Topic 34 – Argumentative texts. structure and characteristics

Topic 34 – Argumentative texts. structure and characteristics



1.1. Aims of the unit.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. The notion of text linguistics: Discourse Analysis.

2.2. On defining text.

2.2.1. Textual features:texture and ties.

2.2.2. Textuality: the seven standards.

2.3. Intertextuality: text types.

2.3.1. Text types: main criteria.

2.3.2. Text types: argumentation.


3.1. On defining argumentative texts.

3.2. Argumentative texts: main types.

3.2.1. Subjective.

3.2.2. Objective.

3.2.3. Other types.

3.3. Argumentative texts: structure.

3.3.1. Types of argumentative structure.

3.3.2. Main structural elements.

3.3.3. Sequence of steps.

3.4. Argumentative texts: textual features.

3.4.1. Cohesion. Grammatical devices. Lexical devices. Graphological devices.

3.4.2. Coherence.





1.1.Aims of the unit.

The main aim of Unit 34 is to present the issue of argumentative texts in terms of structure and main features. Our aim is to offer a broad account of what argumentative texts are and why they are used for in both linguistic and pragmatic terms, that is, how language and textual features are used to achieve the purpose of persuading and convincing the audience to wh om a rethorical or dialectical argumentation is addressed. So, we shall divide our study in five main chapters.

In Chapter 2 we shall offer a theoretical framework for the analysis of argumentative texts since the concepts of ‘text’ and ‘argumentation’ are related to other key notions which prove essential in the understanding of their analysis. So, in order to establish the relationship between both concepts, we shall review (1) the notion of text linguistics since the analysis of argumentative texts is discussed within the framework of Discourse Analysis. Accordingly, we shall provide (2) a definition of text and hence we shall examine (a) its main textual features (common to all text types) such as texture and ties and (b) the seven standards of textuality in order to get to the notion of intertextuality. Then, we shall approach (3) the notion of intertextuality as the linguistic source of text types regarding (a) the main criteria for classifying text types and hence (b) the term ‘argumentative.

Chapter 3 will offer then an insightful analysis of argumentative texts in terms of (1) definition; (2) main types of description; (3) structure and (4) main textual devices within descriptive text types: (a) cohesion, regarding (i) grammatical, (ii) lexical and (iii) graphological devices, and (b) coherence.

Chapter 4 will be devoted to present the main educational implications in language teaching regarding argumentative texts and Chapter 5 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our present study. Finally, Chapter 6 will include all the bibliographical references used in this study.

1.2.Notes on bibliography.

An influential introduction to the analysis of texts is based on relevant works of Halliday and Hasan, Cohesion in English (1976); van Dijk, Text and Context (1984); and Beaugrande and Dressler, Introduction to Text Linguistics (1988). Classic works regarding the term ‘argumentative’ include Crystal and Davy, Investigating English Style (1969); Brooks and Warren, Modern Rethoric (1979), Traugott and Pratt, Linguistics for Students of Literature (1980); Genette, Noveau discours du récit (1983); and Fowler, Linguistic Criticism (1986).

The background for educational implications regarding argumentative texts is based on the theory of communicative competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by Canale, From Communicative Competence to Communicative Language Pedagogy (1983); Hymes, On communicative competence (1972). In addition, the most complete record of current publications within the educational framework is provided by the guidelines in van Ek and Trim, Vantage (2001); B.O.E. (2002); and the Council of Europe, Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference (1998).


In Chapter 2 we shall offer a theoretical framework for the analysis of argumentative texts since the concepts of ‘text’ and ‘argumentation’ are related to other key notions which prove essential in the understanding of their analysis. So, in order to establish the relationship between both concepts, we shall review (1) the notion of text linguistics since the analysis of argumentative texts is discussed within the framework of Discourse Analysis. Accordingly, we shall provide (2) a definition of text and hence we shall examine (a) its main textual features (common to all text types) such as texture and ties and (b) the seven standards of textuality in order to get to the notion of intertextuality. Then, we sha llapproach (3) the notion of intertextuality as the linguistic source of text types regarding (a) the main criteria for classifying text types and hence (b) the term ‘argumentative.

2.1. The notion of text linguistics: Discourse Analysis.

The notion of text linguistics designates ‘any work in language science devoted to the text as the primary object of inquiry’ (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988). In fact, many fields have approached the study of texts, and in particular, that of argumentative texts : linguistics (from grammar, morphology and phonology), anthropology (different speech acts in different cultures), psychology (speaker and hearer behaviour) and stylistics (correctness, clarity, elegance, appropriateness, style).

