Topic 6 – Written communication. Kinds of written texts. Structure and formal elements. Norms ruling written texts. Routines and formulae

Topic 6 – Written communication. Kinds of written texts. Structure and formal elements. Norms ruling written texts. Routines and formulae



1.1. Aims of the unit.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. The nature of communication: features and types.

2.2. The origins of written communication: language and semiotics.

2.3. The influential role of grammar: a basis for written skills.

2.4. A historical overview on written skills in the context of language teaching.


3.1. Spoken vs written language.

3.2. The nature of written language: a social and cognitive act.

3.3. Interactional vs transactional written discourse.

3.4. Language teaching and writing skills: reading and writing.

3.5. Written discourse devices.

3.5.1. Cohesion. Grammatical devices. Lexical devices. Graphological devices.

3.5.2. Coherence.

3.5.3. The role of pragmatics and genre analysis.


4.1. Basic principles to all text types.

4.2. Text type classification.

4.2.1. Narration.

4.2.2. Description.

4.2.3. Exposition.

4.2.4. Argumentation.

4.2.5. Instruction.


5.1. Textual structure.

5.2. Basic language structures.

5.3. Elements common to all text types.








1.1. Aims of the unit.

The main aim of this research is to provide a useful background for the written communication process and identify its main features by means of a historical and a theoretical background. While doing so, the importance of written devices are highlighted, as well as the importance of genre analysis in the context of pragmatics in the classification of text types, structure and elements, and framework for routines and formulaic speech.

The study comprises eight sections. Section one, Introduction and Notes on Bibliography, is an introductory chapter which starts off by defining the aims of the study, and then, by providing the reader with some notes on bibliography in order to set the study within a research and study framework.

Section two, A Historical Approach to Written Communication , goes on to offer a brief background to the history of writing, from its origins and nature as part of the communication process to, particularly, the language teaching context regarding writing skills.

Section three, A Theoretical Framework for an Analysis of Written Communication, deals with the theoretical premisis of the study pertaining to the notion of written language. The section begins with two theoretical distinctions. The first one, between written and spoken language, and the second one, between interactional and transactional language functions so as to establish written discourse features and function. Once written discourse is framed within a transactional function, reading and writing skills are examined in relation to language teaching, and therefore, the writing process from a structural point of view. Then, its main features are under revision: cohesion, coherence and the prominent role of pragmatics and genre analysis as a theoretical basis for next sections, where text types are classified according to genres and text types.

Section four, Different Types of Written Texts, firstly offer an overview of the common basic principles to all types of texts, to secondly, provide a text type classification with their own features. Thus, we find narration, description, exposition, argumentation and instruction.

Section five, Structure and Formal Elements, comprises a revision on textual structure, basic language structures, and elements common to all text types.

Section six deals with rules governing written discourse; section seven, with routines and formulae speech . Section eight examines new directions in language teaching, and section nine, implications in language teaching.

Section ten, conclusion , offers a critical view on the issue, and finally, bibliography is listed at the end of this study for further references.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

Introductions to the origins of language and communication include Crystal, Linguistics (1985); and Goytisolo, Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible heritage of Humanity (2001). On a theoretical framework for written discourse, see Cook, Discourse (1989); Widdowson, Teaching Language as Communication (1978); Myles, Second Language Writing and Research:

The Writing Process and Error Analysis in Student Texts (2002); Brown and Yule, Teaching the Spoken Language (1983); Rivers, Teaching Foreign -Language Skills (1981) for routines and formulae; and Swales, Genre Analysis. English in academic and research settings (1990). Among the many general works that incorporate the the concept of text types and genre analysis, see B.O.E. (2002); Quirk, Greenbaum & Svartvik (1972); Swales, Genre Analysis. English in academic and research settings (1990); Halliday & Hasan, Cohesion in English (1976); still indispensable is Dijk & Kintsch, Strategies of Discourse Comprehension (1983); and Beaugrande & Dressler, Introduction to Text Linguistics (1981). The most complete record of new directions and current implications on language teaching is provided by the annual supplement of AESLA 2001 (Asociación Española de Lingüística Aplicada) and current publications of the Council of Europe, Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference (1998); Celce- Murcia & Olshtain, Discourse and context in language teaching (2000).


According to Crystal (1985), it is particularly important for people to have some historical perspective in linguistics as it helps the researcher or teacher to avoid unreal generalizations or doubts about modern developments and innovations. Besides, it provides a source of salutary examples, suggesting which lines of investigation are likely to be profitable, which fruitless. Therefore, in order to provide a relevant basis for subsequent sectio ns concerning the development of written communication within a theory of language learning, we shall first examine in this section the origins of written communication. We shall first trace back to the general nature of communication, and then, establish a link between communication, language and semiotics in order to lead our presentation towards a theoretical framework for an analysis of written discourse.

2.1. The nature of communication: features and types.

Research in cultural anthropology (Crystal 1985) has shown that the origins of communication are to be found in the very early stages of life when there was a need for animals and humans to communicate adequately for their purposes, in order to express their feelings, attitudes and core activities of everyday life, such as hunting, fighting, eating, or breeding among others. However, even the most primitive cultures had a constant need to express their ideas by other means than gutural sounds and body movements as animals did. Concerning humans, their constant preoccupation was how to turn thoughts into words. Hence, before language was developed, non- verbal codes were used to convey information by means of symbols which were presented, first, by means of pictorial art, and further in time, by writing.

Language, then, is a highly elaborated signaling system with particular design features. It is worth noting, then, the distinction between human and animal systems as they produce and express their intentions in a different way. Yet, the most important feature of human language that differs from animal systems’ is to be endowed with an auditory vocal channel which allowed humans to develop and improve language in further stages. Besides, the possibility of a traditional transmission plays an important role when language is handed down from one generation to another by a process of teaching and learning.

Therefore, we may establish a distinction in terms of types of communication, where we distinguish mainly two, thus verbal and non-verbal codes. Firstly, verbal communication is related to those acts in which the code is the language, both oral and written. Thus, singing and writing a letter are both

instances of verbal communication. Secondly, when dealing with non-verbal devices, we refer to

communicative uses involving visual and tactile modes, such as kinesics, body movements, and

also paralinguistic devices drawn from sounds (whistling), hearing (morse) or touch (Braille). According to Goytisolo (2001), the oral tradition in public performances involves the participation of the five senses as the public sees, listens, smells, tastes, and touches.

2.2. The origins of written communication: language and semiotics.

As we have previously mentioned, prior to language development, non-verbal codes were used to convey information by means of icons and symbols which were presented, first, by means of pictorial art, and further in time by writing. Later developments in the direction of the study of meaning were labelled during the last century under the term semantics, which had a linked sense with the science related to the study of signs, semiotics .

This development in the direction of explicit messages and knowledge was soon followed by anthropologist researchers interested in the findings of written accounts in earlier societies, by means of icons and symbols found in burial sites and prehistoric caves. From Greek’s mantikós (significant) and sêma (sign), semiotics has a prominent role on the study of signs, what they refer to, and of responses to those signs.

