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The causal and contrastive DMs under investigation

Causal and contrastive relations are often regarded as the most informative and at the same time “the most complex of all semantic relations that may hold between parts of a discourse”, since in order to be identified as semantic relations obtaining between the parts concerned “a high degree of world knowledge” on the part of the hearer/reader or a lot of evidence substantiated by co-text and context is required (Kortmann 1991: 160-164). Consequently, these relations tend to be expressed overtly in written discourse, including discourse used in academic settings, by causal and contrastive DMs in particular. The frequent use of DMs as a characteristic feature of academic discourse (Biber et al. 1999: 880) results from the author’s need to mark the relationships between ideas/messages overtly when attempting to present and support his/her own arguments in a clear and straightforward way in front of an academic audience, notably if the author intends to achieve academic literacy required by Anglo- American academic conventions, in which a clear overall organization of discourse through the use of explicit signposting is typically required. It is therefore not surprising that DMs are commonly mentioned among language phenomena to be studied in manuals of English academic style (Bennett 2009) and included in courses of academic writing at universities, as mentioned above.

Furthermore, it should be stated that subsequent or more distant segments of discourse whose relationship is overtly signalled tend to be processed much faster and more easily (Haberlandt 1982) than segments without any overtly marked relationships intended by the author. If a guiding signal such as on the other hand in (1) is absent, the propositional content of the respective discourse segments remains the same, since, as stated above, DMs have procedural rather than propositional meaning; however, without any overt signal it can be more difficult for the reader(s) to arrive at an interpretation coherent with the writer’s intentions.

(1) (CzWrCorpus, Text 5)

The traditional sender/receiver model is thus insufficient for news discourse analysis and, as Scollon (1998) suggests, should be abandoned. The terms ‘writer’ and ‘reader’ need to be understood as general concepts, which do not denote particular individuals. On the other hand, with so many national and local newspapers in the market, it is a matter of survival for newspapers that they identify their readership in order to be successful businesses.

(2) (EngWrCorpus, Text 1)

Though this suggests that proficiency is not necessarily reflected in surface complexity of language, it is still valid to suppose that more proficient speakers are those who are able to keep track of where they are, syntactically, as they incorporate fully or partially fixed sequences with language freshly minted for the occasion.

The present analysis is concerned with semantic relations of cause and contrast obtaining at clausal and higher levels of discourse, since it is assumed that at these levels the marker relates two separate messages (Fraser 1999: 939-940), thus functioning as a DM (see thus and on the other hand in (1) and though and as in (2) above). If used at a lower level, the marker performs the function of a mere conjunction within a single message, as in (3). Cases of the latter type are not regarded as DMs and therefore remain outside the scope of the present analysis.

(3) (EngWrCorpus, Text 1)

Many, but by no means all, researchers investigating spoken language data have used the c-unit, though not necessarily Laban’s definition of it.

From a morphological viewpoint, the causal and contrastive DMs under examination are drawn primarily from conjunctions (e.g. as, because, since, although, while, whereas), adverbs (e.g. consequently, therefore, thus, however, nevertheless, yet) and prepositional phrases (e.g. on the contrary, on the other hand). From a syntactic point of view they can be divided into markers that operate in hypotactic relations, i.e. the relations between units one of which is dependent on the other, and those expressing paratactic relations, i.e. the relations between units which are not dependent on each other (see e.g. Duskova et al. 1988: 303, 488ff). There are several reasons for this subdivision. Firstly, it is common to divide the linking devices under investigation according to the syntactic type of the relation they indicate, notably in languages such as Czech, which is the mother tongue of the majority of the authors whose texts have been analysed for this study; secondly, it is expected that the two syntactic types differ in frequency of occurrence, because the hypotactic relation is typically expressed overtly by certain markers, such as although, because and since, whereas the paratactic relation, apart from being indicated by certain markers, such as however, thus and therefore, can often remain unexpressed overtly; this does not imply that there cannot be some semantic clues in the respective segments of discourse, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives (e.g. reason, result, contrasting), prepositional phrases (e.g. as a result of, because of, instead of, in contrast to/with), or some other ways of expressing cause or contrast (e.g. expressions standing in an antonymic relation); these possibilities, however, have not been included in the present inquiry. (For illustrations, see (4) and (5) below.)

(4) (EngWrCorpus, Text 7)

It is surprising that textbook authors do not incorporate more lexical bundles in their writing, given the heavy reliance on bundles in classroom teaching. Reasons for this absence might be that textbook authors tend to use fuller expressions, preferring full clauses rather than phrasal lexical bundles.

(5) (CzWrCorpus, Text 10)

Context is also changed as a result of the second type of alteration- relocating. Various text segments are found incorporated within a new context in the ETs.

As regards the frequency of occurrence of DMs involved in hypotactic and paratactic relations, it should be noted that since the paper deals with academic written texts, in which convincing argumentation, introducing one’s own claims and expressing the author’s views on previous research play an important role, a high number of explicit markers, in particular those involved in hypotactic relations, is expected, since these are mostly signalled overtly, and, as stated in Taboada, relations of concession, condition, cause, result and purpose are “typically expressed through subordination” (2006: 576). It should also be stressed that subordination is regarded as a characteristic feature of written, mostly formal discourse, while coordination is mostly connected with spoken, especially informal discourse (Leech and Svartvik 1994: 14).

Finally, it should be noted that concession is viewed here as a special case of contrast, notably that obtaining between the expected/usual causal relationship and the actual situation (Duskova et al. 1988, Fraser 1999), and therefore contrastive DMs comprise markers expressing contrast as well as concession. Furthermore, “in some cases, elements of contrast and concession are combined in uses of linking adverbials” (Biber et al. 1999: 878), and it is not always possible to draw a clear borderline between these two semantic classes.

 
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