Yet, the oldest form of preoccupation with texts and the first foundation for the analysis of texts and its articulation is drawn from the notion of text linguistics which has its historical roots in rethoric, dating from Ancient Greece and Rome through the Middle Ages up to the present under the name of text linguistics or discourse. Traditional rethoricians were influenced by their major task of training public orators on the discovery of ideas (invention), the arrangement of ideas (disposition), the discovery of appropriate expressions for ideas (elocution), and memorization prior to delivery on the actual occasion of speaking.

In the Middle Ages, rethoric was based on grammar (on the study of formal language patterns in Greek and Latin) and logic (on the construction of arguments and proofs), hence its relevance within our study. Rethoric still shares several concerns with the kind of text linguistics we know today, for instance, the use of texts as vehicles of purposeful interaction (oral and written), the variety of texts which express a given configuration of ideas, the arranging of ideas and its disposition within the discourse and the judgement of texts which still depends on the effects upon the audience.

2.2. On defining text .

The definition of ‘text’ is quite relevant in our study since it will lead us straighforwardly to the notion of ‘argumentative’ when reviewing the notion of intertextuality within text types. Following Halliday & Hasan (1976), “the word ‘text’ is used in linguistics to refer to any passage, spoken or written, of whatever length, that does form a unified whole”. As a general rule, we know whether an utterance or sequence of utterances constitute a text or not though it may be “spoken or written, prose or verse, dialogue or monologue, and also anything from a single proverb to a whole play, from a momentary cry for help to an all- day discussion on a committee”.

In addition, a text is best regarded as a semantic unit and not a unit of form. Hence, we may establish its relation to the term ‘argumentation’ s ince we may deal with supporting or disagreeing with a statement whose validity is questionable or contentious.

2.2.1. Textual features: texture and ties.

Textual features such as texture and ties give a text the status of ‘being a text’. First of all, the concept of texture is defined as the textual resource that functions as a unity with respect to its environment and secondly, ties are defined as the resources that English has for creating texture so as to contribute to its total unity by means of co hesive relations (reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical cohesion). The concept of a tie makes it possible to analyse a text in terms of its cohesive properties and give a systematic account of its patterns of texture, as it is the case of argumentative texts (Halliday & Hasan, 1976).

2.2.2. Textuality: the seven standards.

Perhaps the notion of textuality is the most relevant in our study since we reach the notion of argumentative text through one of its seven standards: intertextuality. Actually, written

texts conform to rules that most successful writers unconsciously follow and native readers unconsciously expect to find. It is relevant, then, to address the term textuality in written and oral texts as it is involved in rules governing written discourse (hence its relationship to argumentative texts).

In the approach to text linguistics by de Beaugrande & Dressler (1988), a text, oral or printed, is established as a communicative occurrence, which has to meet seven standards of textuality: cohesion, coherence, intentionality and acceptability, informativity, situationality and finally, intertextuality. If any of these standards are not satisfied, the text is considered not to have fulfilled its function and not to be communicative.

We shall briefly review the first six standards of textuality in relation to argumentative texts so as to analyse the seventh one in more depth in next section:

(1) Cohesion is, as well as coherence, a text-centred notion which is related to the function o f syntax and the components of the surface text. It also deals with cohesive ties as mentioned above (anaphora, cataphora, ellipsis, etc) and signalling relations (tense and aspect, modality, updating, junction, conjunction, disjunction and subordination) which prove essential in argumentative texts.

(2) Coherence is “the outcome of actualizing meanings in order to make sense” (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988). It concerns a set of relations subsumed under causality (cause, reason, purpose time) and global patterns responsible for making a text be “senseless’ or non-sensical” (frames, plans). In other words, it gives sense to a text.

(3) Intentionality subsumes the intentions of text producers, that is, their attitude. In the most immediate sense of the term, the producer ‘intends’ the language configuration under production to a cohesive and coherent text instrumental in fulfilling the writer intentions. This standard deals with the pragmatic perspective of discourse, that is, the conversational maxims of co-operation: quantity, quality, relation and manner on saying ‘be informative, be truthful, be relevant and be brief’.

Here we meet the purpose of argumentative texts, that is, to convince the audience about a universal truth which is presented briefly and clearly.

(4) Acceptability, on the other hand, concerns the receiver attitude. Here a set of occurrences should constitute a cohesive and coherent text having some use or relevance for the receiver in an appropriate context of communication (agreement or disagreement in argumentation).

