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The Pragmatics of Academic Writing

A Relevance Approach to the Analysis of Research Article Introductions

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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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4. Four Frameworks and Approaches: What Can They Tell Us? 95

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4. Four Frameworks and Approaches: What Can They Tell Us? 4.1. Introduction In Chapter Three we looked at how a selection of style manuals and guides approach the five topics selected for this study. As we noted, they do not give us very many clues to understanding stylistic variation, restricting themselves to making largely prescriptive statements based on intuitions or implicit theories which are themselves in need of clarification. Although these manuals give some useful pointers, it seems safe to conclude that explicit teaching – as represented in the style guides – is not the cause of the stylistic differences with which we are concerned, and does not even reflect them very closely. It is time to look more directly at some theoretical frameworks that writing scholars have used to approach argumentative texts. This is the aim of Chapter Four: to explore to what extent four widely used models can help to provide functional explanations for stylistic choices and what areas remain in need of alternative explanations. The phenomena with which we are concerned (variation in paragraph structure, sentence length and information structure; choices of vocabulary and register) are of course identifiable and describable in both English and Italian academic writing. In addition, both types of writing belong to a common tradition – that of Western argumentative writing (Connor 1996: 64). The challenge is thus to explain how writers, while doing such apparently similar sorts of things in the two languages, manage to produce such different effects. A useful starting point is Evangelisti’s...

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