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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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2. Setting the Frame: Conceptualisations of Academic Writing 19


2. Setting the Frame: Conceptualisations of Academic Writing 2.1. Introduction To say that English and Italian texts are different is to state the ob- vious. As we have seen in the Introduction, informants familiar with both writing cultures can identify a range of formal features which can be readily observed to vary in academic texts.1 In recent years, these differences have attracted the attention of scholars with socio-linguistic interests. The basic assumption behind this work is that cultural groups not only establish conventions of social behaviour, but that these conventions are internalised and followed in the production and reception of messages (Lavinio 1992; Ventola 1992; mejrková 1996). Evangelisti (1992: 13), for example, affirms that “the organisation of elements in sentences and discourse, for example, that of word order, not only corresponds to particular syntactic orderings of the language, […] but is also culturally deter- mined by communicative conventions following the modalities of thought and behaviour typical of a linguistic and social group”.2 But is the notion of cultural norms and conventions a sufficiently strong explanatory framework to account for stylistic differences between English and Italian academic texts? In this and the following chapters 1 On the ability of speakers/writers to reflect on their own linguistic practices, see the burgeoning literature on folk linguistics, e.g. Preston (2005), Paveau (2007). 2 [[…] i fenomeni di organizzazione degli elementi nella frase e nel discorso, di cui la variazione dell’ordine delle parole è un esempio, non rispondano soltanto a particolarità sintattiche di una lingua, […] ma siano...

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