyan findings of play (meaning to act out adult functions, not the playfulness of parody).
Chapter 10 by Jack Selzer is designed to provide a good understanding of rhetorical analysis and a method for developing an instructive rhetorical analysis. There is little theoretical foundation for Selzer's notion of rhetoric, which is seen as "how texts persuade readers". He does briefly refer to Aristotle's Rhetoric (forensic, deliberative, and epideictic rhetoric; ethos, pathos, and logos), as well as the canons (inventio, dispositio, etc), as well as Kenneth Burke, before providing two examples of "doing textual rhetorical analysis" based on texts that are provided. Although the conclusion that this "critical reading, the art of rhetorical analysis, can make you a better arguer, a better citizen" is debatable, the exemplars are useful and quiet adaptable to class usage.
The book concludes with Charles Bazerman's explanation of speech acts, genres and activities. In particular, he uses a classroom study to show how textual interactions help to develop "social facts". Using Searle, he claims that speech acts are meaningful social actions accomplished through language, and that these are patterned into genres. He takes this to a further level by seeing genres as "psycho- social recognition phenomena". Although Bazerman provides methodological guidelines, there is insufficient explanation of what genres are and how they are discursively and textually created, indeed no reference say to John Swales (bureaucratic), Jimmie Killingsworth (technical), or Greg Myers (science) to mention just three very established writers in the field.
Of the six chapters analyzing text, Huckin, Barton and Buell's contributions I found to be of most value. Most of the chapters in Part I were well grounded in theory. It was surprising, then, to see Bazerman's explanation of the notion of intertextuality was not grounded in theory, nor was the The Multiple Media of Texts (Chapter 6) by Anne Francis Wysocki. Any study of intertextuality, I would have thought, should acknowledge its origin in the Bakhtinian proposition that "the utterance is related not only to preceding, but also subsequent links in the chain of speech communication" (Bakhtin 1994, p. 87). Fairclough (1992) provides a workable definition that might have been useful: "the property texts have of being full of snatches of other texts, which may be explicitly demarcated or merged in, and which the text may assimilate, contradict, ironically echo, and so forth" (p.84). He also provides useful distinctions between "manifest intertextuality" (i.e. overtly drawing upon other texts) and "constitutive intertextuality" or "interdiscursivity" (i.e. texts are made up of heterogeneous elements: generic conventions, discourse types, register, style).
While not claiming that Fairclough or anyone else for that matter should have been used, I was puzzled by the absence of a strong theoretical basis by Bazerman, a veteran scholar in this field. Similarly, although Wysocki states that she adopts a rhetorical approach, the theoretical orientation is not further explained. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to find the coherence in Wysocki's chapter. That is, the chapter explains terminology (e.g., different typefaces; the arrangement within a photograph), and then provides an approach for analyzing the visual elements of text. Yet there was no theoretical or methodological grounding. For example Kress and van Leeuwen (Kress and vanLeeuwen 1996; Kress, Leite-Garcia et al. 1997) have been developing theories of visual textual genres and the interaction of visual and verbal text, to say nothing of the work on multimodal hybrid "texts" and "hypertexts" (cf. Lemke 1999). An excellent practical book on visual text analysis by Burnett (1995), I think may provide better guidance.
Overall, it seems clear from the many references to other chapters that the authors spent much effort disseminating the chapters among the contributors rather than simply amalgamating separate articles into an edited book. The book certainly provides a rich source of seminal and recent works for the researcher-teacher and as a foundation for those undertaking higher studies. Usefully the sixteen pages of references are located at the end of the book rather than with each chapter making it easier to seek out references. The effectiveness of the activities at the end of each chapter was varied in its usefulness; however, the further reading generally was broad and relatively recent.
Bakhtin, Mikhail (1994) Speech genres and other late essays. In Morris (1994), 81-87.
Burnett, Ron (1995) Cultures of Vision: Images, Media, and the Imaginary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Fairclough, Norman (1992) Discourse and social change. Cambridge, England: Polity Press.
Kress, Gunther & Leite-Garcia, R. et al. (1997). Discourse semiotics. In van Dijk (1997), 256-289.
Kress, Gunther & van Leeuwen, Theo (1996). Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge.
Lemke, Jay (1999). Opening up closure: Semiotics across scales. Paper presented at Closure: Emergent Organizations and their Dynamics, University of Ghent, Belgium.
Morris, Pam (1994). The Bakhtin reader: Selected writings of Bakhtin, Medvedev, Voloshinov (M. Holquist & C. Emerson, Trans). London: Edward Arnold.
van Dijk, Teun (1997). Discourse studies: A multidisciplinary introduction: Volume 1, Discourse as structure and process. Sage: London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Bernard McKenna is a Senior Lecturer the University of Queensland Business School Organization and Communication Program. His academic teaching background covers communication theory, corporate and scientific communication, political communication, organisational communication, and business ethics. His diverse research interests include technical, political, and managerialist discourse; professional writing; and wisdom and knowledge management in the new economy.