(5) Informativity concerns the extent to which the occurrences of the text are expected vs. unexpected or known vs. unknown or uncertain by means of content words (verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs). Hence specific lexical devices in argumentative texts (adversative conjunctions, declarative verbs).

(6) Situationality concerns the factors which make a text “relevant to a current or recoverable situation of occurrence” (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988). The effects of a situational setting are very rare when there is no mediation and therefore, the extent to which one feeds one’s own beliefs and goals into one’s model of the current communicative situation (i.e. in opinion essays). There exist the prerogative of presenting alternative opinions about peop le, objects and events in live presentations and hence, objective and subjective argumentations.

(7) And finally, intertextuality which will be reviewed in connection to text types and, will be the basis for the notion of argumentative texts.

2.3. Intertextuality: text types.

Intertextuality concerns the factors which make the use of one text dependent upon knowledge of one or more previously encountered texts, that is, the ways in which the production and reception of a given text depends upon the participants knowledge of other texts. The usual mediation is achieved by means of the development and use of text types, being classes of texts expected to have certain traits for certain purposes: narrative, descriptive, expository, dialectic and, for our purposes, argumentative.

For 2,400 years there have been two traditions of classifying texts. The first one, deriving

from Aristotle’s Rethoric, where the term rethoric refers to the uses of language. More specific, it refers to modes of discourse realized through text types, thus narration, description, directive, exposition and argumentation. Within the second tradition, rethoric refers to communicative function as rethorical strategies in functional lines: argumentative: to promote the acceptance of certain be liefs ; descriptive: to enrich knowledge spaces; narrative: to arrange actions and events; and so on.

In this section we shall approach the concept of text typology from two main perspectives: (1) the main criteria for text typology by means of which we review basic principles for all types of texts regarding textual devices, order and sequence elements and common text structures; and (2) a text type classification and argumentation.

2.3.1. Text types: main criteria.

There are three main criteria when establishing a typology for texts: textual devices, order and sequence elements and common text structures for all types of texts.

(1) Regarding textual devices, we deal with specific conditions of production, contradictory cultural discourses, and intercultural processes. For such reasons, texts may have a wide range of interpretative possibilities. The main basic principles are considered to be literary elements and devices to evaluate how the form and use of elements and devices which contribute to the work’s message and impact.

(2) Order and sequence. Moreover, basic to the concept of form is the notion of order and sequence, which may vary depending on the type of text. For instance, introduction, development and conclusion in argumentative texts, logical, chronological, or psypchological in narrative texts; from general to specific, upward and downward direction, personality vs. physical appearance in descriptive texts; and so on.

(3) Text structure. By studying the textual and lexical elements of text types, one can learn to regularly recognize the overall structure of a text. Following a general division of any kind of text we may sometimes begin with a brief heading or title, with or without a byline, an epigraph or brief quotation, or a salutation, such as we may find at the start of a letter. They may also conclude with a brief trailer, byline, or signature. Elements which may appear in this way, either at the start or at the end of a text division proper, are regarded as forming a class, known as divtop or divbot respectively.

2.3.2. Text types: argumentation..

We may classify texts in two ways. Firstly, according to purpose, and secondly, according to type or mode. According to purpose, in terms of communicative functions, the discourse is intended to inform, express an attitude, persuade and create a debate. According to type or mode, the classification distinguishes among descriptive, narrative, expository, instrumental, and argumentative modes.

Hence, in this study we are dealing with argumentative texts which, on the one hand, are intended to persuade and convince the audience in terms of communicative functions and, on the other hand, according to the category or text types it is included within the type of argumentation, that is, the fact of supporting or disagreeing with a statement whose validity is questionable or contentious . Now let us examine argumentative texts more in depth regarding their structure and main features.


Chapter 3 will offer then an insightful analysis of argumentative texts in terms of (1) definition; (2) main types of argumentation; (3) structure and (4) main textual devices within argumentative text types: (a) cohesion, regarding (i) grammatical, (ii) lexical and (iii) graphological devices, and (b) coherence.

3.1. On defining argumentative texts.

An argumentative text is usually defined as a type of discourse concerned with the presentation and evaluation of arguments, either rethorical or dialectical, which show the cause-effect relationship established in an event or theory. So, the purpose of argumentative texts is to persuade and convince the audience of the value of the theses for which the argumentation seeks assent so as to obtain some effectiveness on the argumentative discourse (Crystal & Davy, 1969).

