Topic 35 – Explanatory texts. Structure and characteristics

Topic 35 – Explanatory 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: exposition.


3.1. On defining expository texts.

3.2. Expository texts: main types.

3.2.1. Regarding the audience.

3.2.2. Regarding the author’s purpose.

3.3. Expository texts: structure.

3.3.1. Main types.

3.3.2. Sequence of steps.

3.4. Expository 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 35 is to present the issue of expository texts (also called explanatory and explicative) in terms of structure and main features. Our aim is to offer a broad account of what expository 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 explaining a topic to an addresse in a clear and organised way. So, we shall divide our study in five main chapters.

In Chapter 2 we shall offer a theoretical framework for the analysis of expository texts since the concepts of ‘text’ and ‘exposition’ (or explanation) 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 expository 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 ‘expository’.

Chapter 3 will offer then an insightful analysis of expos itory texts in terms of (1) definition; (2) main types of expository texts (a) regarding the audience and (b) regarding the author’s purpose; (3) structure in terms of (a) types of structure (deductive and inductive) and (b) sequence of steps; and (4) main textual devices within expository 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 expository 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 te xts 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 ‘expository’ include Crystal and Davy, Investigating English Style (1969); Brooks and Warren, Modern Rethoric (1979), Traugott and Pratt, Linguistics for Students of Literature (1980); and Genette, Noveau discours du récit (1983).

The background for educational implications regarding expository 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 expository texts since the concepts of ‘text’ and ‘exposition’ (or explanation) 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 expository 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 ‘expository’.

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 expository 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 Anc ient 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 o f 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 ‘expository’ 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 ‘explanatory’ since we may deal with explaining a topic to the audience in a clear, detailed and organised way.

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 cohesive 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 explanatory 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 expository 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 expository 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 expository 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 of 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 expository 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 –present in expository texts-) and global patterns responsible for making a text be “senseless’ or non-sensical” (frames, plans). In other words, it gives sense to a text by means of organization.

(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 pra gmatic 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 expository texts, that is, to explain a topic 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 (historical analysis vs. empirical research).

(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 expository texts (declarative verbs regarding explanation, qualifying adjectives).

(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 people, objects and events in live presentations and hence, common and specific explanations.

(7) And finally, intertextuality which will be reviewed in connection to text types and,

will be the basis for the notion of expository 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, argumentative, dialectic and, for our purposes, expository (or explanatory).

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 beliefs; descriptive: to enrich knowledge spaces; narrative: to arrange actions and events and, for our purposes, expository texts: to explain a topic (ideas, operations, actions or utterances) to an a udience in a clear, detailed and organised way.

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 exposition.

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 expository texts, logical, chronological, or psypchological in narrative texts; from ge neral 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, continue with a detailed body development, and conclude with a brief trailer, byline, or signature.

2.3.2. Text types: expository.

We may c lassify 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, explain, express an attitude, persuade and create a debate. According to type or mode, the classification distinguishes among descriptive, narrative, argumentative, instrumental, and expository modes.

Hence, in this study we are dealing with expository texts which, on the one hand, are intended to explain a topic to 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 exposition, that is, the fact of offering a detailed explanation and analysis of a subject in a clear and organised way. Now let us examine expository texts more in depth regarding their structure and main features.


Chapter 3 will offer then an insightful analysis of expository texts in terms of (1) definition; (2) main types of expository texts (a) regarding the audience and (b) regarding the author’s purpose; (3) structure in terms of (a) types of structure (deductive and inductive) and (b) sequence of steps; and (4) main textual devices within expository text types: (a) cohesion, regarding (i) grammatical, (ii) lexical and (iii) graphological devices, and (b) coherence.

3.1. On defining expository texts.

An expository text is usually defined as a type of discourse concerned with the explanation and ana lysis of a subject in a clear, detailed and organised way for the listener/reader to have relevant information about a topic. So, the purpose of expository texts is to explain an issue to an addressee in a clear, detailed and organised way by showing relationships of cause, consequence and final purpose.

