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Variation in the use of causal DMs in RAs

Based on the analysis of RAs included in this study, it can now be stated that when expressing causal relations both experienced native speakers of English, labelled below English writers in short, and Czech expert authors of RAs, labelled below Czech writers in short, apply the same set of three possible causal markers, namely as, because and since in order to express hypotactic relations, i.e. relations between segments of discourse one of which is dependent on the other. However, as is evident from Table 10-1 below, there are significant differences in the frequency rates of the individual markers. (It should be noted that all markers with a normalized frequency of occurrence of 0.1 tokens per 1,000 words or higher are written in bold in all the tables in this chapter.)

English writers use each of the three hypotactic causal markers to a different extent: they give preference to because (0.66), which they apply almost as frequently as since (0.40) and as (0.29) when they are counted together. On the other hand, Czech writers use the markers as (0.40) and because (0.43) to about the same extent, while resorting to the marker since (0.90) much more frequently; in fact they apply it in more cases than the other two markers when they are counted together.

In both corpora, there is a tendency to use one of the three possible hypotactic markers with greater frequency, and in some cases rather repeatedly; this tendency, which can be accounted for by individual authors’ preferences in writing habits, is illustrated in the examples that follow. Example (6), taken from the English corpus, and example (7), taken from the Czech corpus, testify to the above-mentioned tendency; the preference for one marker for hypotactic causal relations only concerns above all because in the former and since in the latter corpus, although it must be conceded that the authors in the data examined occasionally use a different marker than their favourite, as in example (6). This example also comprises one token of the contrastive marker while, which is more typical of the English than of the Czech corpus (see Table 10-3 in Section 8 below). Apart from three tokens of since, example (7) illustrates the use of several other markers, namely the causal markers as a result and hence and the contrastive markers in contrast and however (2 tokens), thus providing evidence of the tendency favoured by some writers in the texts analysed, namely to introduce almost every other discourse segment with an overt signal.

(6) (EngWrCorpus, Text 8)

The crucial question is whether figures of speech like hot under the collar are idiomatic, or whether we want to distinguish the two. We believe that a distinction is required both theoretically and from the teaching point of view, because figures of speech can be interpreted according to general cognitive principles, while idioms have to be learnt. Since proving that some piece of language is non-compositional may only show that it is figurative, we have first to rule out those expressions which are non-compositional because they are figurative. One of the most common ‘figures’ in figurative language is the metaphor-to such an extent that the words ‘figurative ’ and ‘metaphorical’ are often used interchangeably. Of course, not all figures are non-compositional: similes (It was as dark as pitch outside) may be perfectly compositional as may zeugma. But we are not concerned with such cases here. Because metaphor is the most common figure, we will first take a closer look at metaphors.

(7) (CzWrCorpus, Text 4)

As a result, the parts containing most equations-often theoretically- oriented chapters-are the least cohesive. In contrast, most cohesive parts are introductory sections since these concisely and lucidly outline the RA’s content. Most problematic seem to be theoretically- biased chapters 1 and 2 that present theoretical background and feedback for own research. However, this disproportion is fully compensated for in the texts through introductory section and then by those conclusive chapters 3-5. This confirms and reflects carefully planned and organised layout of RAs.

One more important point arises when considering how demanding and laborious task it is to construct such a summary since there are some computer tools such as an electronic-like resource WordNet, SummariserPort and other summary-generating systems based on lexical cohesion. However, these tools are able to represent a computer implementation only of the first two of Hoey’s four categories of lexical patterning, i.e. simple and complex repetition. Hence, simple and complex paraphrase classes are not included since paraphrases are not based on closed class words and various nonlexical items that could be easily encoded into the programme.

The findings show that in RAs written by English and Czech writers causal relations expressed by overt hypotactic DMs are less common when compared to those expressed by overt paratactic DMs, probably due to the relatively small repertoire of hypotactic causal markers, which comprises only three different types, namely as, because and since. The difference in the proportion of causal markers from the two syntactic groups is bigger in the English corpus, where hypotactic DMs are applied in much fewer cases (1.35) in comparison with the number of cases in which an explicit paratactic marker appears (2.59). In the Czech corpus, the difference between hypotactic and paratactic markers is smaller, i.e. 1.73 for hypotactic and 2.42 for paratactic markers. The average frequency of occurrence per 1,000 words of any syntactic type of causal DMs is slightly higher in the Czech corpus (4.15) than in the English corpus (3.94).

Table 10-1: Causal DMs in RAs by English and Czech expert writers

Type of corpus

(No. of words)

English writers (74,545)

Czech writers (57,819)

Hypotactic DMs

No.

per 1,000

No.

per 1,000

as

22

0.29

23

0.40

because

49

0.66

25

0.43

since

30

0.40

52

0.90

All hyp. DMs

101

1.35

100

1.73

Paratactic DMs

No.

per 1,000

No.

per 1,000

consequently

2

0.03

6

0.10

hence

6

0.08

4

0.07

now

5

0.07

1

0.02

(and) so

19

0.26

4

0.07

so that

2

0.03

5

0.09

therefore

59

0.79

40

0.69

thus

49

0.66

59

1.02

then

38

0.51

20

0.35

All par. DMs

180/193

2.59

139/140

2.42

TOTAL DMs

281/294

3.94

239/240

4.15

The overall proportions between hypotactic and paratactic causal markers in all corpora included in this chapter are shown in Table 10-2. As is evident from the table, in all three corpora-including Master’s theses written by Czech students, which will be discussed in greater detail in Section 9 below-causal relations between segments of discourse are preferably expressed by paratactic markers; these represent 58-66 per cent of all the cases in which causal relations are expressed by DMs in the data analysed.