Moreover, argumentative texts may vary depending on the type of audience they are addressed to, for instance, non-specialized audience (appealing to common sense and common principles, values and places) or to a specialized group (where the basis for agreement is more specific). With this audience in mind, the argumentative discourse may take the form of a discussion, an interview, a speech, an essay, an opinion letter, a letter or a book on literary criticism among others.

3.2. Argumentative texts: main types.

Basically, we can distinguish three types of argumentative texts depending on the social character or the rational character of argumentation: first, a subjective argumentation; second, an objective ar gumentation (also called scientific); and finally, other types of argumentation. It must be borne in mind that in current society, argumentation is always present at all levels, that is, in the domains of literature (fiction) and in everyday life (non- fiction).

3.2.1. Subjective.

On the one hand, we find the subjective argumentation, which presents the author/speaker/encoder’s desire to communicate certain ideas or simply to provoke the audience. Hence the orator starts by posing implicitly or explicitly the problem to be dealt with so as to organise the arguments which will lead him to a relevant conclusion. Actually, the speaker refers to a particular system of knowledge and his point of view is expressed mainly by means of presupposit ions and connotations, which produce informal, persuasive, ironical, appreciative or pejorative arguments.

Due to the use of dialectics, this type of argumentation is especially frequent. Hence it is namely found in oral and written discourse. Thus , in oral discourse we find it in political speeches, debates, interviews, informal conversations, radio and TV reports whereas in written discourse we namely find it in letters, press articles, opinion columns, business letters, and so on..

3.2.2. Objective .

On the other hand, the objective-type (also called scientific type) is related to the cognitive process of formally judging about a given problem. Similarly to the subjective type, the orator starts by posing implicitly or explicitly the problem to be dealt with so as to organise the arguments which will lead him to a relevant conclusion. However, alike the subjective- type, scientific argumentation refers to the methods based on established facts and obeys to well established laws.

In this type of argumentation the orator speaks from an objective perspective, basing himself on the data given by (a) bibliographic references taken from relevant authorities and authors on the issue , which are considered as arguments of authority; (b) examples from the author’s personal experience; and (c) by analogy, that is, by establishing paralelisms and comparisons with other similar ideas or events expressing consequences from similar propositions. Hence, we may find research documents, experiments, direct observations, fieldwork reports, analysis which are reflected on statistics, tables, diagrams, illustrations, photos, maps and so on.

In general, scientific argumentation has a mixture structure, where other text-types are involved, such as expository, explanatory and argumentative sequences, and very seldom do we find a scientific discourse exclusively. Hence scientific argumentation usually appears in relation to expositions, explanations, definitions or interpretations of a given issue.

3.2.3. Other types of argumentation.

Apart from objective and subjective argumentative texts, we may mention some other types of argumentation which are based on the author’s desire to present specific solutions or insights as common problems, that is, to pass from the premises accepted by the audie nce to the conclusions the author wants to establish. Hence we may find :

(1) A ‘fortiori’ argumentation, that is, when arguing from an accepted conclusion to an even more evident one. This technique is used in commentary texts, which may give more informatio n on specific subjects or offer a different point of view on a subject by holding to true values (newspaper complaint column, discussions, footnotes).

(2) A ‘contrario’ argumentation, that is, when arguing from an accepted conclusion to the rejection of its contrary. Hence, there is a clear dissociation between the given arguments. This technique is namely used in scientific texts which tend to be more specific as the main argument is supported by verifiable facts or statements (NASA reports on Mars, formal letters, lectures, bibliographies).

3.3. Argumentative texts: structure.

The structure of argumentative texts, which seek to persuade and convince the audience, cannot be a sequence of disordered arguments. Yet, it must follow some principles of order regarding the way arguments are grouped so as to present an organized sequence of selected and reasonable arguments which lead the author to be effective and persuasive.

There are, though, a common sequence of arguments for all types of humanistic discourse (exposition and argumentation): issue selection and kind of work, seeking information, work planning, writing down of the argument, and finally, presentation. Hence, we shall focus on the first one (issue selection and kind of work) since it is from this notion that we get three types of work depending on the theme (re sume, research, argumentation) and in particular, our current theme: argumentation and sequence structure.

The sequence of argumentation is quite frequent in essay writing since it is a dialectic form (from classical dialectic and rethoric). It may be oral or written and is aimed to convince the audience in a reasonable way of a universal truth, idea or thought, almost always questionable. The fact of being questionable brings about the essence of argumentation: to present a suggesting and polemic argument for the audience to accept and feel interested in it.