According to Crystal (1985), most primitive cultures developed a deep-rooted connection between divinity and language, and therefore, approached language with a clearly religious purpose. They firmly believed in the power of language, and they felt that the writing had a voice, and a life of its own. Thus, there are regular tales in the anthropological literature of natives where alphabets began to be interpreted mystically, as a proof of the existence of God. Similar stories are not hard to find in other cultures. Thus, the god Thoth was the originator of speech and writing to the Egyptians. The Babylonians attributed it to their god, Nabû. A heaven-sent water-turtle with marks on its back brought writing to the Chinese, it is said. According to Icelandic saga , Odin was the inventor of runic script. And Brahma is reputed to have given the knowledge of writing to the Hindu race (Crystal 1985). These story-tales are clearly involved with religious beliefs and superstitious and mystical ideas as words were seen as all-powerful. Thus, runes were originally charms, and the power of a charm or an amulet depended largely on the writing upon it, the more spiritual the subject-matter, the better the charm. We find this kind of belief in Jewish phylacteries, and in the occasional Christian custom, such as that of fanning a sick person with pages of the Bible, or making him eat paper with a prayer on it. Examples of this kind abound in the history of cultures.

2.3. The influential role of grammar: a basis for written skills.

As we have seen above, the history of language is bound up with the history of religious thought in its widest sense. However, more fundamental and far-reaching than this is the major concern of early Greek and Roman scholarship on thought about language. Thus, Greeks developed an alphabet different in principle from the writing systems previously mentioned, and considered to be the forerunner of most subsequent alphabets. Their permanent contribution in this area is nicely indicated by the history of the term ‘grammar’ (grammatike), which in this early period implied understanding the use of letters, that is, having the skill of reading and writing (Crystal 1985).

Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics devoted a great deal of time to the development of specific ideas about language., and in particular, to grammatical analysis. Hence, Plato was called by a later Greek writer ‘the first to discover the potentialities of grammar’’ and his conception of speech

(logos ) as being basically composed of logically determined categories.This fairly study of the language, part of the more general study of ‘dialectic’, was taken over by the Romans with very little change in principle, and, through the influence of Latin on Europe, was introduced into every grammatical handbook written before the twentieth century.

Similarly, in ancient India, for example, the Hindu priests had begun to realize, around the 5th century B.C., that the language of their oldest hymns, Vedic Sanskrit, was no longer the same, either in pronunciation or grammar, as the contemporary language. For an important part of their belief was that certain religious ceremonies, to be successful, needed to reproduce accurately the original pronunciation and text of the hymns used.

The solution adopted in order to preserve the early states of the language from the effects of time was to determine exactly what the salient features of Vedic Sanskrit were, and to write them down as a set of rules. The earliest evidence we have of this feat is the work carried out by Panini in the fourth century B.C., in the form of a set of around 4,000 aphoristic statements about the language’s structure, known as sutras . Also, there were other ways in which religious studies and goals promoted language study. Thus, missionaries have often introduced writing by stating the first grammars of languages, and priests and scholars have translated works such as the Bible and the Scriptures.

2.4. A historical overview on written skills in the context of language teaching.

As we have stated in the previous section, an important step in the development of writing, after the influential role of the language of worship with a clear religious purpose, was the determination of preserving the early states of the language from the effects of time by means of grammar, stating the most salient features of a language, and writing them down as a set of rules. Besides, the influence of Greek and Latin scholarship proved highly relevant in Europe in subsequent centuries, since still under the aegis of the Church, missionaries and scholars have often introduced writing by stating the first grammars of languages, translating works such as the Bible and the Scriptures.

Latin, according to Crystal (1985), became the medium of educated discourse and communication throughout Europe by the end of the first millenium. Largely as a result of this, the emphasis in language study was for a while almost exclusively concerned with the description of the Latin language in the context of language teaching. This approach brought about a massive codification of Latin grammars such as those of Aelius Donatus (fourth century) and Priscian (sixth century) among many others. Donatus’ grammar was used right into the Middle Ages, and became a popular grammar known as being the first to be printed using wooden type, and providing a shorter edition for children.

Throughout this period, we may observe a high standard of correctness in learning. The Benedictine Rule, for example, heavily punished the mistakes of children in Latin classes. By the Middle Ages, when it had come to be recognized that Latin was no longer a native language for the majority of its prospective users, the grammar books became less sets of facts and more sets of rules, and the concept of correctness became even more dominant.

It is worth noting that this use of grammar rules promoted the development of written skills in language teaching, as we may observe in a popular Latin definition of grammar, that is, ars bene dicendi et bene scribendi, which means ‘the art of speaking and writing well’. Later, in the age of humanism, it was common to hear people identify the aim of learning grammar with the ideal of being able to write Latin like Cicero. A similar attitude had also characterized Greek language teaching, especially after the Alexandrian school (third century B.C.), considered to be the language of the best literature, was held up as a guide to the desired standard of speech and writing. Grammars were considered, then, to tell people authoritatively how to speak and write.


3.1. Spoken vs written language.

In order to get a firm grasp on the relationship between oral and written languages we must first examine once again our historical knowledge of both before we consider the changes introduced by the invention of typography in 1440. According to Goytisolo (2001), the first evidence of writing is from 3500 B.C., the date of the Sumerian inscriptions in Mesopotamia and early Egyptian inscriptions whereas the appearance of language can be traced back some forty or fifty thousand years. The period which encompasses primary orality, then, is consequently ten times the length of the era of writing. However, in a present-day context, we may observe an overwhelming influence of the written on the oral component as an attempt to preserve and memorise for the future the narratives of the past, by means of literature productions, printing and modern audiovisual and computing media.

With respect to both codes of communication (Widdowson 1978), oral and written, it is worth noting that one of their differences relies on the notion of participants and different skills, thus productive and receptive, to be carried out in a one-way process or two-way process. Hence, regarding written communication, we refer to writer and reader, when they are involved in the productive skill of writing and the receptive skill of reading. Similarly, we refer to speaker and listener, when they are involved in the productive skill of speaking and the receptive skill of listening.

Furthermore, within a traditional division of language into the two major categories of speech and writing, Cook (1989) establishes two main differences. The first difference is described in terms of time factor , that is, a here-and-now production; and the second difference is depicted in terms of degree of reciprocity , that is, one-way speech or two-way speech. There are certain features regarding these differences that are likely to happen within each category depending on the nature of the activity.

Concerning the time factor, we may find features such as time limitations, and the associated problems of planning , memory, and of production . First, regarding time limitations, spoken language happens in time, and must therefore be produced and processed ‘on line’. In writing, however, we have time to pause and think, and while we are reading or writing, we can stand back and view the discourse in spatial or diagrammatic terms. Secondly, in relation to planning , the speaker has no time to plan and organize the message as there is no going back and changing or restructuring our words, whereas the writer may plan his writing under no time pressure, and the message is economically organized. Thirdly, regarding memory, on spoken interaction we may forget things we intended to say whereas on writing we may note our ideas and organize the development of our writing. Finally, concerning production, on speaking we often take short cuts to avoid unnecessary effort in produc ing individual utterances, and therefore we make syntactic mistakes because we lose the wording. On the contrary, on writing, the words are planned and organized while producing a text, allowing the writer to control the language being used. Hence, sentenc es may be long or complex as the writer has more time to plan. Moreover, mistakes are less likely to happen as we are aware of the grammar of our utterances.