It must be borne in mind that in current society, explanation is always present at all levels, that is, in the domains of literature (fiction) and in everyday life (non- fiction). Therefore, it is relevant to remember that expository texts are not clearly -cut types and they may interrelate with other types such as argumentation, narration or description when explaining ideas, operations, actions, utterances, a theory, a plan, an academic subject, concepts, advertisements, definitions, lectures, articles, book of reference, touristic guides, and political speeches among others.

The explanation of any issue is normally a long, detailed, often scholarly account of all the salient points regarding the subject under consideration (argument, proposal, description, theory), hence the emphasis on form and organization of this type of text. The author usually makes a point-by-point discussion of a complex matter especially used in the paraphrase and analysis of a literary text. This complex analysis implies a global knowledge of the question one intends to explain and it also demands a progressive and articulated development of the ideas which contribute to its content, usually written assessments.

3.2. Expository texts: main types.

Basically, we can distinguish several types of expository texts depending on two main parameters: first, the audience it is addressed to (general or specific) and second, the author’s purpose (define, classify, illustrate, instruct, ana lyse, compare and contrast, show relationships of cause and effect).

3.2.1. Regarding the audience.

Regarding the audience, the main types of expository texts may be objective and subjective (also called general vs. specific, divulging vs. specialised).

1. The first type, defined as an objective, general and also divulging type is the modality used by the author so as to inform about a subject of general interest in a clear and objective way to a wide range of population. This modality is not complex and therefore, easily understood by any ordinary addressee since both the order of the content provided, and the accuracy of the terms aim at an effective communication (i.e. TV, radio news, Internet news, personal e-mails, business and personal notes).

2. The second type, defined as subjective, specific and also specialised modality, requires the knowledge of a particular discipline or science (or part of it) on the part of the speaker/writer since the topic must be developed in a technical way with specific vocabulary. Hence this type of explanation is not likely to be understood by all listeners or readers unless they are experts on the subject matter. This kind of expository texts are related to scientific, technological, linguistic fields where the written language is the vehicle that transmits and presents these specific contents.

3.2.2. Regarding the author’s purpose.

Regarding the author’s purpose, expository texts may aim at (1) defining, (2) classifying, (3) illustrating (giving examples), (4) instructing, (5) analysing, (6) comparing and contrasting, and finally (7) showing relationships of cause and effect.

1. By defining, the author states clearly what something is by locating the item in a class and also by pointing out the specific characteristics that make the item differ from other subjects in that class (a limited classification). Then we may find two types of definitions which work together so as to offer reasonable explanations: logical and rethorical. On the one hand, logical definitions can be reduced to a single sentence whereas rethorical definitions are more elaborated (when defining abstract items: sadness, friendship, jealousy) and show the personal point of view of the author.

2. By classifying, the author helps the reader think in a clear and systematic way by giving a logical structure to an item. Actually, he may locate the item within a logical classification or a general division by means of immediate upward or downward relations. Thus on the one hand, classification moves upwards from the particular to the more general so as to state the general class to which a particular instance belongs. On the other hand, the division process moves downwards, from the general to the particular, dividing a general class into parts.

3. By illustrating or giving examples, the author cites a particular item (or items) so as to clarify the nature of the class in which it is included. Examples serve to back up what we want to explain or analyse for the addressee to understand the topic better. In fact, the success of an expository text depends on the vividness and relevance of the given examples, usually introduced by prepositional phrases like ‘for example’ and ‘for instance’. Both the concept and the example must have a relevant connection so as to give the text a sense of effectiveness. Yet, unqualified generalisations with no concrete examples will make the text non-coherent and therefore, non effective.

4. By instructing the reader, the author presents information in a linear way where all the information is given the same relevance and it is organised in a temporal sequence (i.e. Travel guides, cooking recipes, rules of games, installing antivirus). This kind of text is characterised by the use of imperatives, future and the use of second and third person singular. Their aim is to guide and teach the reader/listener how to successfully carry out the process described.

