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The Pragmatics of Academic Writing

A Relevance Approach to the Analysis of Research Article Introductions


Nicola Owtram

This volume investigates to what extent existing approaches to pragmatics and discourse shed light on how the form of a text creates stylistic effects. Taking a cross-cultural perspective, this book focuses on five key stylistic features of writing – paragraph structure, length and construction of sentences, organisation of information in sentences, relative formality of vocabulary, amount of nominalisation – widely seen as partly responsible for the different impressions created by academic writing in English and Italian. The author develops a theoretical framework for the investigation of intuitions about stylistic differences from a contrastive point of view. To this end, the book gives an overview of recent scholarly approaches to writing and reading, genre studies, contrastive rhetoric and the notions of style and stylistics, together with an assessment of several individual approaches.


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Acknowledgements 9


Acknowledgements The first and most important person that I would like to thank is Deirdre Wilson. While the work done here reflects my understanding of relevance theory and its application to my own particular field, her warm and constructive support, encouragement and comments were crucial to the writing of this study. Without her help, this work would never have seen the light of day. Second, I would like to thank the European University Institute for its generosity over such practical aspects as help with the computer and printing facilities, the library’s lending service and the sabbatical that it gave me in order to complete this book. Special thanks go to my colleagues in the Language Centre, in particular to Nicki Hargreaves and Camilla Salvi, for the enthusiasm and interest they have shown in this project. Moreover, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Laurie Anderson of the University of Siena, whose comments on the study as a whole and whose help in the revision process have been essential to the finished product. Finally, on a more personal note, I am indebted to my parents and to my sons, Blasco and Tazio, for the patience that they have shown me over this period. One last person needs to be mentioned here, Giuliano, to whom this book is dedicated.

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