The second feature to be mentioned is a reciprocal activity, in terms of one-way speech or two-way speech. This crucially affects the sorts of reactions at a communicative level that are likely to take place in an interaction. Thus, in speaking, the person we are speaking to is in front of us and able to put us right if we make a mistake; on the contrary, the writer has to anticipate the reader’s understanding and predict potential problems. If the writer gets this wrong, the reader may give up the book in disgust before getting far. Moreover, regarding reactions, both speakers may show agreement and understanding, or incomprehension and disagreement to each other whereas readers have no way of signalling this to the writer. Therefore, readers have to put in some compensatory work in order to make their reading successful, either skip, or else work very carefully. Both readers and writers need patience and imagination at a communicative level.

3.2. The nature of written language: a social and cognitive act.

Students writing in a second language are faced with social and cognitive challenges related to second language acquisition as writing requires conscious effort and much practice in composing, developing, and analyzing ideas (Myles 2002). In fact, one of the problems students find more difficult to overcome is how to operate successfully in a specia l type of discourse that implies knowledge of the textual conventions, expectations, and formulaic expressions. In the social cognitive curriculum students are taught as apprentices in negotiating a required discourse, and in the process develop strategic knowledge. As Ellis (1994) states, writing is typically a socially situated, communicative act that is incorporated into a socio-cognitive theory of writing.

Both social and cognitive factors affect language learning. In fact, exploration of social factors gives us some idea of why learners differ in proficiency type, thus conversational ability versus writing ability, and in ultimate proficiency (Ellis 1994). Learners with positive attitudes, motivation, and concrete goals will have these attitudes reinforced if they experience success, and negative attitudes by failure. According to Myles (2002), although learners may have negative attitudes toward writing for academic purposes, many of them are financially and professionally committed to graduating from English-speaking universities, and as a result, have strong reasons for learning and improving their skills. Also, Myles states that most students hate writing in English, native and non-native, and only take the course for educational and career purposes.

Moreover, academic writing is believed to be cognitively complex. The acquisition of academic vocabulary and discourse style is particularly difficult. Therefore, according to cognitive theories, communicating orally or in writing is an active process of skill development where the learner internalizes the language. Indeed, acquisition is a product of the complex interaction of the linguistic environment and the learner’s internal mechanisms. Thus, students may develop particular learning strategies that isolate mental processes, such as metacognitive, cognitive, and social/affective strategies. Firstly, metacognitive strategies are used to plan the organization of written discourse or answer appropriately to the demands of a task. Secondly, cognitive, such as transferring or using known linguistic information to facilitate a new learning task or using imagery for recalling and using new vocabulary. Finally, social/affective strategies, which involve cooperating with peers, thus, in peer revision classes (Ellis 1994).

As we can see, writing in a second language is a complex process involving the abillity to communicate in a foreing language, and the ability to construct a text in order to express one’s ideas effectively in writing. Social and cognitive factors and learner strategies will help us in assessing in next section the underlying functions of language implicit in written discourse that, in turn, will be useful to establish a fundamental basis for subsequent sections.

3.3. Interactional vs transactional written discourse.

Brown and Yule (1983) state in their discussion on functions of language that there is, on the one hand, written language and, on the other hand, spoken language, and that they differ primarily in the way information is packed regarding syntactic structure and vocabulary selection. For them, written language has many different functions ranging through literary functions, expository functions (academic, legal, journalistic), to straight informative functions (news, familiar letters, domestic type notes), to recording functions (minutes of meetings, lecture notes, doctor recording patients’ medical histories) among others.

They claim that, in each function, language is used for a somewhat different purpose, and hence takes on a somewhat different form. There are appropriate ‘styles’ for different functions, or in other words, different ‘registers’. These registers involve facts about society, and the individual in society; they also involve messages which give information about place, intention and time. We find, then, that the fundamental function common to most uses of the written language is the transmission of information, whether recording information about what is past, or what is to happen in the future.Brown and Yule shall call this information-transferring function of language the transactional function of language. Actually, when this function is at issue, it matters that information is clearly conveyed, since the purpose of the producer of the message is to convey information.

There are, though, genres, other than literary, where this transactional function is not primary:

‘thank you’ letters, love- letters, party games. These examples have in common a clear function of spoken language, that is, the maintenance of social re latioships, where the primary purpose is to be nice to the person they are talking to. Also, this function is characterised by constantly shifting topics and a great deal of agreement on them. Therefore, in order to establish a relevant framework for analysing written discourse, we could say that primarily transactional language is primarily message -oriented whereas primary interactional function is primarily listener-oriented.

3.4. Language teaching and writing skills: reading and writing.

According to Brown and Yule (1983), for most of its history, language teaching has been concerned with the study of the written language which is the language of literature and of scholarship. Since any well-educated person ought to have access to writing skills in orde r to acquire a foreign language, the obvious procedure is to teach the language through excellent written models carefully selected by the teacher. Written language has not varied greatly over a couple of centuries, and texts selected for foreign students to study were nearly all written in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Nowadays, several approaches are proposed in order to teach writing by means of grammatical exercises, written dialogues, translation exercises, and dictation. This type of writing processes range from the more guided types of exercises to more flexible production in writing.

Writing skills and habits are said to be directly influenced by reading as both skills are intertwined. Reading, whether in a first or second language context, involves the reader, the text, and the interaction between the reader and text. As Widdowson (1983) claims, the most promising way of teaching writing is first to develop in the learner an ability to recognise how written language communicates by means of comprehension exercises. Cognitives processes are then at work, allowing us to organize information and knowledge economically by means of schemas, which also allow us to predict the continuation of written discourse. These cognitive processes will lead us to current approches to the teaching of writing, such as guided writing where students begin from the material provided and develop it out in an individual way.

For many years, several approaches have tried to account for the best method to teach writing. However, according to Rivers (1981), examination papers in composition the world over show are, with few exceptions, disappointing since college and university students are still unable to express themselves by writing in a clear, correct, and comprehensible manner after even six or more years of study of another language behind them. Yet, among those proposed, a common aim for teachers is to develop the learners’ ability to write a text by means of writing devices to help them use the text as a basic format for practice from the very beginning. Some of these approaches differ in the way learners are guided or the stress on correct production. Firstly, regarding writing guidance, we shall say it does not imply tight control over what the learners write. Thus, in the early stages it is rejected to allow free expression as writing is intended to be a step by step work with various kinds of controlled and guided exercises. Secondly, in relation to the production of accurate sentences, some approaches place so much stress on the production of correct sentences, and some of them try to reduce the amount of control, either by forcing the learners to exercise some sort of meaningful choice or by allowing them to contribute to the text (Byrne 1979).

With respect to writing programmes for students to be taught how to write and be aware of how to communicate through written texts, Byrne (1979) considers that we do not need to build into the writing programme a step by step approach which will take the learners in easy stages from sentence practice to the production of a text. With the text as our basic format for practice, we can teach within its framework all the rethorical devices, thus logical, grammatical and lexical, which the learners need to master. These devices are the aim of our next section.

3.5. Written discourse devices.

According to Rivers (1981), writing a language comprehensibly is much more difficult than speaking it. When we write, she says, we are like communicating into space if we do not know the recipient of our piece of writing, whereas when we communicate a message orally, we know who is receiving the message. We are dealing here once again with a traditional division of language into the two major categories of speech and writing.

Dealing with written language and its resources, we observe that both categories, speaking and writing, share similar features as well as differ in others regarding the nature of each category. Then, following Byrne (1979), we can establish similar resources for both speaking and writing at a linguistic level, thus on its grammar and lexis, but not to the extent to which some resources apply directly to the nature of the two channels. Thus, as speech is the language of inmediate communication, most linking devices will also occur in the spoken language although less frequently than in writing where they are essential for the construction of a coherent text.

