Using SFL in contrastive work across
languages: an example from
Spanish-English bilingual education
Corinne Maxwell-Reid
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Using SFL in contrastive work across languages:
an example from Spanish-English bilingual
education
• The study: the effect of studying through
English on students’ L1 (Spanish) written
discourse
• Issues with contrastive work across languages:
without & within SFL
Overview
• Context of study
• Contrastive work outside SFL (CR)
– Historical stages of CR & current position
– Assumptions as to Spanish-English discourse
differences & how they are investigated
• Contrastive work within SFL
– Advantages & difficulties
– Differences Spanish-English: Theme
• The study:
– Analysis & Findings
– Possible explanations & avenues for future research
Context & reason for study
• EMI/CLIL context: Spanish Ministry of Education
(M.E.C.)/British Council Bilingual Project
– Primary sector 1996 ->
– Secondary sector 2004 ->
– Partial EMI: English, Social Sciences & Science/IT through
English
• Increase in CLIL
– previous research in CLIL
– English and other languages in Europe
• This study: compares argumentative texts written in Spanish
by 24 EMI students and 24 SMI students (3rd year secondary)
in terms of assumptions as to Spanish-English differences;
today looking at half the texts (12 EMI & 12 SMI)
Popular understandings of Spanish-English
discourse differences
Spanish
• Complex
• Indirect
• Digressive
• Values content >form
• More/less personal?
English
• Simple
• Direct
• Linear
• Values form
• More/less personal?
The three ages of Contrastive rhetoric (CR):
beginnings & early years
• Kaplan (1988) on roots of CR: Firthian linguistics, Prague School,
text linguistics
• The birth of CR: Kaplan ‘doodle’ paper, ‘Cultural thought patterns in
inter-cultural education’(1966)
• Criticisms of early CR
– Unclear methodology
– Anglocentric
• Positives
– Using ‘data’; Beyond the sentence
– Students from other cultures not just bad writers
• Developing CR
– Text linguistics
– Advances in comparability, replicable; valuing of non-English traditions
– Continued criticism: deterministic; producing static binaries; seeing
concrete, unchanging entities; with a deficit approach (Zamel 1997)
CR methodology: 12 steps + explanation
(Connor & Moreno 2005)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
•
Formulating clear hypotheses about the relationship between
writing cultures and how textual meanings are expressed.
Defining the population of expert L1 texts that can be considered
comparable and specifiying the basis for the similarity constraints.
Selecting a representative sample of the population in each writing
culture being compared.
Identifying comparable textual units, e.g. (a) moves such as
establishing the territory or creating a niche; (b) discourse
functions such as defining or evaluating; (c) pragmatic functions
such as requesting or apologizing; and (d) relational functions (i.e.
coherence relations such as cause-effect or claim-support).
Validating those units of analysis as functional or pragmadiscursive units recognizable by language users in each culture
either through literature review or further research (e.g. through
interviews with L1 informants).
5. (Cont.) This verification would allow the researcher to propose
these units as language/textual universals, which can be taken as
qualitative constants for the two languages compared and allow
juxtaposition of comparable rhetorical phenomena.
6. Quantifying the occurrence of these textual universals in each
corpus. […]
7. Devising objective criteria to describe the textual realizations of
the universals proposed in the two languages. … designing specific
criteria that do not privilege one language over the other. [..]
8. Applying the devised analytical criteria to the description of the
two corpora independently.
9. Juxtaposing the taxonomies.
10. Contrasting the quantitative results for each comparable
qualitative category.
11. Interpreting the significance of quantitative similarities and
differences through statistical analysis.
12. Drawing conclusions about the relationship between writing
cultures and how textual meanings are expressed on the basis of
the comparative results.
