discourse patterns by bennydeem

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									                                                                                       Unit 2

                 Unit 2: C OMMON P ATTERNS IN E NGLISH T EXT

2.1   Aim
      To introduce discourse patterns which occur frequently in English text.

2.2   Objectives
      By the end of this unit you should
         • be aware of textual patterns operating at the level of discourse in English ;
         • be able to recognise three of the most common textual patterns and the lexical
             elements which ‘signal’ these ;
         • have acquired a basis on which to critically consider the implications of such
             textual patterns for English Language Teaching.

2.3   Reading
      Cook, G. (1989) Discourse Chapters 6 and 9
      Hoey, M. (1994) ‘Signalling in Discourse: a functional analysis of a common
         discourse pattern in written and spoken English’ being Chapter 3 of Coulthard
      McCarthy, M. (1991) Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers CUP Chapters 3
         and 6

2.4   Introduction
      The organisation of English at the rank of the clause is clearly subject to certain
      ‘rules’ of grammar and syntax. At this rank there is a fairly restricted number of ways
      in which we can put words together to construct meaningful sentences - forming
      certain patterns which are generally recognised as grammatical. Thus, English-
      speaking readers accept
              “When I make a word do a lot of work like that,” said Humpty Dumpty, “I
              always pay it extra.”

      as a complete, grammatical sentence. It’s unlikely they would accept
             Humpty Dumpty said, “When a word I make do work a lot of like that,
             always extra pay it I.”

      - although such a sequence might be perfectly acceptable, if not normal, in some

                                                            MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
Unit 2

         When we look at language from a discourse (rather than a grammatical) perspective,
         however, identifying patterns is not so straightforward and the larger the text the more
         true this is. At the discourse level, it might be reasonable to assume that there is -
         potentially at least - an infinite number of possible ways to organise a text. Although
         this may well be the case, close examination of texts seems to show that we have a
         distinct preference for particular ways of organising language at the level of
         discourse too. In other words, it appears that some discourse patterns tend to occur
         with a regularity which cannot be entirely coincidental :
                Certain patterns in text re-occur time and time again and become deeply ingrained as part
                of our cultural knowledge. (McCarthy, 1991 - p.28)

         This unit will briefly examine three of the most common textual patterns in English.

2.5      The Problem-Solution Pattern
         The pattern which has been most thoroughly analysed, and about which most has
         been written, is that of ‘Problem-Solution’. Hoey (1983) identifies five basic elements
         of this pattern: situation (within which there is a complication or problem), problem
         (within the situation, requiring a response), response or solution, (to the problem), and
         evaluation or result (of the response/solution). Thus :





         Hoey illustrates the pattern by means of the following sequence (attributed to Eugene
         Winter) :

                I was on sentry duty. (situation) I saw the enemy approaching. (problem) I opened fire.
                (response) I beat off the enemy attack. (result/evaluation)

         Hoey suggests (1983, 1994) that we may usefully approach the analysis of such texts
         by a process of ‘projecting into dialogue’- the reader posing a series of questions to
         the text as if s/he were conversing with it. For example :

MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
                                                                                                Unit 2

   •     What is (was...) the situation?
   •     Is there anything in this situation that constitutes a problem?
   •     What aspect of this situation is a problem/requires a response?
   •     What is /are the response(s) to the problem?/What solution(s) is/are offered?
   •     What result(s) did (will) this response have?/How effective is this solution?
   •     What is the basis for saying that this solution is (in)effective?