Therefore, in order to examine the construction of longer texts, we will show how the coherence, cohes ion and effectiveness of written texts rely on an understanding of genre analysis and its workplace applications. However, as writing is the way of making contact at a distance, we cannot forget graphological devices which compensate for the absence of oral feedback and paralinguistic devices. Then, we may refer to three elements involved in written discourse. First of all, cohesion and coherence as they establish intrasentential and intersentitial links in written discourse. These text-centred notions, which are featured as constitutive principles, create textual communication as well as set the rules for communicating. The third feature to be mentioned in relation to written discourse is the analysis of genre analysis which, according to Byrne, deals with the nature of the two channels.

There are also at least three more regulative principles that control textual communication: the efficiency of a text is contingent upon its being useful to the participants with a minimum of effort; its effectiveness depends upon whether it makes a strong impression and has a good potential for fulfilling an aim; and its appropriateness depends upon whether its own setting is in agreement with the seven standards of textuality (de Beaugrande & Dressler 1981).

3.5.1. Cohesion.

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 (de Beaugrande & Dressler 1981), that is, intra- text linking devices are connected to extra-textual reference. 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 oral texts as well as written, interpreters, as all speakers, make extensive use of cohesive devices, for example in order to enhance coherence, but also for reasons of economy (e.g. saving time and alleviating conceptual work load by using anaphoric devices like generalisations and pro-forms).

Halliday and Hasan, in their ground-breaking work Cohesion in English (1976), describe cohesion as a semantic concept that refers to relations of meaning that exist within a text. They define two general categories of cohesion: grammatical cohesion (substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, reference) and lexical cohesion. Grammatical cohesion.

We find firstly, substitution and ellipsis which are closely related. So, substitution takes two forms: a) substitution per se, which is “the replacement of one item by another”, and b) ellipsis, in which “the item is replaced by nothing”, usually called zero-replacement. There are three types of substitution: nominal, verbal and clausal.

Secondly, conjunction is a relationship indicating how the subsequent sentence or clause should be linked to the preceding or the following sentence or parts of sentence. This is usually achieved by the use of conjunctions. Frequently occurring relationships are addition, causality and temporality. Subordination links things 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.

Finally, reference is another well researched area within linguistics. It is defined by Halliday & Hasan (1976) as a 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. The cohesion lies “in the continuity of reference, whereby the same thing enters ni to the discourse a second time.” In other words, reference deals with semantic relationship. Reference can be accomplished by exophoric reference, which signals that reference must be made to the context of the situation; endophoric reference: reference must be made to the text of the discourse itself; it is either anaphoric, referring to preceding text; or cataphoric, referring to text that follows.

Also, Halliday & Hasan (1976) describe the following types of reference: personal reference: nouns, pronouns, determiners that refer to the speaker, the addressee, other persons or objects, or an object or unit of text; demonstrative reference : determiners or adverbs that refer to locative or temporal proximity or distance, or that are neutral; comparative reference: adjectives or verbs

expressing a general comparison based on identity, or difference, or express a particular

comparison. 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. There are two types of lexical cohesion: reiteration and collocation.

First of all, reiteration includes repetition, synonymy, hyponymy, metonymy (part vs. whole), antonymy whereas collocation is any pair of lexical items that stand to each other in some recognisable lexico-semantic relation, e.g. “sheep” and “wool”, “congress” and “politician”, and “college” and “study”.

Like in the case of synonymous reference, collocational relation exists without any explicit reference to another item, but now the nature of relation is different: it is indirect, more difficult to define and based on associations in the reader mind. The interpreter sometimes adds coherence to the text by adding cohesion markers. 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 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 capital letters as a mark of sentence boundary, 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.

3.5.2. Coherence.

The term cohesion is often confused or conflated with coherence. But it is necessary, both from a theoretical and a practical point of view to retain this distinction between surface and content. The term coherence concerns the ways in which the components of the textual world, thus the concepts and relations which underlie the surface text, are mutually accessible and relevant.

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, whic h 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. 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), com parison (similes), consequence, result, and condition expressed by the use of short utterances, and exemplification (imagery and symbolism).

Within the context of textual analysis, we may mention from a wide range of rethorical devices the use of imagery and symbolism; hyperbole, antithesis, similes and metaphors; onomatopoeias, alliteration and the use of short utterances for rhythm and effect; repetition and allusion to drawn the reader’s attention; and cacophony and slang to make the piece of writing lively and dynamic.

3.5.3. The role of pragmatics and genre analysis.

So far, students must be aware of the relevance of using both cohesion and coherence within the production of any text regarding its nature in order to get an accurate and meaningful piece of writing. It is relevant, then, to mention how knowledge of the world or of the culture, enables people to make their language function as they intend and to understand how others do the same to them.

Genre Studies involve extensive exploration and study of one type of literature to understand how authors develop their piece of writing. Teachers can also spend a portion of Writing Workshop studying the different genres ( books, picture books, poetry, folklore, realistic fiction, mysteries, fantasy, biography, and autobiography). After repeated exposure to the genre, students are asked to write in this genre. During genre studies, students can be exposed to the forms of the different genre, the author’s style, and the literary elements. Included in the genre studies are structures of narrative text and expository text that writers use to entertain an audience or to communicate information.

Genre analysis is also related to the importance of text structure and contextual configuration on describing genres as they comprise so much of our culture repertoires of typified social responses in recurrent situations and to the exigencies of the situation. To connect their knowledge with the language system people use reasoning, and pragmatic theories, we shall go towards explaining how people reason their way from the form to the function and thus construct coherent discourse from the language they receive. We shall deal in next sections with this pragmatic element concerning sociocultural values when deciding in section four, types of texts, and their structure and formal elements; in section five, rules governing written discourse; and in section six, routines and formulae speech.


Before providing a brief account of text types and their respective instances within a literary production, it is relevant to mention those basic principles by which all text types are interrelated as literary productions, that is, lay behind the notion of intertextuality, as we shall see below.

Literary texts are formed from constituents that are not always immediately recognizable, such as specific conditions of production, contradictory cultural discourses, and intercultural processes. For such reasons, literary texts may be polysemous, having a range of interpretive possibilities. However, there are some basic principles of literature which have common characteristics that make it possible for them to be classified into genres and text types.

4.1. Basic principles of literature applied to all text types.

These basic principles are considered to be literary elements and devices to evaluate how the form of a literary work and the use of literary elements and devices, such as setting, plot, theme, and many more to be mentioned, contribute to the wor k’s message and impact. Among the basic principles of literature applied to all text types, we may find that the subject is expressed in terms of theme ; the writer approaches this subject with a specific point of view, both physical and psychological, and from a definite perspective; the writer’s attitude toward a subject is expressed through his voice, real and assumed, which is marked by a distinctive tone. Satire, irony, and hyperbole are special attitudes and tones; furthermore, the distinctive voice of the writer speaks through his style , which essentially is a product of language, the choice and combination of words, sentence structures, and the rhythms of larger elements; the writer also structures the material of experience into artistic forms and p atterns; contrast and likeness of elements are important aspects of pattern and form, and are heightened through repetition, balance, and the internal rhythms of the piece itself.