The present: CR to IR - Intercultural
Rhetoric & underlying problems
• CR -> IR (Connor et al 2008): definition of rhetoric as
‘communication, shaped by situation’, ‘impact on
consumer’; using overlapping theories/methods;
writing as social construction; ‘everything exists
between cultures’ (Connor 2008)
• text analysis in CR x-> ‘reliable understanding of the
context’ (culture), text-context link often ‘no better
than guesswork’, need ‘methodological link between
text & context’ in IR (Li 2008)
• Methodology stage 13: explanation; provide richer
description & focus on correspondingly smaller culture
• Explanations without underlying theory
CR investigations into intuitions of SpanishEnglish differences
• Complexity: words/sentence, t-unit, clause
(S>E)
• Complexity: ‘subordination’ (S>E, sometimes
E>S)
• In/direct; digression; valuing form v content:
text structure/metatext (E>S); thematic
progression
• Im/personal: unclear; overgeneralising
Thematic progression in CR
Previous studies use Prague School work in a range of ways
with ‘theme’ variously interpreted, often conflated with
topic and with no structural characteristic. They use
variations on two main patterns:
• ‘repeated theme’ pattern (Constant Theme)
• The cat sat on the mat. The cat was black.
• rheme -> theme pattern (Linear Theme)
• The cat sat on the mat. The mat was hairy.
• English text is found to use both more than Spanish
does; LT in particular
SFL tools
• Complexity: within & between clauses; ranking clauses
& embedded clauses
• Genre analysis: staging
• Thematic progression
• Theme analysis (Textual & Interpersonal, inc 1st person
projection)
• Theme is the “point of departure of the message …
which locates and orients the clause within its context”
(IFG3p64); Theme is located at the beginning of the
clause and extends up to the first experiential element:
“This means that the Theme of a clause ends with the
first constituent that is either participant, circumstance
or process.” (IFG3p79)
Key differences in Spanish-English language
resources & issues for analysis: Subject & clitics
•
•
•
•
•
•
Explicit subject less often needed in Spanish
Tengo hambre.
[I] have (1s) hunger – I’m hungry
Recogió el papel
‘She picked up the paper.’ (SFGS)
Process is thus the first experiential element in many
Spanish clauses.
• Clitics (weak pronouns)are bound to the verb;
orthographically separate when before the verb, but
cannot act independently of the verb – can they be
thematic independent of the verb?
Theme as 1st experiential element for Spanish:
effect on thematic progression analysis
• Taboada (2004): Finite as experiential Theme – verb
stem, not participant suffixes.
• Text with constant participant (suffix) but changing
process (vb stem) analysed as having a high number
of new Themes (Themes not mentioned before)
• Equivalent English text with repetition of Subject
pronoun analysed as constant Theme
• Using English-based thematic analysis leads to the
conclusion that Spanish text is more digressive
Arguments for extending Theme beyond 1st
experiential element
• Theme as wave/ continuum of diminishing
prominence; not discrete but discrete units needed for
analysis; boundary depends on purpose (Berry 1996;
Thompson 2007)
• Participant identities have special importance – often
the most consistent thematic elements; needed to
track method of development (Downing 1991; Lavid et
al 2010; Rose 2001)
• Language-specific strategies other than sequencing to
resolve the “competition for thematic status” (Rose
2001: 112): conflation & use of clitics
Conflation
• Conflation: two functions within one element,
here process and participant identity in the
Finite, as stem verb and suffix
• Tengo hambre.
• ‘I’m hungry.’
• Recogió el papel
• ‘She picked up the paper’
Spanish Theme structure:
SFGS’s response to the issues
• Experiential Theme
• ‘She picked up the paper’
Experiential theme
Pre-Head
Rheme
Head
Recogió
(pick up)
el papel
3s past
the paper
Effect on thematic progression analysis
• She picked up the paper
and went to her room.
Thematic field
Textual
Y
Rhematic field
Experiential
Pre-Head
Head
Recogió
3s past
el papel
se fue
3s past
a su cuarto.