Hoey stresses that the crucial elements are ‘Situation’ and ‘Evaluation’ - the former
because it is only within a specific context that things can be deemed to constitute
‘problems’, ‘responses’ and so on, the latter because other categories within the
model can also be seen as evaluative. The word ‘problem’, for instance, itself implies
an evaluation: something within the situation must be evaluated as a ‘problem’ before
it can be named/discussed as such. It follows that there may be a minimal ‘problem-
solution’ pattern, along the lines of :


                                    Evaluation (= ‘no problem’)

So the five elements need not all occur in every text, nor will they necessarily appear
in the precise order listed above. ‘Evaluation’, for example, may precede ‘response’,
as in the following excerpt from a discussion about traffic congestion and pollution :

Text 1
         [1] Dealing with the problem is no simple matter, particularly since strong vested
         interests - car manufacturers and the road-building industry, for example - are involved
         and any sudden change in transportation strategy would certainly have serious economic
         and social consequences. [2] However, there is one relatively straightforward, short-term
         measure which has already been adopted in a number of major cities and which has
         succeeded in reducing traffic to a significant degree. [3] This is the implementation of a
         ‘minimum passenger policy’. [4] Such a policy involves preventing any private vehicle
         carrying fewer than a prescribed number of people (say, 3 or 4) from entering a specified
         area (usually inner cities) during a specified period (usually the ‘rush hours’).

Here, clearly, sentence [2] evaluates the ‘response’ (...short-term..., ...already been
adopted..., ...has succeeded...) before this is actually outlined. The response is
signalled (There is one... measure...) in sentence [2], but the description of its precise
nature is postponed to sentences [3] and [4]. There it is ‘reactivated’ by use of the
anaphoric reference This and the ‘lexicalisation’ of measure by the implementation
of ‘minimum passenger policies’. It should be noted that ‘situation’ - ‘problem’ -

                                                                   MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
Unit 2

         ‘response’ - ‘result’/ ‘solution’ - ‘evaluation’ seems to be the expected (‘unmarked’)
         order and the more a text deviates from this, the more crucial is the role played by
         cohesive elements (lexical signals, reference devices, conjunctions, etc.) in guiding
         the reader through the text.
         A more complex problem-solution structure can be discerned where, after the initial
         presentation of a situation and problem, a series of possible responses / solutions are
         given and each is evaluated in turn, describing a recursive ‘loop’ in the pattern :



                               (another) Response/Possible Solution (1, 2, 3...)

                              Evaluation (of Response/Possible Solution 1, 2, 3...)

         This arrangement is likely to have implications for more detailed sub-structures
         within the overall pattern, since the evaluation of each successive response to the
         problem may raise further, smaller-scale problems, which in turn require evaluation.
         Following Hoey’s lead, we might wish to ask further questions of the text, with
         regard to its evaluation of each ‘response’, for example,
             * To what extent does response 1 deal with the original problem ?
             * Does response 1 raise additional problems ?
             * Does response 2 deal with or avoid additional problems raised by response 1 ?
             * To what extent does response 2 deal with the original problem ?
             * Does response 2 raise additional problems ?
         and so forth.

         DiscussionReflection Task 1
         Where a range of possible responses/solutions to a problem are presented, how does
         the ordering of these responses in the text relate to the writer’s evaluation of them?
         For example, will the ‘response’ which the writer considers to offer the best solution
         be considered first? Or will it be saved till last? Does it matter? Can you find
         examples of authentic English text which discuss a number of possible solutions to a
         problem? How are these organised?

         As McCarthy (1991, p.79) points out, certain items of lexis appear regularly in such
         texts, serving as ‘signals’ of the problem-solution pattern. Each element of the pattern
         tends to be signalled by specific vocabulary which is characteristically associated

MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
                                                                                            Unit 2

       with it. Thus, in segments concerned with defining / describing a ‘problem’, we
       commonly find concern, difficulty, dilemma, drawback, hamper, obstacle, problem,
       snag, and so on. Similarly, there are typical lexical markers for other segments :
       ‘response’ (change, combat (vb.), come up with, measure(s), etc.), ‘solution / result’
       (answer, effect, outcome, resolve, solve, etc.), ‘evaluation’ (effective, fail, ineffective,
       manage, overcome, succeed, viable, etc.). The exact choice of lexis (between, say,
       snag and difficulty) will depend on a complex set of factors, like the genre (see Unit
       4) and/or register of the particular text - whether, for example, it is an academic text
       or a journalistic one, what relationship obtains between the writer and the assumed
       reader (e.g. student to teacher / ‘expert’ to ‘layman’ ), and so on.