Moreover, basic to the concept of form is the notion of order and sequence, which can be logical, chronological, or psypchological; much of literature deals with storied elements which have their genesis in some type of conflict; plot, then, moves from complication, through conflict, to resolution where deeper levels of meaning are suggested through image, metaphor, and symbols; such storied literature takes place in a real or imagined setting , within a time and a place; and finally, participants are considered to be characters, and the reality they represent is characterization.

4.2. Text type classification.

Students should realize that literary works are not created merely in an individual author’s mind. A literary work can be said to have a ‘personality’ of its own, which is interwoven with the ruling social and cultural circumstances. However, a literary text is influenced not only by the social and political circumstances of its time. It is also engaged in a dialogue with other texts to which it relates, critically or affirmatively. This process is called intertextuality.

Moreover, literary works do not occur in isolation, but as members of groups, as a novel among novels, a poem among poems, or a drama among dramas. Historically and structurally, they are connected to other works of the same genre, as well as other genres. The relationsñhip between text types and genres is not straghtforward since genres reflect differences in external format and text types may be defined on the basis of cognitive categories (Smith 1985). For all genres, intertextuality is a basic feature. If each literary work relates to other works and other forms, it is also influenced in subtle ways by the form or medium in which it is presented. A literary text is capable of changing its manner of access and presentation.

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. According to Trimble (1985) 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, argumentative, and instrumental modes (Faigley & Meyer 1983). Here the focus is on functional categories or rhetorical strategies regarding abstract meaning. However, genre refers to completed texts, communicative functions and text types, being properties of a text, cut across genres. Thus informative texts (newspaper reports, TV news, and textbooks); argumentative texts (debates, political speeches, and newspaper articles).

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. Interpreting a literary text thus calls for a fundamental interest in making discoveries, and in asking questions. 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.

According to Brown and Yule (1983), 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. We may find models of texts and models of sentences created for different purposes. We will deal with in this section with models of texts, as models of sentences will be examined in section six under the heading of routines and formulae speech. In each case the model is one which the student can profitably base his own production on and, if he copies the model carefully, the teacher can tell him that what he produces is right. This comfortable notion of correctness is a good deal le ss obvious when it comes to teaching the spoken language since native spoken language reveals so many examples of slips, errors, and incompleteness that we do not have when writing.

Therefore, this continuum of activities that range from the more mechanical or formal aspects of “writing down” on the one end, to the more complex act of composing on the other end , are generally classified, as mentioned above, as mainly narrative, descriptive, expository, argumentative and instructive texts. Accordingly, these texts belong predominantly to the category or text types of narration, description, exposition, argumentation and instruction. We shall provide in five subsections their basic characteristics.

4.2.1. Narration.

The purpose of a narrative text is to entertain, to tell a story, or to provide an aesthetic literary experience. Narrative text is based on life experiences and is person-oriented using dialogue and familiar language (Wolpow, & Zintz 1999). Narrative text is organized using story grammar. The genres that fit the narrative text structure are folktales (wonder tales, fables, legends, myths, tall tales, and realistic tales); contemporary fiction; mysteries, science fiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction.

A main feature of narrative texts is the telling of a story of events or actions that have their inherent chronological order, usually aimed at presenting facts . This story telling involves the participation of elements such as characters and characterization, setting , plot, conflict, and theme. Besides, we find other two relevant narratives features which deal with the order of events, and the narrator’s point of view. Telling a story does not mean, necessarily, that we are dealing with fiction. So instances of narrative texts are novels, short stories (including myths, folk tales, and legends), poetry, plays, drama and non-fiction. Also, news story, a biography or a report are text forms that generally adhere to the narrative text types.

Thus, regarding characters , they may be classified as main characters if they are the protagonists, or supporting characters if they are secondary to the development of the plot. A similar, but different term is characterization which refers to the way the author portrays stereotypes, and it is often related to medieval literary texts where morals were identified in a fable and folk tales. In relation to the setting, we may say it refers to the environment, the context, and the circumstances of the story, that may happen in real or imaginery situations. Since the plot involves the action around which the story is developed, the conflict is directly related to it, as it is usually drawn from complication, through conflict, to a solution,stated or open-ended. Finallly, the theme is concerned with an interesting and attractive issue which will be the starting point to develop the story, thus love, injustice, or a murder.

The order of events that are structured by time, rather than space, is what marks a text as narrative. The order is given by the focus on the story ending. Therefore, we may find three types of narrative developments. Firstly, in order to know the ending of the story, we shall find a linear development which follows a chronological order from the beginning to the end of the story. Secondly, if the focus is not on the ending but on the circumstances leading to the ending, events may start at the end of the story and be described, then, in terms of flash -backs in order to attract the reader’s attention. Thirdly, if the focus is on both the beginning and the ending, the telling may start at an intermediate point within the story for events to be described in terms of backwards and forwards movements. This technique is to be called in medias res narration.

Moreover, another relevant feature within narrative texts is the narrator’s point of view. Thus, the narrator is the person who tells the story, and therefore he is in charge of introducing the characters, and explaining the circumstances in which events may take place. He is, in fact, the one who makes the story telling a lively and dynamic text. As a result, there are three different perspective

depending on the point of view the narrator describes events, thus a first person narration where the the narrator is an omniscient character who know s every detail in the story and takes part in it as any other character, that is, as a main or supporting character, or as a witness. When the narrator and the main character are the same person, we refer to an autobiography. Secondly, a second person narration where the narrator becomes both narrator and character at the same time, addressing to himself. Thirdly, a third person narration where the narrator is the author and it is a mere witness in the story.

4.2.2. Description.

The purpose of a descriptive text is to describe and present the attributes and features of people, animals, items and places, or to provide a detailed, neutral presentation of a literary situation. Descriptive texts are usually based on material objects, people or places, rather than with abstract ideas or a chronological sequence of events. In opposition to narrative texts, descriptive texts tend to be structured in terms of space , rather than time (Halliday and Hasan 1976). The genres that may fit into the descriptive text structure are brochures, descriptions of animals, or descriptions of scientific and technical concepts. Yet, the descriptive process is to be compared to the painting process because of the details the reader may perceive through most of the senses.

We may distinguish first, types of descriptions regarding the description of people and animals (prosopographic), the description of landscapes (topographic ), and the description of objects. On the other hand, there are other types of description concerning the mode of discourse, thus scientific, literary, static and dynamic. Firstly, the scientific description is concerned with the notions of objectivity and rigour. Mechanisms, different phenomena, or reactions are accurately described in terms of external appearance, elements, and features, mainly in technical and scientific research. Secondly, the literary description is concerned with the writer’s subjectivity, where his or her point of view is emphasized, regarding practical and sensorial things, such as the five senses: hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and seeing. Within the static description, the writer describes in a precise way the object which is placed statically at a certain distance. It is depicted by means of photographic techniques, giving details on shape, size, colour, material, among other aspects. Finally, the dynamic description is featured by movement. Thus, the object is progressively described as the writer sees it passing by. In it, the writer describes the reality in front of him by means of a cinematographic technique through which he makes the reader discover the object at the same time as him.

Descriptive texts are usually aimed at precision and clarity. The choice of words may range from metaphors, similes or comparisons in order to give as many details as possible in terms of colour, height, length, beauty, or material type. The vocabulary used can therefore be expected to be exact and price, the overall style neutral, unemotional and sometimes technical and dry to the point of boredom. Qualifying adjectives and relative sentences may also enrich the descriptive process.