SFGS Theme analysis
• She picked up the paper and went to her room. Furtively, she
hid it in a drawer, …
Thematic field
Rhematic field
Outer Thematic field
Inner Thematic field
Textual
Experiential
Interpersonal Absolute
y
Furtivamente
PreHead
Head
Recogió
3s past
el papel
se fue
3s past
a su cuarto.
lo
guardó en un
cajón
SFGS: Absolute Theme
• The rest of the disk, honestly, I don’t know how to define it.
• The rest of the disk, the truth, no know-1s how to define it
Thematic field
Rhematic field
Outer Thematic field
Inner Thematic
field
Absolute
Experiential
El resto del disco,
Interpersonal
la verdad,
Pre-Head
Head
no sé
1s Pr
cómo definirlo.
Summary of analysis for
school uniform texts
• Clause complexing & units
• Text structure framework & signalling (two-sided
discussion; not explicitly taught)
• Theme:
– Interpersonal Theme (1st person projecting)
– Textual
• Thematic progression
– main strategy per text
– total no. CP & LP patterns
Student text prompt
At the moment, only students at private
schools wear a uniform. However, some
politicians also want public schools to have a
uniform for their students. Do you think it is a
good idea for public schools to have school
uniform?
Write a page for your school magazine on
this question, explaining your opinion on the
topic. Include examples to help make your
explanations clear.
The student texts (Spanish)
EMI students
SMI students
Total words
1548
2201
Total sentences/t-units
68/98
78/132
Words per text
129
183
Words per sentence/t-unit
23/16
28/17
Total ranking clauses
187
241
Total embedded clauses
70
106
Ranking clauses per sentence 2.75
3
Embedded clauses per
sentence/clause
1.4/0.4
1.0/0.4
Clauses
EMI students
No.
%
SMI students
No.
%
Simplexes
22
32
8
10
Complexes
46
68
70
90
2-clause cl. complexes
14
21
22
28
3-clause cl. complexes
11
16
24
31
4-clause cl. complexes
14
21
13
17
>4-clause complexes
7
10
11
14
EMI student text: clause simplexes
3.
Sin embargo también tiene sus contras.
4.a. - El uniforme debe llevarse con zapatos,
4.b. por lo que en los recreos resulte incomodo
para practicar algún deporte.
5.
- La economía también influye bastante.
6.
- Algunas personas se sienten discriminadas
por el hecho de llevarlo
7.
- Con el uniforme no puedes mostrar tu
personalidad.
EMI student text clause simplexes:
translation
3.
Nevertheless, [it] also has its disadvantages.
4. a. - The uniform should be worn with shoes,
4.b.
so in breaktimes it is awkward for doing
sport.
5.
- Economics also have quite an influence.
6.
- Some people feel discriminated against by
(the act of) wearing it.
7.
- With a uniform you can’t show your
personality.
Text structure
EMI texts
SMI texts
Considers both sides of issue
(for/against uniforms)
12
11
Uses 2-sided discussion as
organisation
7
1
Signals 2-sided organisation
6
3
Organised partially by issue
0
3
Opinion
(for/against
uniform) found at:
beginning
4
3
end
2
1
both
2
5
Translation of EMI student text showing two-sided
organisation, opinion, and signalling of framework
My opinion is that wearing a uniform has advantages and
inconveniences,
its advantages are the following:
All the school will dress the same
so there won’t be any type of discrimination as regards the subject of
clothing,
since many people are discriminated against by fault of [because of]
the clothing;
another advantage is that thanks to the uniform it is more difficult that
they classify you socially that is to say, by the buying power of your
family.
The inconveniences are the following:
People can’t show their personality,
since, your clothing reflects quite a lot your personality,
and wearing the uniform
everyone goes [looks] the same
so you can’t show it.
All in all my opinion is that schools, be they public or private,
should use a uniform,
and in this way avoid a lot of conflicts among the students.