3.3.1. Typ the thesis is placed at the beginning of the argument. Here the encoder moves from the context to the text, that is, the thesis is related to a general proposition (cause- effect) which in turn is related to a particular one which serves as proof. The conclusion then is a synthesis of the two propositions.

(2) The inductive structure deals with a synthetic str ucture in which the thesis is developed progressively, as propositions that lead to a logical conclusion at the end of the text. In fact, the structure is similar to the deductive type, but here the encoder moves to particular facts to general abstractions as the basis of his/her conclusion.

(3) A framed structure is given when the thesis, already presented at the beginning, is part of the conclusion at the end of the text again.

(4) The zig -zag pattern proposes an alternative development of the thesis based on pos itive and negative propositions (pro-con-pro-con-pro-con) or the opposite (con- pro-con-pro-con-pro) depending on the position of the author as a proponent or as an opponent of the thesis respectively.

(5) One-sided arguments consist of (a) a presentation of the problem + refutation of the opposition’s arguments + solution or (b) presentation of the problem + no refutation + conclusion.

(6) Finally, the eclectic perspective, whereby the author may reject or accept some points of view and even show the a combination of both.

3.3.2. Main structural elements.

Argumentative texts have two essential components: on the one hand, the thesis (the idea or theory that the author presents as a universal truth in a relevant, brief and clear way) and the body of argumentation (which forms the rest of the text with a sequence of arguments which aim to validate the previous step (the thesis). Arguments then may be classified into two: positive arguments, which are aimed to reinforce the truth of the thesis (based on relevant authors; personal experiences; or analogy) and negative arguments (aimed to refuse those arguments or ideas agains the main thesis to be developed).

3.3.3. Sequence of steps.

According to classical guidelines, argumentative texts will develop then positive and negative arguments (pros and cons) following six main steps: introduction, issue explanation, outline of the argument, proof, refutation and conclusion1 .

1. Firstly, the introduction may present the author’s main argument in two different ways: (a) as a thesis, that is, as a problem to be solved and not as a universal truth and (b) by means of a suggestive and entertaining introduction to the theme through examples or references with the aim of attracting the reader/listener. The author must use the beginning of his text not to write about the issue in general but to gain the audience sympathy.

2. Secondly, the explanation of the issue under consideration sets up the beginning of the ‘body’ development whereby the author can modify the opinions of the audience by making an effective discourse when introducing the different approaches to the issue (historically, nowadays).

3. The outline of the argument. This third step establishes the difficult points of the argument which must be presented in a concise, organized and coherent way so as to establish the relationship between the different parts of the argument by means of linguistic elements or discourse deixis. Moreover, at this point, the effectiveness of the argument may be improved once the audience is better informed.

4. The fourth step deals with presenting proofs, which are extremely relevant within the essay since they support the main argument with contributions of literary authorities on the theme, bibliographic references and linguistic means (expressions suc h as ‘as a matter of fact’, ‘it cannot be forgotten’, ‘what is more’). They invite the audience to reflect on them and consider the given bibliographic references so as to enhance the relevance of their arguments.

1 It must be borne in mind that expositive and argumentative texts belong to the same type of discourse and hence, they share similar structures. This is the reason why students (E.S.O. and Bachillerato) are asked to present their argumentative essays within the structure of expository texts (in three different parts):

introduction, development and conclusion whereas argumentative presentations originally had six steps: (1) introduction, (2) issue explanation, (3) out line of the argument, (4) proof, (5) refutation, and (6) conclusion(B.O.E., 2000).

5. Similarly, refutation may establish the main unacceptable ideas or opposite thoughts to that of our main issue, and therefore, raise more interest on the part of our audience.

6. Finally, it is very important to conclude with a good summary of the opposite arguments, both positive and negative, which will reflect the author’s position with respect to the issue. This summary may be presented in two ways: as a universal truth or as another contribution to the issue under consideration.

3.4. Argumentative texts: textual features.

The main textual features in argumentative texts are given by textual and lexical items, that is, textual devices which are words used to enhance the effectiveness of the argument (i.e. declarative verbs, adversative, summative, concluding connectors, syntactic structures). Yet, these textual devices are quite similar to those of expository texts since the author may use a wide range of word choice for different purposes, thus (a) to provide objective and subjective argumentations and (b) to convince and persuade the audience about the truth of the argument by using brief and clear statements.