Usually in descriptive writing, the main topic is introduced and then the attributes are included in the body of the paragraph. An organized structure may be used to map the indiv idual characteristics or traits of the topic being introduced. This structure can be expected to be mirrored in the text by means of different paragraphs which would deal with different parts of the object described. For instance, in the description of a person’s physical appearance, the first paragraph may deal with an overall impression of the individual regarding average age, beauty, height, or weight; the second with his head description in detail, thus hair, eyes, mouth, or eyebrows; the third with his body, thus arms, legs, and so on; and the fourth with special body features.

4.2.3. Exposition.

Expository texts are usually written in attempts at analyzing, explaining, describing and presenting events, facts and processes that may be quite complicated. Besides, they may be used to persuade as well. Their structure would be determined mainly by logical coherence, but aspects of time and space may also be quite important, depending on the subject-matter. It is thus not always easy to differentiate betwee n expository texts and narrative or descriptive texts, especially as expository texts sometimes include elements of narration or description. An expository essay should be fairly detailed and precise in order to convey accurate and objective information.

The organization of the structure of expository text is dependent upon the form or genre, and, therefore it may include a letter, a brochure, a map, essays, speeches, lab procedures, journal entries, government documents, newspaper and magazine articles, and directions, among other things. Moreover, the language used in expositions is virtually always neutral, objective and analytical. You would not expect to find emotionally loaded terms or subjective comments in an expository text.

First, students need to understand the characteristics of an expository text. A narrative text includes such elements as a theme, plot, conflict, resolution, characters, and a setting. Expository texts, on the other hand, explain something by definition, sequence, categorization, comparison-contrast, enumeration, process, problem-solution, description, or cause-effect. Where the narrative text uses story to inform and persuade, the expository text uses facts and details, opinions and examples to do the same. There are, however, se ven basic structures of expository text and researchers recommend that teachers begin to teach expository text structure at the paragraph level. Heller (1995) lists the following text structures: definition, description, process (collection, time order, or listing), classification, comparison, analysis, and persuasion . Included for each type of text structure will be designed questions that can be asked for each text structure. Expository text is subject-oriented and contains facts and information using little dialogue .

4.2.4. Argumentation.

Argumentative texts are intended to convince, or only to persuade, the reader of a certain point of view, or to understand the author’s reason for holding certain views on a matter under discussion. This subject-matter may often be a controversial issue, but that is not a necessary requirement of argumentative texts. Argumentative texts include demonstration brochures, government speeches, debates, face-to-face discussions, thesis and the research field.

The author will analyze the question or problem he wishes to discuss and will present his own opinion to the reader, along with the arguments that lead him to this opinion. Most argumentative texts weigh the pros and cons of the issue, but simpler argumentations may restrict themselves to merely one side of the debate. The argumentation in these simpler texts would thus be linear in nature, while more complex argumentations can be expected to be dialectical

A framed layout is to be applied in these type of texts. Firstly, the writer starts by stating the idea that constitutes the starting point of the argumentation, and besides he also holds a subjective position regarding the stated issue. Secondly, within the development body of the text, the writer must support his assertion by means of presenting good, convincing and solid arguments for, and poor, unconvincing and dubious if the arguments are against the issue. Also, the writer illustrates his view with several examples to prove the assertion made above. His aim is to persuade the reader about the rejection or acceptance of the theory stated. Finally, the author concludes by presenting his arguments in a neutral or balanced way on the convinction of persuading the reader through his line of reasoning. His line of argumentation must be consistent, logical and conclusive.

In any argumentative text, the language used by the author will, to a greater or lesser degree, reflect his personal views on the subject-matter. It is generally less neutral than the style employed in other non-fictional texts and may, in some cases, make use of devices such as irony or sarcasm, as well as rather emotional terminology and phrases that express a clear opinion. You would also expect to find more of the stylistic devices common in fictional texts in argumentation than in any other type of non-fictional text.

4.2.5. Instruction.

Instructive texts exist for the sole purpose of telling their reader what to do in a clearly specified situation, usually referring to future activities (Wolpow, and Zintz, 1999). While an argumentative text may very well try to persuade the reader to engage in a certain course of action, the author of an instructive text assumes that the reader knows very well what he wants to do, but he needs to be told how to do it.

A typical example of an instructive text might be a recipe in a cookery-book or the user’s manual giving instructions for a high-tech product. The author´s style and choice of words are generally fairly objective and unemotional although decisions the author makes about structure and word choice contribute to the effect of the literary production on the reader, as assembly and operation instructions.

The style in instructive text is simple, straight-forward and aimed at utmost precision. However, sometimes the reader may find a sheet of instructions that has been translated from Korean into Japanese, which in turn, has been translated from English into German, in which case the language tends to make no sense. This fact may leave the reader with an emotional sensation of feeling helpless and confused.

You can often recognize instructive texts simply by the fact that the syntax is dominated by simple imperatives, sentences in the passive form, and suggestive remarks. Besides, stage directions take the form of simple present tense. Regarding the use of vocabulary, there is an emphasis on technical and impersonal use of vocabulary.


In standard grammars (Quirk et al. 1972) there are certain structures that are expected to be produced by our students when speaking English, thus simple and complex sentences, sentence connection, coordination, and apposition among others. The importance of text structure is stated by a quotation by van Dijk & Kintsch (1983), saying that on full analysis there are probably few surface structure items that are not produced in order to signal a semantic, pragmatic, cognitive, social, rhetorical, or stylistic function. Thus, at this level, little is left of the old Saussurian arbitrariness in the relations between expressions (signifiers) and their meanings (signifieds). Therefore, they add, nearly all underlying (semantic, pragmatic, etc.) information can be mapped onto surface structures and parallel paratextual action.

However, the relation betw een surface structures and their semantic, pragmatic, or interactional functions on the one hand, and their relevance for production on the other, cannot be too strict as some languages have quite varied surface structures, and it remains to be seen whether this will always directly presuppose different comprehension and production strategies. Further work regarding these relationships between the (functional) structures of sentences in different languages and their cognitive processing is necessary – especially taking into account the textual relevance of these functions. (Dijk & Kintsch 1983).

On the other hand, discourse analysis theorizes that written text (in this case, English written text) is naturally organized into several types of patterns. Some of the characteristic patterns in written discourse analysis are the Problem/Solution structure, discussed in Hoey (1994), the Claim/Counterclaim structure covered in McCarthy (1993), and the General/Specific structure discussed in Coulthard (1994). So far, we will offer a general overview of the structure and elements that take part in written discourse.

5.1. Textual structure.

As it has been stated above, a text is not an undifferentiated sequence of words, much less of bytes. For different purposes, it may be divided into many different units, of different types or sizes. A prose text such as this one might be divided into sections, chapters, paragraphs, and sentences. A verse text might be divided into cantos, stanzas, and lines. Once printed, sequences of prose and verse might be divided into volumes, gatherings, and pages (Swales 1990).

Structural units of this kind are most often used to identify specific locations or reference points within a text (the third sentence of the second paragraph in chapter ten or page 582), but they may also be used to subdivide a text into meaningful fragments for analytic purposes (how many paragraphs mention a specific word or how many pages a book has ).