2.5.1 Analysing a Problem-Solution Text
      An analysis of text in terms of patterning will generally require three things :
         • recognising the text’s structure (‘pattern’) ;
         • recognising the elements (lexical, cohesive ties, etc.) which help to signal this
             structure ;
         • recognising how this structure assists us in understanding the writer’s

       Of course, these ‘recognitions’ are unlikely to occur one at a time, in a particular
       order, since each will contribute something to the others. However, if you are doing
       such an analysis, a reasonable way to go about it would be to produce :
          • a short introductory paragraph, summarising the text’s structure in general
               terms and outlining what you are going to say about it ;
          • a detailed description of the text’s structure - perhaps including, or perhaps
               followed by
          • a note of the signals which help realise the structure ;
          • an assessment of how your analysis helps to understand the intended message.

       Let’s now look at how this would actually be achieved, with reference to a specific
       ‘problem-solution’ text (see Text 2,). We have obviously pre-empted the exercise to
       some extent here, by categorising the text in advance as ‘problem-solution’.

                                                                MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
Unit 2

         Text 2

                                   We have just the solution for
                                      mountains of rubbish -
                                  Turn it into heaps of electricity

                  (1) Weighing in at over 30 million tonnes, the domestic and commercial rubbish that
                  Britain produces annually is mind-boggling. (2) At present, the vast bulk of it simply goes
                  into holes in the ground. (3) But what will we do when suitable landfill sites no longer exist
                  ? (4) National Power has a solution. (5) Don’t bury, burn. (6) And use the energy created to
                  drive steam turbines and so produce electricity. (7) We’re planning to build one of Britain’s
                  first such Waste-to-Energy plants at Northfleet in Kent. (8) Come 1995, we aim to process
                  650,000 tonnes of domestic and commercial refuse to produce some 44 megawatts of clean
                  electricity. (9) We are involved in other equally fresh electricity producing ideas too. (10)
                  We’re developing wind power technology at one of the largest wind farms ever built in
                  Britain. (11) And we’re investing in cleaner, more efficient gas-fired power generating
                  stations. (12) Developments such as these will ensure Britain has plenty of electricity at its
                  disposal in decades to come. (13) Not to mention tons less rubbish.

                                                   National Power
                                                      Ahead of
                                                   current thinking

         Our introductory paragraph might read :
                An analysis of the text reveals that it is best described in terms of a
                problem-solution structure, as outlined by Hoey (1994). This pattern is
                employed by an advertising copy-writer to present a possible solution for
                a current problem: the disposal of rubbish. This involves the promotion of
                National Power and its product - electricity.

MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
                                                                                                    Unit 2

Describing the text’s structure might be done in either - or both - of two ways.
The first is to produce a diagram:
 PROBLEM :(Sentences 1 & 2)

 PROBLEM : 'We have a solution...'
 (so 'mountains of rubbish' must = a
 problem) ; 'domestic and commercial

 CURRENT SOLUTION :'simply goes                             As current solution is negatively
 into holes in the ground'                                  evaluated, original problem still obtains.
                                                            PROBLEM 2 : 'what will we do when
                                                            suitable landfill sites no longer exist ?'
 'simply' suggests unacceptable ;'at
 present' suggests contrast with some                      SOLUTION (to problems 1 & 2) :
 other solution in future (& later in text)                'Don't bury, burn'

                                                           EVALUATION : National Power's
  PROBLEM 3 (not explicit but                              solution deals with problems 1 & 2, is
  understood) : continuing electricity                     useful ('use the energy created'),
  supply while protecting the                              "pioneering" ('one of Britain's first...')
  environment                                              and "green" ('clean electricity')

  SOLUTIONS : 'wind power' ;
  'cleaner, more efficient gas-fired...'