So, let us analyse the basic language structures in argumentative texts regarding the disciplines of syntax, pragmatics and namely semantics, together with a grammatical approach. Hence we shall namely analyse two standars of textuality: cohesion and coherence. We shall start by offering (1) an analysis of cohesion regarding (i) grammatical, (ii) lexical and (iii) graphological devices, and (b) a brief analysis of coherence following Halliday & Hassan (1976).

3.4.1. Cohesion.

Semantically speaking, the term ‘cohesion’ concerns the ways in which the components of the surface text (the actual words we hear or see) are mutually connected within a sequence of utterances (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988), that is, intra-text linking devices are connected to extra-textual reference. The notion of ‘cohesion’ is expressed through the stratal  organization of language which can be explained as a multiple coding system comprising three levels of coding: the semantic one (meanings), the lexicogrammatical (morphological forms, grammar and vocabulary) and the phonological and orthographic one (expressions: sounding and writing).

Cohesion has been a most popular target for research, and it is well known its relation to the second of the textuality standards, coherence. Since cohesive markers are important for the understanding of argumentative texts, all speakers make extensive use of them, for example in order to enhance coherence, but also for reasons of economy (e.g. saving time, being brief, relevant, and informative).

Since cohesion is expressed partly through the grammar and partly through the vocabulary, we find two main types of cohesive devices considered as general categories of cohesion: grammatical cohesion (substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, reference) and lexical cohesion (reiteration, collocation). Yet, we shall include in our study a third type that, although last is not the least. We refer to graphological devices (orthography, punctuation, headings, foot notes, tables of contents and indexes) since most of them deal with form and structure of argumentative texts, and are part of the semantic relations established in a text. Grammatical cohesion.

Thus the concept of cohesion accounts for the essential semantic relations whereby any argument is enabled to function as text. It is within grammatical cohesion that we find different types of relations: substitution, ellipsis, conjunction and reference. Note that the two latter items make reference to the terms ‘anaphora and cataphora, connectors and deixis’. It is relevant to mention first that anaphora and cataphora will be examined under the heading of reference, connectors under the heading of conjunction and finally, deixis as a subtype of reference and ellipsis.

The cohesive device of ‘substitution’ is very similar to that of ‘ellipsis’. These two

cohesive relations are thought of as processes within the text: substitution as ‘the replacement of one item by another’ (i.e. argument vs. discussion), and ellipsis as the omission of an item (i.e. To finish with, …). Essentially the two are the same process since ellipsis can be interpreted as ‘that form of substitution in which the item is replaced by nothing’, that is, simply ‘subst itution by zero’ (Halliday & Hasan, 1976).

The reference type of grammatical cohesion is another well researched area within linguistics. It is defined by Halliday & Hasan (1976) as ‘the case where the information to be retrieved is the referential meaning, the identity of the particular thing or class of things that is being referred to; and the cohesion lies in the continuity of reference, whereby the same thing enters into the discourse a second time’.

Conjunction is a relevant relationship with respect to argumentative texts since connector establish the necessary links between ideas and thoughts within the text (Summative vs. adversative relations between paragraphs). They indicate how the subsequent sentence or clause should be linked to the preceding or the following sentence or parts of sentence (i.e. Subordination links works when the status of one depends on that of the other, by means of a large number of conjunctive expressions: because, since, as, thus, while , or therefore).

Connectors play a n essential role in argumentative texts since they reflect cohesion within the discourse and show a logica l development of the discussion by establishing different relationships between the presented ideas: summative (i.e. In addition, moreover), restrictive (i.e. specially, in particular), opposition (i.e. However, although, though), insistence (i.e. Furthermore, similarly) , explanatory (i.e. as we can see), previo us reference (anaphora : As stated before), and conclusive (i.e. In conclusion, to sum up). Lexical cohesion.

Lexical cohesion does not deal with grammatical or semantic connections but with connections based on the words used. It is achieved by selection of vocabulary, using semantically close items. Because lexical cohesion in itself carries no indication whether it is functioning cohesively or not, it always requires reference to the text, to some other lexical item to be interpreted correctly.

From a lexical approach, argumentative texts are namely characterized by the use of (1) declarative verbs to introduce statements (i.e. say, claim, argue, believe, think, promise, consider, acknowledge), which namely appear in present tense and indicative mood. They are an essential part of the writer’s main devices to convince the reader of the truth of his statements.