5. By analysing, the author treats the item as an individual subject and its relation to its own parts (and not in relation to something more general or inclusive), that is, by dividing the item into component parts (i.e. a person, an object, a flower). In addition, this method deals directly with processes, that is, how to do things and therefore, how to organise an exposition (i.e. scientific, literary, technical, historical). In dealing with processes, we often provide the reader with a mere account of the stages in time sequence (narration, historical event, anecdote, joke).

6. By comparing and contrasting, the author establishes similarities and diffe rences. It is relevant to say that comparison is more common than contrast because it is easier to point out similarities between different items (people, animals, objects, events) than differences. Within this method we distinguish formal and rhetorical comparisons. On the one hand, formal comparison distinguishes between comparison (between objects which belong to the same class: childhood vs. adulthood) and analogy (between two different specific items: horse vs. bird). On the other hand, rethorical comparison focuses on emphasis and originality (i.e. Life is like a river).

7. Finally, by showing relationships of cause and effect , the author seeks an analysis of the items from the simple to the complex, from the casual to the very formal. Although many of these relationships are proved scientifically, some are mere speculations (i.e. He swam in freezing water. As a result, he got a cold) and refer to certain facts that provoke certain results (effects).

3.3. Expository texts: structure.

The structure of expository texts which seeks to clarify and explain a subject in a clear and organised way cannot be a sequence of disordered arguments. In fact, the discourse organization is essential, so both structure and content must be organized in a clear and coherent way for the reader/listener to follow the issue development step by step. Even in oral expository texts the discourse is fully planned and non-spontaneous.

3.3.1. Main types.

Since these texts have an open structure, they offer a lot of new informatio n which must be logically organized. Actually, we may distinguish two main types of expository texts: inductive and deductive.

1. The inductive structure develops the explanation in a progressive way going from the particular to the general. Here the speaker/writer moves from particular explanations to general conclusion as the basis of his/her exposition.

2. On the other hand, the deductive structure deals with the opposite direction: from the general to the particular. This order is also respected in the organization of the components, and of their possible relations in the case of the scientific expository text. In addition, specific terminology and formulae are used with the aim of clarifying the steps to follow.

3.3.2. Sequence of steps.

According to classical guidelines, expository texts will follow three main steps: introduction, development and conclusion, which will be structured in three different paragraphs. Before the introduction, it is common to present an outline of the exposition for the reader/listener to get acquainted with the concept, as a and then to begin with the exposition itself of what is to be communicated; finally, it is usual to end up our exposition with a conclusion, which summarises the previous steps.

The sequence of exposit ion may be oral or written although it is quite frequent in essay writing since it is a dialectic form (from classical dialectic and rethoric). Yet, the structure is not always the same, it may start from the end, to continue with the development of the process which is meant to be explained. The election of the chronological and logical order depends on the author’s communicative intention.

1. Firstly, the introduction presents the concept to be explained. It may also inform about the main objectives, temporal setting, spatial location and bibliographical references of the text. Actually, this introductory paragraph is quite relevant since it helps us to know about the previous knowledge the speaker has about the subject. In some way, the speaker selects his audience through his use of vocabulary, inferences or implicit references.

2. The development may involve several paragraphs whose number depends on the theme. Hence every paragraph is a thematic unit which works as theme (new information) and rheme (old information) at the same time. In addition, they constantly recover information from previous paragraphs to make the information develop in a logical way. This is achieved by means of conjunct clauses (summative, adversative, temporal or causal).

3. Finally, we get to the conclusion , which is a summary of all the information given about the subject. It usually reflects the author’s position with respect to the issue.

3.4. Expository texts: textual features.

The main textual features in expository texts are given by textual and lexical items, that is, textual devices which are words used to enhance the effectiveness of the exposition: declarative verbs such as explain, clarify, define, classify and so on; adversative, summative and causal connectors; and specific syntactic structures. Yet, these textual devices are quite similar to those of argumentative texts since the author may use a wide range of word choice for different purposes, thus (a) to provide objective and subjective exposition and (b) to explain a fact by using brief and clear statements.

So, let us analyse the basic language structures in expository 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 expository texts, all speakers make extensive use of them, for example in order to enhance coherence, but also for reasons of economy (e.g. a sequence of logic al steps to apply a new shampoo).

