|Title:||Contrastive Rhetoric, Orientalism, and the Chinese Second Language Writer||Add Dissertation|
|Author:||David Cahill||Update Dissertation|
|Email:||click here to access email|
|Institution:||University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of English|
|Linguistic Subfield(s):||Applied Linguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics;|
|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.