Moreover, effectiveness in the development of the argument is also achieved by the use of (2) other grammatical categories such as (a) adjectives, which may qualify ing (outstanding fact, relevant research) or neuter (real facts, current figures) so as to keep the author’s subjectivity aside; (b) abstract nouns so as to expose ideas, real facts or anecdotes (i.e. Imagination, knowledge, opposition). So, there is a vast majority of noun prhases so as to transmit the intellectual aim of the discussion; and (c) concrete nouns, technical definitions so as to express once more the formality of the text. In addition, we find (d) adverbs, which enable the writer/speaker to get an effect with great economy but fusing the quality of a thing with its action (i.e. Clearly, briefly ).

But not only adjectives, nouns, verbs and adverbs contribute to achieve effectiveness in an argument. (3) Specific syntactic structures, such as subordinate clauses (relative, both defining and non-defining), prepositional and adverbial clauses, impersonal and passive sentences (i.e. It is said that…/Pollution is said to be…) and causal and consequence sentences (i.e. This is the reason why…/As a result). Graphological devices

With respect to graphological resources, we are mainly dealing with visual devices as we make reference to orthography, punctuation, headings, foot notes, tables of contents and indexes. As most of them deal with form and structure of different types of texts, and will be further developed as part of a subsequent section, we shall primarily deal with orthography and punctuation in this section.

Firstly, orthography is related to a correct spelling, and in relation to this term, Byrne (1979) states that the mastery of the writing system includes the ability to spell. This device covers different word categories, but mainly, rules of suffixation, prefixation, and addition of verbal markers as gerunds, past tenses or third person singular in present tenses. Moreover, Byrne claims for the use of the dictionary as the relationship between sound and symbol in English is a complex one, and spelling becomes a problem for many users of the language, native and non-native speakers alike. The importance of correct spelling is highlighted when Byrne says that most of us are obliged to consult a dictionary from time to time so as not to be indifferent to misspelling. Therefore, students are encouraged to acquire the habit of consulting a dictionary in order to ensure an adequate mastery of spelling.

Secondly, according to Quirk et al (1972) punctuation serves two main functions. Firstly, the separation of successive units (such as sentences by periods, or items in a list by commas), and secondly, the specification of language function (as when an apostrophe indicates that an inflection is genitive). Moreover, punctuation is concerned with purely visual devices, such as capital letters, full stops, commas, inverted commas, semicolons, hyphens, brackets and the use of interrogative and excla mative marks. It is worth noting that punctuation has never been standardised to the same extent as spelling, and as a result, learners tend to overlook the relevance of punctuation when producing a text.

Learners must be encouraged to pay attention to the few areas where conventions governing the use of the visual devices as fairly well established, among which we may mention letters and filling in forms as part of a sociocultural educational aim. Thus, students must try to understand the relevance of the use of commas to enumerate a sequence of items, the use of question and exclamation marks to express requests or attitudes, and the use of inverted commas to highlight a word or sentence.

3.4.2. Coherence.

Coherence is a purely semantic property of discourse, while cohesion is mainly concerned with morpho-syntactic devices in discourse. A coherent text is a semantically connected, integrated whole, expressing relations of closeness, thus, causality, time, or location between its concepts and sentences. A condition on this continuity of sense is that the connected concepts are also related in the real world, and that the reader identifies the relations.

In a coherent text, there are direct and indirect semantic referential links between lexical items in and between sentences, which the reader must interpret. A text must be coherent enough for the interlocutor to be able to interpret. It seems probable that this coherence can be achieved either through cohesion, for instance, markers and clues in the speakers’ text, or through the employment of the user-centred textuality standards of intentionality, acceptability, informativity, situationality and intertextuality.

These markers are defined as all the devices which are needed in writing in order to produce a text in which the sentences are coherently organised so as to fulfil the writer’s communicative purpose (to persuade and convince people of the truth of the presented statements)). Byrne (1979) claims that they refer to words or phrases which indicate meaning relationships between or within sentences, such as those of addition, contrast (antithesis), comparison (similes), consequence, result, and condition expressed by the use of short utterances, and exemplification (imagery and symbolism).


But how do argumentative texts tie in with the new curriculum? As we stated above, one of the pleasures of teaching the written language is that it is so easy to provide good models of almost any kind of writing. Following van Ek & Trim (2001), ‘the learners can perform, within the limits of the resources available to them, those writing tasks which adult citizens in general may wish, or be called upon, to carry out in their private capacity or as members of the ge neral public’ when dealing with arguments drawn from their personal opinion.