  'cleaner', 'more efficient'

 'Developments' ; 'will ensure Britain has plenty of electricity... tons less rubbish'

As an alternative to such a diagram, or to complement it, we might write a
commentary explaining the way in which we perceive the textual structure (i.e. how
we arrived at this diagram). Apart from describing the structure as a whole, we may
also wish to point out smaller-scale elements which contribute to it. This could
include ‘matching relations’ (see Unit 3, this module) - an example of which can be
seen here in mountains of rubbish (problem) and heaps of electricity (solution). It
should also comment upon the lexical signals used to realise the structural pattern.

                                                                   MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
Unit 2

         Examples for this text include :

                Situation:           present tense - produces annually ; at present
                Problem 1:           We have a solution for... ; rubbish ; mountains of
                Solution 1:          (significantly, not marked as a solution)
                Evaluation of S1:    (negative) simply
                Problem 2:           use of interrogative what will we do...? and no longer
                Solution 2 (NP):     explicit lexical signal solution (Sentence 4 and
                                     ‘previewed’ in headline We have a solution...) and
                                     contrastive Don’t bury, burn.
                Evaluation of S2:    (positive) produce electricity, clean
                Problem 3:           cued by clean ? Link dependent on assumptions about
                                     readers (i.e. they understand that there is an underlying
                                     ‘environmental problem’ - cf. Units 1 & 5)
                Solutions 3 (to P3): developing, investing in, involved in.
                Evaluation of Ss 3: fresh, cleaner, more efficient
                Overall Evaluation: (positive) signalled by Developments. Also - ensure,
                                     plenty, less, and Ahead of current thinking.

         In assessing how our analysis helps us to decode the writer’s message, we might wish
         to make, amongst others, the following points:

            •   The audience envisaged by the writer (cf. note re- ‘Problem 3’, above) is:
                        - environmentally aware
                        - sees both waste and energy as potential problems
                In the current British socio-political context, there are also other assumptions
                we can make about the relationship between writer and readers (see Unit 5,
            •   Problem-solution structure is thus advantageous to the writer, since it allows
                him to present National Power as addressing the concerns of the target
            •   The bulk of the text addresses a problem of waste disposal, via the negative
                evaluation of current methods. Note that this is not currently a problem (not
                part of present ‘Situation’) but it’s suggested that it will be in the future.
            •   This idea of addressing future problems by developing solutions now is
                central to the projection of a positive image of National Power (Ahead of
                current thinking).

MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
                                                                                                            Unit 2

             Now read Text 3 from the daily Mail.
                                                                      Daily Mail, Tuesday, October 11, 1994