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) by means of grammatical categories such as adjectives, nouns, process verbs, and so on. 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 expository texts, and are part of the semantic relations established in this text type. Grammatical cohesion.

Thus the concept of cohesion accounts for the essential semantic relations in an expository text: 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’ so as not to repeat similar vocabulary; and ellipsis as the omission of an item (i.e. To finish with, …).

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’. As we stated before, paragraph ideas are linked and interrelated although they are in different paragraphs, so theme and rheme (anaphora and cataphora) are always present in expository texts.

Conjunction is a relevant relationship with respect to expository texts since connectors 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. because, since, as, thus, while, or therefore).

Connectors play an essential role in expository texts since they reflect cohesion within the discourse and show a logical development of the discussion by establishing different relationships between the presented ideas: summative (i.e. In addition, moreover), restrictive (i.e. specially, in particular), causal (i.e. because, because of, due to), explanatory (i.e. as we can see), illustrating (i.e. for example, for instance), previous reference (anaphora: As stated before) and conclusive (i.e. In conclusion, to sum up).

Other grammatical devices involve the use of specific syntactic structures, such as subordinate clauses (causal, consequence, final), relative clauses (i.e. It is a person who makes bread), impersonal structures (i.e. It must be switched off when installed), coordination in terms of copulative and explanatory structures (i.e. It is used for cutting and it is made of metal) and finally, specific adjectival structures (i.e. nuclear energy, environmental disasters, acid rain) Lexical cohesion.

From a lexical approach, expository texts are concerned with specific and technical vocabulary so as not to be ambiguous and be objective. We must remember that the intention of the author is not to creaty beauty by means of language (rethoric) but to expose ideas accurately and logically (dialectic). So, the main linguistic function in these texts is the referential one since pragmatic factors determine the specialised level of the text.

Hence this type of texts is namely characterized by the use of (1) declarative verbs to introduce explanations (i.e. define, classify, illustrate, exemplify, instruct, analyse, compare, contrast), which namely appear in present tense and indicative mood; (2) abstract nouns as expository texts are frequently marked by a more or less level of abstraction, depending on the frame where the author is placed (specialised or divulging; particular or general); and (3) connectors, which establish a semantic link between paragraphs (i.e. Moreover, although, in addition, but, eventually, etc). Graphological devices

With respect to graphological resources, we are mainly dealing with the most outstanding visual device in expository texts: paragraphs. Yet, we can also make reference to orthography, punctuation, headings, foot notes, tables of contents and indexes, since most of them deal with form and structure of this type of texts.

Firstly, orthography for a correct 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 exclamative 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, the use of inverted commas to highlight a word or sentence, and the use of paragraphs to separate different explanations and ideas.

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 orde r to produce a text in which the sentences are coherently organised so as to fulfil the writer’s communicative purpose (to explain a fact in a logical, clear and organised order). As Byrne (1979) claims, they refer to words or phrases which indicate meaning relationships between or within sentences: addition, comparison (similes), consequence, result, and condition expressed by the use of short utterances, and exemplification (imagery and symbolism).


But how do expository 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 general public’ when dealing with explanations 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 mo del in which first, there is an emphasis on significance over form, and secondly, motivation and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies. Expository texts prove frequent and relevant within the students environment (i.e. installing a new computer program, instructions for a pad game, mum’s instructions when she is out, comparing two friends, etc).

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. school, home, friends, office, tutorial meeting, at the doctor’s). 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 explain a fact in a clear, organised and logical order (i.e. how to make a coffee, what you did yesterday – giving details-, events in a History exam). Actually, Bachillerato students are asked to explain facts or give their own opinion about a fact by structuring expository texts into paragraphs (i.e. Introduction – development – conclusion) by using expository textual features (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 expository texts have been approached in terms of main types, main textual features and structure. We may observe that dealing with expository 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.

In present society, giving account of a fact from different perspectives (explaining, comparing, illustrating) is emphasized by the increasing necessity of learning a foreign language. As we are now members of the European Community, 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, expository 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.


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