Moreover, nowadays new technologies may provide a new direction to language teaching as they set more appropriate context for students to experience the target culture. Present- day approaches deal with a communicative competence model in which first, there is an emphasis on significance over form, and secondly, motivation and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies. Argumentative texts prove frequent and relevant within this environment for students to state different points of view with respect to the same issue.

The success partly lies in the way the language becomes real to the users, feeling themselves really in the language. Some of this motivational force is brought about by intervening in authentic communicative events. Otherwise, we have to recreate as much as possible the whole cultural environment in the classroom. This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular, the Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of foreign languages where students are intended to carry out several communication tasks with specific communicative goals within specific contexts and registers (i.e. Asking for controversial current issues: terrorrism, pollution, travelling to Mars). Thus, foreign language activities are provided within the framework of social interaction, personal, professional and educational fields.

Writing skills are mentioned as one of the aims of our current educational system (B.O.E. 2002) and in particular, for students of E.S.O. and Bachillerato about how to convince a friend of their point of view and how to defend their arguments with respect to opposite ones. Actually, Bachillerato students are asked to structure argumentative texts into paragraphs when asked for their personal opinion about advantages and disadvantages on a given issue (i.e. Introduction – development – conclusion) by using argumetative textual featur es (lexical devices: connectors, declarative verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc).

It is stated that students will make use of this competence in a natural and systematic way in order to achieve the effectiveness of communication through the different communication skills, thus, productive (oral and written communication), receptive (oral and written comprehension within verbal and non-verbal codes), and interactional role of a foreign language as a multilingual and multicultural identity.

Analytic interpretation of texts in all genres should become part of every literary student’s basic competence (B.O.E., 2002). There are hidden influences at work beneath the textual surface: these may be sociocultural, inter and intratextual, or ecological. The literary student has to discover these, and wherever necessary apply them in further examination. The main aims that our currently educational system focuses on are mostly sociocultural, to facilitate the study of cultural themes, as our students must be aware of their current social reality within the European framework.


In this study argumentative texts have been approached in terms of main types, main textual features and structure. We may observe that dealing with argumentative style is not just a linguistic matter to be developed in the classroom setting; on the contrary, defending our personal point of view about a current issue enables us to carry out everyday performances which prove essential in our current society, for instance, when discussing on the relevance of recycling or not.

The role of discussing an argument in present society is emphasized by the increasing necessity of learning a foreign language as we are now members of the European Community, and as such, we need to communicate with other countries at oral and written levels. Written patterns are given an important role when language learners face the monumental task of acquiring not only new vocabulary, syntactic patterns, and phonology, but also discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence, strategic competence, and interactional competence.

To sum up, we may say that language is where culture impinges on form and where second language speakers find their confidence threatened through the diversity of registers, genres and text types, in particular, argumentative texts that make up the first language speaker’s day to day interaction. Language represents the deepest manifestation of a culture, and people’s values systems, including those taken over from the group of which they are part, play a substantial role in the way they use not only their first language but also subsequently acquired ones.


Beaugrande, R. & Dressler, W. 1988. Introduction to Text Linguistics. London: Longman.

B.O.E. 2002. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 112/2002, de 13 de septiembre. Currículo de la

Educación Secundaria Obligatoria en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

B.O.E. 2002. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 113/2002, de 13 de septiembre. Currículo de

Bachillerato en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

Brown, G. and G. Yule. 1983. Discourse Analysis. Cambridge University Press.

Brooks, J. and D. Warren. 1979. Modern Rethoric. Harcourt Braze.

Canale, M. 1983. From Communic ative Competence to Communicative Language Pedagogy, in J. Richards and R. Schmidt (eds.). Language and Communication. London, Longman.

Conn, J. 1995. Choosing and Using Literature. Curriculum Corporation.

Council of Europe. 1998. Modern Languages: Learn ing, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European

Framework of reference.

Crystal, D. and D. Davy. 1969. Investigating English Style. Longman, London. Fowle r, R. 1986. Linguistic Criticism. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Genette,G. 1983. Noveau discours du récit. Paris, Seuil.

Halliday, M.A. K. and R. Hasan. 1976. Cohesion in English . Longman.

Hymes, D. 1972. On communicative competence. In J. B. Pride and J. Holmes (eds.), Sociolinguistics, pp.

269- 93. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Traugott, E. and M. L. Pratt. 1980. Linguistics for Students of Literature. New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

van Dijk, T. 1984. Text and Context: Explorations in the Semantics and Pragmatics of Discourse. London: Longman.

van Ek, J.A., and J.L.M. Trim, 2001. Vantage. Council of Europe. Cambridge University Press.