1a
1b
2a
2b
2c
2d
3
4a
4b
4c
4d
4e
5a
5b
5c
Mi opinión es que llevar uniforme tiene sus ventajas y sus inconvenientes,
sus ventajas son las siguientes:
Todo el colegio vestirá igual
por lo que no habría ningún tipo de discriminación
en cuanto al tema de la vestimenta,
ya que a muchas personas se les discrimina por culpa de la vestimenta;
otra ventaja es que gracias al uniforme es más difícil que te clasifiquen
socialmente, es decir, por el poder adquisitivo de tu familia.
Los inconvenientes son los siguientes:
Las personas no pueden mostrar su personalidad,
ya que, tu vestimenta refleja bastante tu personalidad,
y al llevar el uniforme
todo el mundo va igual
por lo que no la puedes mostrar.
En defenitiva mi opinión es que los colegios, <<ya sean públicos
o privados>>, deberían incorporar el uniforme
<<ya sean públicos o privados>>,
y así evitar muchos conflictos entre los estudiantes.
Translation: SMI text
I believe
that the best thing is not to make uniform obligatory in the
public schools
because it is supposed
that in a public school one has more freedom than in a
private.
In many occasions is good the uniform
because in this way you don’t have to choose the clothes
the day before and waste time.
But it would be good that the uniform was optional
because a lot of mothers prefer
that their children wear street clothes
because it pleases them more [they like them more]
and other mothers prefer
that yes they wear it
because that way they save time and money
But for children under 12 years old it’s good,
for those over 12 no
because at 12 years old is when you start to change
and to see the world in another way
and it pleases you [you like] to wear clothes that please
you [that you like]
and not always with the uniform.
But on the other hand it is good that people wear
uniform
because, supposing that each uniform of each school
is different, in this way is everything more ordered.
But for me, sincerely, doesn’t please me the uniform
[I don’t like uniforms]
and prefer to wear my clothes
the clothes that please me [I like].
If you wear uniform
you feel forced and less free than if you don’t wear it
and I think
that since it is obligatory to go to school,
that they let us choose
and a bit of freedom would be good.
SMI text
1a
1b
1c
1d
2a
2b
2c
3a
3b
3c
3d
3e
3f
3g
Yo creo
que la mejor es no poner uniforme obligatorio en las escuelas
públicas
porque se supone
que en una escuela publica se tiene más libertad que en una
privada.
En muchas ocasiones es bueno el uniforme
porque así no tienes que elegir la ropa el día anterior
y perder tiempo.
Pero estaría bien que el uniforme fuera optativo
porque muchas madres prefieren
que sus hijos lleven ropa de calle
porque les gusta más
y otras madres prefieren
que sí lo lleven
porque así se ahorran tiempo y dinero.
4a Pero para los niños menos de 12 años está bien,
4b para los que superan los 12 años no
4c porque a los 12 años es cuando empiezas a cambiar
y a ver el mundo de otra forma
4d y le gusta vestirte con ropa que te guste. y no siempre con el uniforme.
5a Pero por otra parte está bien que la gente lleve uniforme
5b porque, suponiendo que cada uniforme de cada colegio sea
distinto, así seria todo mas ordenado.
5c <<suponiendo que cada uniforme de cada colegio sea distinto>>
6a Pero a mi, sinceramente, no me gusta el uniforme
6b y prefiero llevar mi ropa; la ropa que me gusta.
7a Si llevas uniforme
7b te sientes obligado y menos libre que si no
lo llevases
7c y yo pienso,
7d que ya que es obligatorio ir a la escuela,
7e que nos dejen elegir
7f y un poco de libertad estaría bien.
Themes
EMI texts
Themes
Total no.
SMI texts
% t-units
Total no.