Table 10-2: Causal hypotactic and paratactic DMs in academic writing. Comparison between English and Czech writers and Czech students

Causal relations

Hypotactic DMs

Paratactic DMs

Type of corpus

No.

%

No.

%

English writers

101

34

193

66

Czech writers

100

42

140

58

Czech students

166

39

257

61

Most of the findings presented above are not in accordance with my expectations that in academic written discourse hypotactic relations are commonly expressed by an overt marker and that subordination is more typical of formal written discourse (Leech and Svartvik 1994). However, the results are in agreement with the generally acknowledged view that subordination tends to be more complex and thus more demanding to apply than coordination; this may be one of the reasons for the higher number of paratactic markers in all corpora (see Tables 10-1 and 10-2 above), in particular when novice writers attempt to produce L2 academic texts. Thus it is not surprising that Czech students of English, who are usually instructed to use guiding signals when organizing academic texts, give preference to coordination, which is, of course, expressed by paratactic markers (61%); this tendency is the strongest in the English corpus (66%), which can bear a resemblance to nonacademic texts (Clyne 1987) and has a more dialogic and interactive character, which is, in this author’s opinion, connected with coordination rather than subordination.

While all three possible hypotactic markers, i.e. as, because and since, have been found relatively frequently in all the data, paratactic markers, although more frequent in terms of total number in both corpora, are rather unevenly distributed, some of them having a frequency of occurrence of fewer than five tokens in either corpus; owing to their limited use, the paratactic causal markers accordingly, as a consequence, as a result, for, in consequence, now, of course and somehow have been excluded from Table 10-1 above, even though they are counted in the total numbers given in the last two lines. (See e.g. 180/193 in the first column of 10-1, where 180 is the number of paratactic DMs actually listed in the table, while 193 equals the total number of all paratactic DMs found in the English corpus.)

Based on the results presented in Table 10-1, it can now be postulated that some paratactic markers are very frequent in all the data, in particular therefore and thus, i.e. the markers which represent more than half of all tokens found in the respective corpus. It is also worth noting here that the causal markers therefore and thus (see examples (8) and (9) respectively), along with the contrastive however (see example (12) below), have been found in Biber et al. (1999: 885) to represent the most common markers of all in academic texts produced by native speakers of English.

(8) (EngWrCorpus, Text 3)

It was also discovered during the piloting session that many of the participants had never used a computer before and that as a result they were nervous during the test. Therefore, when the test was administered to the ‘real ’ population, the participants were given an informal introduction and were reminded that their performance was not being assessed. As they were only required to use two keys throughout the duration of the test, it was not felt necessary to give the participants any keyboard training.

Of the fifteen different types of paratactic causal markers searched for during the analysis ten types in the Czech corpus and seven types in the English corpus have a frequency of occurrence lower than five tokens. RAs written by native speakers of English can thus be characterized by a slightly wider range of paratactic markers frequently used to express causal relations, although, generally speaking, there is hardly any variation between the two corpora in the use of the five most frequent markers, namely therefore, thus, then, so and consequently. Apart from applying the two most typical markers therefore and thus, Czech writers use the markers consequently (0.10) and then (0.35) with noteworthy frequency (which is highlighted in the tables) and English writers often apply the markers so (0.26) and then (0.51). The use of the markers so and then in the English corpus is not surprising at all, since these markers are considered rather informal and typical in particular of conversation (Biber et al. 1999: 886); thus it gives further evidence of a more informal and dialogic way of expression typically connected with English academic texts produced by native speakers. As for the rather formal marker hence (for illustration, see example (7) above), it is not frequently represented in either corpus; this result is in accordance with Biber et al. (1999: 887), who state that hence is used only in one fifth of all academic prose texts (see Table 10-1 above).

The findings testify not only that English experts (2.59) apply paratactic causal DMs-among which therefore and thus clearly predominate-with slightly greater frequency than Czech experts (2.42), but also that there is a stronger tendency on the part of English experts to apply the natural ordering of discourse segments (Altenberg 1987) in academic texts, which is typically connected with spoken discourse such as conversation; according to this tendency the segment of discourse which introduces new and/or unexpected information or a new aspect within already known information comes only after the segment with known information, which is, of course, the default case with paratactic markers, as shown in (8) and (9), in which the markers therefore and thus respectively introduce subsequent segments which carry new information.

(9) (CzWrCorpus, Text 2)

Furthermore, the original paragraph types may be arranged along a relatively continuous cline. The two opposite ends of this cline differ radically in their build-ups and epitomize two distinct configurations of features. Thus, in this paper we propose to distinguish between two crucial supratypes, viz. Narrow and Broad P-theme paragraphs.

Finally, it should also be noted here that subordinators, i.e. hypotactic markers such as as, because and since can be used at the beginning of the clause preceding the main clause, i.e. at the very beginning of the whole sentence complex (Tarnyikova 2007: 24). If this happens, then, similarly to paratactic markers, hypotactic markers also enable the natural ordering of discourse segments, as is the case of the hypotactic DM as in (8) above. However, this ordering of discourse segments is not typical of causal relations, in which hypotactic DMs tend to be placed also at the beginning of the subsequent clause, as is the case of because in (6) and since in (7) above.

 
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