Other structural units are more clearly analytic , in that they characterize a section of a text. For instance, a dramatic text might regard each speech by a different character as a unit of one kind, and stage directions or pieces of action as units of another kind. Such an analysis is less useful for locating parts of the text (the 72nd speech by Horatio in Act 4) than for facilitating comparisons between the words used by one character and those of another, or those used by the same character at different points of the play.

In general, a prose text one might similarly wish to regard as units of different types passages in direct or indirect speech, passages employing different stylistic registers (narrative, polemic, commentary, and argument), passages of different authorship and so forth. And for certain types of analysis (most notably textual criticism) the physical appearance of one particular printed or manuscript source may be of importance: paradoxically, one may wish to use descriptive markup to describe presentational features such as typeface, line breaks, use of white space and so forth.

These textual structures overlap with each other in complex and unpredictable ways. Particularly when dealing with texts as instantiated by paper technology, the reader needs to be aware of both the physical organization of the book and the logical structure of the work it contains. Many great works cannot be fully appreciated without an awareness of the interplay between narrative units (such as chapters or paragraphs) and page divisions. For many types of research, it is the interplay between different levels of analysis which is crucial: the extent to which syntactic structure and narrative structure mesh, or fail to mesh, for example, or the extent to which phonological structures reflect morphology.

5.2. Basic language structures.

Some basic language structures are subject pronouns, subject-verb agreement, noun-adjective agreement, negatives, interrogative and question formation, word order (subject – object – verb), gender, articles, use of the possessive adjectives and pronouns to indicate possession, tense (past, present and future), and reflexive verbs among the most relevant features to be mentioned (Halliday

& Hasan 1976).

It is important to focus on language structures used correctly, not only on errors. At this level, sentence and verb formation should be given more weight in determining control of basic language structures. In formative assessments which ask students to use recently taught advanced structures, such as the conditional tense, these structures should be considered basic language structures for the purpose of scoring the performance.

In summative assessments, such as those given at the end of the year, students are asked to demonstrate the skills acquired over the whole language learning experience. Although students have been taught more advanced language structures, such as the conditional tense, these structures may not have been internalized. Therefore, lack of control of advanced structures should not heavily impact the student’s score in a summative assessment. More emphasis should be placed on basic language structures

5.3. Elements common to all text types.

By studying the textual and lexical elements of text types, one can learn to regularly recognize the overall structure of a text. For example, if one finds lexical signals that indicate situation-problem- response-result (Hoey 1994), we can know with some certainty that we are dealing with a Problem- Solution test. When one identifies vocabulary items that signal doubt or skepticism, (words such as appear, suggests, speculation, etc.), we know we are dealing with a Claim-Counterclaim structure. In fact, while the sequence of these structures may be varied, we should always find all the elements we are looking for in a well-formed text.

Following a general division of any kind of text we may sometimes begin with a brief heading or descriptive 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 conclud e 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 .

The following special purpose elements are provided to mark features which may appear only at the start of a division. Firstly, the head, which may contain any heading, such as the title of a section, a list or a glossary. Sometimes regarding text type, the heading may be categorized in a meaningful way to the encoder. Secondly, an epigraph which contains a quotation, anonymous or attributed, appearing at the start of a section or chapter, or on a title page. Thirdly, an argument in terms of a formal list or prose description of the topics addressed by a subdivision of a text. Finally, an opener which groups together dateline, byline, salutation, and similar phrases appearing as a preliminary group at the start of a division, especially of a letter. The conclusion will be characterized by a brief trailer of the subject matter as a summary of facts. A byline or a signature may also conclude any piece of writing.


We as teachers should expect learners not only to be able to read authentic texts, but also to write in ways that can clearly express their ideas to native readers. There are the traditional methods that usually involve a very heavy emphasis on English grammar, vocabulary and sentence construction. And while these elements of the English langua ge are very important, we do a disservice to our students if we teach only these aspects of the language. There is something lacking in merely teaching about the building blocks of written text. What is missing is a larger model of what goes into successfully handling text itself. This larger framework where we find solutions to understanding and teaching text beyond the sentence level is called Written Discourse Analysis.

Written text conforms 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. In the approach to text linguistics by de Beaugrande & Dressler (1981), text, oral or printed, is established as a communicative occurrence, which has to meet seven standards of textuality. If any of these standards are not satisfied, the text is considered not to have fulfilled its function and not to be communicative.

Cohesion and coherence are text-centred notions, designating operations directed at the text materials. 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 (de Beaugrande & Dressler 1981). Coherence on the other hand concerns the ways in which the components of the textual world, thus the concepts and relations which underlie the surface text are mutually accessible and relevant.

The remaining standards of textuality are user-centred , concerning the activity of textual communication by the producers and receivers of texts:

Firstly, intentionality concerns the text producer attitude that the set of occurrences should constitute a cohesive and coherent text instrumental in fulfilling the writer intentions.

Secondly, acceptability concerns the receiver attitude that the set of occurrences should constitute a cohesive and coherent text having some use or relevance for the receiver.

Thirdly, informativity concerns the extent to which the occurrences of the text are expected vs. unexpected or known vs. unknown or uncertain.

Fourthly, situationality concerns the factors which make a text relevant to a situation of occurrence. Fifth, intertextuality concerns the factors which make the utilisation of one text dependent upon knowledge of one or more previously encountered texts.

The above seven standards of textuality are called constitutive principles (Searle 1965), in that they define and create textual communication as well as set the rules for communicating. There are also at least three regulative principles that control textual communication: the efficiency of a text is contingent upon its being useful to the participants with a minimum of effort; its effectiveness depends upon whether it makes a strong impression and has a good potential for fulfilling an aim; and its appropriateness depends upon whether its own setting is in agreement with the seven standards of textuality (de Beaugrande & Dressler 1981:11).


According to Myles (2002), the ability to write well is not a naturally acquired skill but rather learned or culturally transmitted as a set of practices in formal instructional settings or other environments. Writing skills, thus reading and writing, must be practiced and learned through experience. Besides, writing involves composing, which implies the ability either to tell or retell pieces of information in the form of narratives or description , or to transform information into new texts, as in directive , expository or argumentative writing.

The study of texts as genres is closely related to the use of routines and formulae speech in written discourse, as genres embrace each of the linguistically realized activity types which comprise so much of our culture (Martin 1985). Genre is a macrolevel concept, a communicative act within a discoursive network. It makes reference to repertoires of typified social responses in recurrent situations -from greetings to thank yous to accep tance speeches and full-blown, written expositions of scientific investigations – genres are use to package speech and make it recognizable to the exigencies of the situation (Berkenkotter & Huckin 1995).

Rhetorical scholars have given genre a more central place, recently focused on social constitution of non-literary forms of writing and speaking. Ethnographers concern about which labels are used to type communications, in order to reveal elements of verbal communication which are sociolinguistically salient (Saville -Troike 1982). There has been growing interest in the sociocultural functions of disciplinary genres, for instance, legal and scientific communication. Genres reflect differences in external format and situations of use, and are defined on the basis of systematic non- linguistic criteria. Registers are divided into genres reflecting the way social purposes are accomplished in and through them in settings in which they are used.