                  Could lasers stifle snores?
                                           By Robert Johnson
   A GOOD night’s sleep for both        is given only a local anaesthetic - a   LAUP is not suitable for those
snorers and their long-suffering        throat spray followed by an             with serious sleep apnoea - where
partners could soon be just an          injection.                              the snoring sound is not caused by
operation away, thanks to the latest                                            vibrations in the throat. (One in 20
developments in laser technology.       THE        MAIN drawback of the         snorers suffers from this condition,
For a new surgical technique            new operation is the expense. At        where      they    stop    breathing
promises to treat snoring in just 20    the moment it is only available         altogether for up to 20 seconds.
minutes - and without the need for      privately and costs around £1,000.      This can occur 300 times a night.)
a general anaesthetic.                  The patient will also have a very          A similar technique is currently
   Although      snoring     is    an   sore throat for at least three days     being developed by Mr Peter Ellis,
extremely common problem - it’s         after surgery and will need             a consultant ear nose and throat
estimated half the men over 40          painkilling gargles and throat          specialist      at    Addenbrookes
snore regularly, while a quarter of     sprays.                                 Hospital in Cambridge. Mr Ellis
women are snorers - most anti-             The new technique was first          remains cautious about the success
snoring treatments have had only        developed in France by Dr Yves          of laser treatments for snoring.
limited success.                        Kamani, but is now being per-           ‘Good results in the first few
   Teeth braces, nasal dilators and     formed in London by consultant          weeks do not mean it will last for
face masks look more like               otolaryngologist, David Garfield        ever,’ he says.
instruments of torture than cures       Davies. In August, he treated one          However, he points out that the
and are not terribly effective. Often   of his first patients using the         old procedure is not necessarily
the only way for a beleaguered          system. Although preferring to          any more effective in the long
partner to get a good night’s sleep     remain anonymous, the 55-year-          term. For although the old
has been to move into a separate        old patient is delighted with the       procedure has a success rate of up
bedroom.                                results, even though he will            to 100 per cent, studies in Canada
   The major alternative has been       probably require further treatment      have shown that after three to
an operation requiring general          when he goes back to see Mr             seven years this is down to 75 per
anaesthetic. Although there is no       Garfield Davies in a week’s time.       cent, with some patients snoring as
one explanation of what causes             ‘The operation itself was            badly as before.
snoring, the sound is usually           painless,’ he says, ‘but it was            Vere Carlin, an ear, nose and
created when air vibrates against       uncomfortable         to      swallow   throat surgeon at North Staffs
the uvula (a flap of skin which         afterwards. However, I managed to       Royal Infirmary, offers the laser
hangs down the back of the throat)      get the train home to Norfolk the       surgery developed by Peter Ellis
and other loose tissue. With            next day without any problems.          on the NHS. Although it can be
conventional surgery the palate            ‘My wife had been kept awake         performed under local anaesthetic,
and the sides of the throat are         at night for some time and she tells    Mr Carlin prefers to examine the
trimmed to tighten them up (this        me she is now sleeping much             patient under general anaesthetic to
sometimes requires stitching).          better. I think I am as well, and I’m   determine if the soft palate is to
   Although generally successful,       told I am much more active. I’m         blame. ‘There are two other
the operation can have unpleasant       certainly much more popular with        possible culprits: a large tongue
side effects, such as nasal             my wife.’                               that drops back, or a collapse of
regurgitation (where fizzy drinks          LAUP is said to be successful in     the larynx further down.’ These
go up your nose) and a change in        30 per cent of cases, although          cannot be corrected by surgery.
the voice.                              treatment may have to be repeated          Like Peter Ellis, he believes that
   The new technique, laser-            up to four times in severe cases.       the laser surgery may not be as
assisted      uvulo       paleoplasty   Mr Garfield Davies arranges to see      successful as originally thought.
(LAUP),      could      prove    less   both the snorer and their partner a     ‘The pain can be just as bad as
traumatic. Using a laser, the           month after the operation to see if     with major surgery.’
surgeon creates two small trenches      his patient is still snoring. If the       Furthermore, the tissue of the
about six millimetres long in the       patient is still snoring, he may then   palate can loosen dramatically over
palate. This reduces the movement       recommend further surgery.              six to 12 months so the problem
of the uvula, which is also trimmed                                             may recur. ‘Then, the only solution
in the same operation. The patient                                              is to have major surgery,’ he says.

                                                                            MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
Unit 2

         Discussion/Reflection Task 2
         Analyse the text (Text 3, from the Daily Mail) in terms of problem-solution
         patterning. Which sections of the text describe the situation(s)? Which relate to
         the problem(s)/response(s) solution(s)/result(s)/evaluation(s)? What signals help
         to identify the functions of specific parts of the text? Comment on any sections of
         the text which do not seem to fit the problem-solution pattern.

2.6      The General-Specific Pattern
         The second of our common patterns is the ‘General-Specific’. Here, typically, we find
         an initial general statement, followed by a series of (progressively) more specific
         statements, culminating in a further generalisation. McCarthy (1991, p.158) offers the
         following diagrammatic representations:

                  General Statement                          General Statement

                  Specific Statement 1                       Specific Statement

                  Specific Statement 2         or :       More Specific Statement

                  Specific Statement 3                 Even More Specific Statement

                         etc.                                         etc.

                  General Statement                           General Statement

MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
                                                                                                Unit 2

The short text below may serve as an illustration of general-specific structure.
Sentences are numbered for ease of reference.