% t-units
Interpersonal 31
32
29
22
1st person
projecting
18
18
12
9
Textual
32
33
84
64
Thematic progression
• Main strategy per text: similar for EMI/SMI
– Half texts use CP, LP or, more commonly, a combination of CP &
LP
– Half don’t
• Total no. of each pattern:
EMI student texts
SMI student texts
Total
%
Total
%
CP
23
23
35
27
LP
20
20
29
22
• Analysis prior to SFGS:
– main strategy: EMI using CP, LP or CP/LP more than SMI
– Totals: EMI using LP more than SMI; totals similar
Summary of differences
• As with previous studies of Spanish-English text:
EMI students more likely to choose
– Dis/advantages text framework, & to signal that
framework
– More simplexes, in a shorter text
– More 1st person projecting clauses
•
In contrast with previous studies EMI students’ texts
– show fewer textual Themes,
– thematic progression strategies are similar for each
group
Possible influences on the EMI
students’ written Spanish
• English classes: indirect effect of writing task
• Social Science classes: text types, expository
and explanatory texts; bullet points
• Reading habits: time spent reading English;
preferences
• Project effect? (group identity, status &
conformity)
Conclusions (not) to be drawn
• Limitations of study
• Exposure to English
–
–
–
–
English classes
Social science texts
Reading habits & attitudes
Project effect
• Globalisation & homogenisation
• Methodology & language-specific analysis
References
•
•
•
•
•
•
Arús Hita, J. 2004. English and Spanish structures: the textual metafunction as a
contrastive tool for the analysis of languages. In D. Banks (ed.). Text and Texture:
Systemic Functional viewpoints on the nature and structure of text, pp. 173-190.
Paris: L’Harmattan
Berry, M. 1996. What is Theme? – A(nother) personal view. In M. Berry, C. Butler,
R. Fawcett and G. Huang. Meaning and choice in language: Studies for Michael
Halliday, pp.1-64. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Caffarel, A., J.R.Martin and C.M.I.M. Matthiessen (eds.). Language typology: A
functional perspective. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Canagarajah, S. 2002. Multilingual writers and the academic community: towards
a critical relationship. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 1: 29-44.
Connor, U. and A. Moreno. 2005. Tertium comparationis: a vital component in
contrastive rhetoric research. In Bruthiaux, P., D. Atkinson, W. Eggington, W.
Grabe & V. Ramanathan. Directions in Applied Linguistics: Essays in honor of
Robert B. Kaplan, pp. 153-164. Cleveland: Multilingual Matters.
Connor, U., E. Nagelhout & W. Rozycki (eds.). 2008. Contrastive Rhetoric:
Reaching to intercultural rhetoric. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
•Downing, A. 1991. An alternative approach to theme: a sytemic-functional
perspective. Word 42/2: 119-143.
•Kaplan, R. 1966. ‘Cultural thought patterns in inter-cultural education’. Language
Learning 16, nos. 1 and 2, pp.1-20.
•Kaplan, R. 1988. Contrastive rhetoric and second language learning: notes
toward a theory of contrastive rhetoric. In A. Purves (ed.). Writing across
languages and cultures: Issues in contrastive rhetoric, pp. 275-304. Newbury Park,
CA: Sage.
•Lavid, J., J. Arús and J.R. Zamorano-Mansilla. 2010. Systemic Functional Grammar
of Spanish: A contrastive study with English. London: Continuum.
•Li, X. 2008. From contrastive rhetoric to intercultural rhetoric: A search for
collective identity. In U. Connor, E. Nagelhout & W. Rozycki (eds.).
•Rose, D. 2001. Some variations in Theme across languages. Functions of
Language 8/1: 109-145.
•Thompson, G. 2007. Unfolding Theme: the development of clausal and textual
perspectives on Theme. In R. Hasan, C. Matthiessen & J. Webster (eds.).
Continuing Discourse on Language: A Functional Perspective, vol 2, pp. 671-696.
London: Equinox.
•Zamel, V. 1997. Toward a model of transculturation. TESOL Quarterly, 31: 341352.
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Using SFL in contrastive work across languages: an example from