Students are encouraged to recognize a submerged network of meaning beneath what seems apparent. This is done by inquiring about a culture’s patterns of communal living and production, patterns that often take concrete form in specific institutions. Many categories of institutional place are associated with kinds of meaning that shape a culture, and with the production of such meaning. An important method used here is the semiotic analysis of signs: instead of talking in general terms about “culture” or “reality”, it is more efficient to study signs which refer to a specific sociocultural reality. In writing a text, every author uses signs, consciously or unconsciously. Thus, the culture which becomes tangible in these signs speaks through the author and communicates with us in his or her text. It is the literary student’s task, accordingly, to identify within a text the embedded signs and their meanings.

It is in this context where routines and formulae speech come into force for a foreign language learner. With the time at our disposal at the elementary level, we will concentrate on giving our students training and practice in writing down what they would say in various circumstances, with some attention to the differences between cultural conventions in spoken and written style. At the more advanced level, we will encourage them to express themselves with some finesse regarding more significant subjects, and then, to write their ideas, with careful attention to lexical and structural choice.

Skill in writing in an elegant fashion in a foreign language, according to the canons of an educated elite, is achieved by means of expressing meaning clearly and accurately in addition to specialized compositions. Distinctions made among types of writing activities reflect the major areas of learning involved in the writing process. The graphic system must be learned and spelt according to

the conventions of the language, if what it is written is to be comprehensible and acceptable to a native speaker. Students must learn to control the structure according to the canons of good writing.

The organization of the structure of a text is dependent upon the form or genre (letter, postcard, journal entry, newspaper article, an editorial, a brochure, or a map). Then, each type of text shares certain characteristics with the others, they each make their own demands on the reader through the unique use of structure, devices, features, and conventions. Therefore, we need to teach students how to read and write each type of text as they encounter it in order to achieve effectiveness in communication.

They must learn to select from among possible combinations of words and phrases those which will convey the meanings they have in mind, and, ultimately, they must be able to do this so that nuances in the appropriate linguistic register are expressed through their writing. To reach this stage, students must have such a control of the mechanisms of good writing that they are able to concentrate all their efforts on the process of selection among possible combinations.


From a practical perspective in education, providing experiences for contact with language in context proved difficult for foreign language teachers as they were forced to rely on textbooks and classroom materials in teaching language. However, nowadays new techonologies 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.

Regarding writing skills, there is a need to create classrooms conditions which match those in real life and foster acquisition, encouring reading and writing. 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 establish 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. Thus, foreign language activities are provided within the framework of social interaction, personal, professional or educational fields.

Writing skills are mentioned as one of the aims of our current educational system (B.O.E. 2002). 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.

This effectiveness of communication is to be achieved thanks to recent developments in foreign language education which have indicated a trend towards the field of intercultural communication. The Ministry of Education proposed several projects within the framework of the European Community, such as Comenius projects and Plumier projects. The first project is envisaged as a way for learners to experience sociocultural patterns of the target language in the target country, and establish personal relationships which may lead to keep in contact through writing skills. Besides,

the Plumier project uses multimedia resources in a classroom setting where learners are expected to learn to interpret and produce meaning with members of the target culture. Both projects are interrelated as students put in practice their writing and reading skills by means of keeping in touch through e-mails with their friends and read their messages, apart from fostering the oral skills.

Current research on Applied Linguistics shows an interest on writing skills, such as on the pragmatics of writing, narrative fiction and frequency on cohesion devices in English texts, among others. We may also find research on intercultural communication where routines and formulaic speech are under revision of contrastive analysis between English and Spanish. However, the emphasis is nowadays on the use of multimedia and computers as an important means to promote a foreign language in context.


With so much writing in foreign language classes over so many years, one would expect to find highly effective methods for teaching this skill and marked success in learning it. Unfortunately, examination papers in composition the world over are, with few exceptions, disappointing. Many college and university students with four, five, even six or more years of study of another language behind them are still unable to express themselves in a clear, correct, and comprehensible manner in writing (Rivers 1981).

We would do well to examine critically the role of writing in foreign and second-langugage learning, to analyze what is involved in the process of writing another language, and to trace out the steps by which this skill can be progressively mastered. At this stage it may be well to recall two facts often ignored by language teachers, who traditionally have expected students to write something as a demonstration of learning: first, that many highly articulate persons express themselves very inadequately in writing in their native language, and, second, that only a minority of the speakers of any language acquire the skill of writing it with any degree of finesse, and then only after years of training in school and practice out of school. We must realize that writing a language comprehensibly is much more difficult than speaking it.

However, following Widdowson (1978), and more recently, the guidelines of the Ministry of Education (B.O.E. 2002), the writing skill is to be given a prominent role, over past years, in acquiring a foreign language within the framework of a communicative competence theory. Yet, there is a need for integrating writing with other language skills such as reading, speaking and listening, in the belief that this leads to the effectiveness of communication.

Byrne (1979) says that writing serves a variety of pedagogical purposes to be enumerated as follows. First, writing enables us to provide for different learning styles, needs and speeds. Especially learners who do not learn easily through oral practice alone feel more secure if they are alllowed to read and write in the target language. Secondly, it also satisfies a psychological need since written work serves to provide the learners with some evidence that th ey are making progress in the language. Thirdly, being exposed to more than one medium is likely to be very effective.

Thus, writing provides variety in classroom activities and increases the amount of language contact through work that can be done out of the class. Finally, we have to speak about a practical reason. Writing is often needed for formal and informal testing. Due to the limit of time available for exams and to the large number of students per class we are often forced to use some form of written test.

All the above considerations on the advantages and disadvantages of writing strongly suggest that while still concentrating on aural oral skills in the early stages, we can make good use of writing, as part of an integrated skills approach to language learning because it seems it has valuable pedagogical applications.

It is in listening comprehension and reading that a sophisticated level is required for handling the language, because in these areas there will be no control over the complexity of the material they encounter. These are the skills through which we can improve our knowledgde of the language at a later stage. However, in speaking and writing, the non-native speaker rarely achieves the same degree of mastery as the native speaker, even after living in a country whre the language is spoken. What students most need in these production areas is to be able to use what they know flexibly, making the most of the resources at their command to meet the occasion.


The role of writing skills in our 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.

Students need opportunities to investigate the systematicity of language at all linguistic levels, especially at the highest level of written discourse. Without knowledge and experience within the discourse and sociocultural patterns of the target language, second language learners are likely to rely on the strategies and expectations acquired as part of their first language development, which may be inappropriate for the second language setting and may lead to communication difficulties and misunderstandings.

One problem for second language learners is not to acquire a sociocultural knowledge on the foreign language they are learning, and therefore, have a limited experience with a variety of interactive practices in the target language, such as reading a complaint sheet, writing a letter to a department store, or writing a letter to an English person with the appropriate written patterns. Therefore, one of the goals of second language teaching is to expose learners to different discourse patterns in different texts and interactions. One way that teachers can include the study of discourse in the second language classroom is to allow the students themselves to study language, that is, to make them discourse analysts (see Celce-Murcia & Olshtain, 2000), by learning in context.

By exploring natural language use in authentic environments, learners gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the discourse patterns associated with a given genre or speech event as well as the sociolinguistic factors that contribute to linguistic variation across settings and contexts. For example, students can study speech acts by searching information on Internet about a job application, address patterns, opening and closings of museums, or other aspects of spee ch events (written discourse).

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 styles 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.

The assumptions of discourse analysis, then, are important not only for understanding written discourse patterns and the conditions of their production, but also for a critical assessment of our own cultural situation.


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