Text 4
         [1] Although Indonesian views on the English-speaking world - and indeed on ‘the West’
         in general - are ambivalent, there is little doubt that many Indonesians regard English
         language proficiency as an indispensable enabling skill. [2] This seems to be true for
         ordinary citizens, as much as it is for those involved in education at the policy-making
         level. [3] A recent survey of English teaching in secondary schools throughout the
         archipelago revealed that 50% of parents interviewed thought the ability to speak English
         was ‘vital’ to their children’s prospects of obtaining paid employment. [4] English is the
         only foreign language to be taught compulsorily at any level, and has for some years now
         enjoyed the privileged position of ‘first foreign language’, being specified as such in a
         number of official curriculum documents. [5] In cultural terms, there may be a certain
         amount of antipathy to the language - rooted perhaps in the country’s experience of
         colonialism and in its social, political and religious constitution: some sections of the
         strong Islamic lobby have, for example, demanded that Arabic be given equal status
         within the education system. [6] However, while any ‘integrative’ orientation seems
         unlikely, the evidence for a positive ‘instrumental’ attitude towards learning English is

The first sentence contains two general propositions about the attitude of Indonesians
towards English: firstly (main clause) that they see proficiency in the English
language as an important enabling skill ; secondly (subordinate ‘although’ clause)
that their view of English speakers is not necessarily so positive. The final sentence is
of the same order of generality and in fact reads more or less as a restatement of the
first. What comes in between is a short series of more specific statements which
expand upon these generalisations - exemplifying, explaining and/or justifying them
in some way. Note that the relationships between general proposition and specific
example / explanation are signalled by cohesive lexical ties. For example, ordinary
people and those involved at the policy-making level are ‘picked up’ later in the text
with, on the one hand, parents and, on the other, taught compulsorily and official
curriculum documents. Similarly, there are clear links between enabling skill in the
first sentence, vital to...obtaining paid employment in sentence 3, and ‘instrumental’
in sentence 6.
We may see this text as containing three levels of generality / specificity. The first
and last sentences operate at ‘Level 1’ (most general), and the second and fifth at
‘Level 2’ (more specific). The third and fourth sentences are more specific still
(‘Level 3’), since these expand upon and justify the claim made in sentence 2. It

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Unit 2

         would seem, therefore, that the text follows neither one nor the other of McCarthy’s
         ‘idealised’ diagrams, but a combination of both.
         We might wish to go further, and break the sentences down into their constituent
         clauses: the clause beginning ‘some sections of the strong Islamic lobby...’ (which
         could of course stand as a sentence on its own) would then be seen as more specific
         (‘Level 3’) than the first half of the same sentence, upon which it expands. (Note that
         here the precise general-specific relationship between the two clauses is ‘signposted’
         by for example.) In fact ‘textual patterns’ are perhaps best seen as equivalent to
         clause relations (see unit 3) - operating in similar ways, but at the ‘macro’ level of
         text. This text, obviously, is an example of general-specific patterning within one
         paragraph, but the same pattern may be observed in texts of greater length. A much
         longer and more detailed version of the above might look, in outline, something like
         this -
                  Introduction: the Importance of ELT in Indonesia
                  Section 1. Popular Views of English
                  Section 2. The Official View of English
                  Section 3. Language and Culture: the Cases For and Against ELT in
         - but still follow a very similar overall general-specific pattern to that identified in the
         one short paragraph.

2.7      The Claim-Counterclaim Pattern
         A third textual pattern is that of ‘Claim-Counterclaim’, where a series of claims and
         contrasting counterclaims is presented in relation to a given issue. This pattern, as
         McCarthy notes (1991, p.161) is common in political journalism and in ‘letters-to-
         the-editor’ pages. It is also the stock-in-trade of many a ‘Compare and Contrast...’
         academic essay, although in the latter type of text the relationship of the author to any
         set of claims may be more dispassionate than in, say, a political ‘leader’ article, where
         either ‘claim’ or (more likely ?) ‘counterclaim’ will often be the writer’s own views.

MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
                                                                                                     Unit 2

      Two possible variants of claim-counterclaim patterning might be represented thus:
                                   Claim 1                        Claim 1

                                    Counterclaim 1                             Claim 2

                                        Claim 2              or :              Claim 3

                                    Counterclaim 2                         Counterclaim 1

                                        Claim 3                            Counterclaim 2

                                    Counterclaim 3                         Counterclaim 3

      The second variant (above right) would be more common in longer texts. Where this
      structure is followed, it is clearly important to relate ‘counterclaims’ to ‘claims’: does
      ‘Counterclaim 1’, for example, refute ‘Claim 1’, ‘Claim 2’ or ‘Claim 3’ ? For this
      reason, discourse signals like With regard to (the claim that)..., As concerns (the
      contention that)..., etc. are common, more so where the ordering of claim and
      counterclaim is ‘marked’ - where, for instance, the first counterclaim listed deals with
      ‘Claim 2’ rather than ‘Claim 1’.

2.7.1 Analysing a Claim-Counterclaim Text
      Text 5, from the ‘letters’ page of New Statesman & Society, 16/30 December 1994,
      illustrates the first of the two variants (i.e., as illustrated above left).

      Text 5
                                                      V OTE FOR TAX
          [1] Both your editorial and the article “Taxing time” by Peter Taylor-Goodby (2 December)
          effectively challenge simple notions of welfare crisis and causal links between economic
          performance and tax costs. [2] There are a number of points that ought to be challenged, however.
          [3] Your editorial points to a familiar paradox: “There is a deal of difference between what people
          say on taxes and public spending and how they actually cast their votes when it comes to the
          [4] Actually, there is not a great deal of difference at all. [5] According to the British Social
          Attitudes research quoted by Taylor-Goodby, close to 60 per cent of the public want to see higher
          taxes and higher spending. [6] At the 1992 general election, close to 60 per cent of voters backed
          parties who stood against the Tory status quo. [7] Many commentators have interpreted 42 per
          cent support for the Conservatives as majority support: “people voted Tory” was the conclusion,
          but it is hardly accurate.
          [8] Second, Taylor-Goodby argues that the Social Justice Commission proposes to boost private
          pensions. [9] The commission has recommended a state-pensions guarantee, higher than the
          current basic state pension and income support levels, to tackle today’s pensioner poverty. [10] In
          the longer term, one option proposed is a universal funded second pension, based on the

                                                                        A TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
Unit 2

           contributions of all employees and all employers, with government paying credits to jobless
           people and those with caring responsibilities. [11] The second pension could be an occupational
           pension or a national savings pension plan. [12] A key goal is to deliver better regulation and
           value, not least for low-paid employees for whom personal pensions have too often been a
           disaster. [13] The commission argues that: “If personal pensions remained in their present state,
           moving towards a funded second-tier pension would be quite unacceptable.” [14] Above all, these
           proposals would begin to break the link between poverty in working age and poverty in
           retirement. [15] Lastly, it is wrong to state that the commission has avoided commitments on tax.
           [16] That is to make the mistake of equating the tax system with particular levels of direct
           taxation. [17] The commission has proposed using the married couples’ allowance, mortgage tax
           relief and the Serps opt-out rebate more effectively. [18] Tax allowances are hugely important in
           the British tax system.
           [19] The debate about taxation should focus on the entire pattern of taxing - direct and indirect, as
           well as reliefs - rather than being limited to the question of what to do with the basic rate of
           income tax.
           JAMES McCORMICK
           LONDON WC1
           New Statesman & Society, 16/30 December 1994.

MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
                                                                                              Unit 2

A diagrammatic representation of this text’s structure might look something like this:

   ‘COMMON GROUND’ : ‘effectively challenge simple notions... and causal links

   BUT... : a number of points ought to be challenged

   CLAIM 1 (New Statesman): difference
   between what people say re- tax / spending
   & how they vote

   COUNTERCLAIM 1 (letter writer):
   Actually... not a great deal of difference at

                         CLAIM 2 (NS): Second... Social Justice
                         Commission proposes to boost private

                       COUNTERCLAIM 2 (lw): SJC proposes
                       state pensions guarantee, universal funded
                       2nd pension. Aims = better regulation &
                       value / break link between poverty in work
                       & poverty in retirement

                                           CLAIM 3 (NS): Lastly... SJC has
                                           avoided commitments on tax

                                    COUNTERCLAIM 3 (lw): That is... mistake ; SJC
                                    proposes use of tax allowances

     GENERAL SUMMARY OF COUNTERCLAIM / CHALLENGE (lw): ‘debate should focus
     on the entire pattern of taxation...’ not just ‘what to do with the basic rate of income tax’

At least three elements can be discerned within the pattern: ‘claim’, ‘counterclaim’,
and what might be termed ‘common ground’, where points of similarity / agreement
between the two sets of claims are noted. The element of ‘common ground’ might
appear at the beginning of a claim-counterclaim pattern (as in the letter above), at the

                                                                 A TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
Unit 2

         end, or perhaps at both beginning and end. In longer and more detailed texts, areas of
         consensus may be mentioned in relation to each claim or counterclaim as these are
         raised. The decision on how to deal with ‘common ground’ is significant because it
         allows for variation in emphasis and a writer may therefore leave readers with
         differing impressions. For example:

                        Claims & Counterclaims                          ‘Common Ground’

                                     (but)         or :                         (but)

                          ‘Common Ground’                                  contrasting
                                                                      Claims & Counterclaims

2.7.2 Lexical Signals of Claim-Counterclaim Patterning
      As with ‘problem-solution’, particular lexis tends to be used to signal each of these
      elements: accept, admit, agree, consensus, etc. (‘common ground’) ; argue, assert,
      claim, contend, propose, see, state, view, etc. (‘claim’) ; contest (vb.), counter,
      counterpose, dispute, reject, etc. (‘counterclaim’). Note that ‘claim’ lexis might
      equally be used for ‘counterclaim’. Contrastive discourse markers (actually, but,
      however, in contrast, on the contrary, on the other hand, rather, etc.) are also likely
      to feature prominently.

2.8      Mixed Patterns
         It is important to realise that the structuring of a text according to one pattern does not
         in any way exclude other forms of patterning from the same text. It is perfectly
         possible - indeed common - to find a ‘general-specific’ structure, for example,
         embedded in a ‘problem-solution’ pattern, or following on from it within one text.
         We might imagine these patterns as being inscribed upon transparent acetate, like
         overhead-projector transparencies, where one may be laid over another but both
         remain visible. Note that there is an element of general-specific patterning in the New
         Statesman letter, above. The writer begins with a general statement of ‘common
         ground’, agreeing in principle with the viewpoint of the New Statesman articles of
         2nd December. He then signals specific points of disagreement and goes on to detail
         these (‘claim-counterclaim’). He ends with another general statement, summarising
         the difference between his own view and that which was apparently put forward in
         the original articles.

MA TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000
                                                                                       Unit 2

2.9   Summary
      We have examined three of the most common patterns: the ‘problem-solution’,
      the ‘general-specific’ and the ‘claim-counterclaim’. This is not to say, of course,
      that they are the only ones which English ‘approves’, and other common patterns
      have been noted, for example the ‘question-answer’ and the ‘hypothetical-real’
      (see McCarthy, 1991, chapters 3 & 6).

      We can make five general points by way of summary:

         •   It is possible to discern a number of discourse patterns which frequently
             occur in written English text.
         •   These patterns seem to reflect ‘culturally approved’ preferences for the
             organisation of discourse.
         •   They commonly involve the use of specific lexis which, for the English-
             speaking reader, ‘signals’ a particular pattern and the constituent elements
             of that pattern.
         •   Deviation from the ‘culturally approved’ patterns (‘marked’ textual
             organisation) is possible, but tends to require more careful use of formal
             cohesive devices than where standard patterns are followed.
         •   A number of these patterns may occur within one text, either in sequence
             or embedded one within another.

                                                              A TEFL Written Discourse Jan 2000

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