C. Coffin (2006): Historical discourse.C. Coffin (2006)
In creating Historical discourse, Caroline Coffin has written a book that needed to be written. One might look askance a·skance also a·skant
1. With disapproval, suspicion, or distrust: "The area is so dirty that merchants report the tourists are looking askance" Chris Black. at the asking price of 75.00 [pounds sterling] for the hardback edition, but be assured 'there's gold in them thar hills'. Coffin's stated ambition is to create a book "with educational and applied linguists in mind" as well as "policy makers, textbook writers, teacher trainers, language and literacy consultants and classroom teachers of history". I believe that she has succeeded in producing such a book. It has the depth and academic rigour rig·our
n. Chiefly British
Variant of rigor.
rigour or US rigor
1. required of the scholar, while at the same time making the content accessible to those with limited formal linguistic knowledge. Classroom practitioners will benefit significantly from this book. For all readers the content is original, interesting and applicable, but it is the careful structuring of the book that makes it particularly accessible even to the neophyte ne·o·phyte
1. A recent convert to a belief; a proselyte.
2. A beginner or novice: a neophyte at politics.
a. Roman Catholic Church A newly ordained priest. .
The subject matter comprises a Systemic Functional Linguistic (SFL SFL - System Function Language. Assembly language for the ICL2900. "SFL Language Definition Manual", TR 6413, Intl Computers Ltd. ) analysis of the texts encountered and written by the history student, at all educational levels from primary school through secondary and on into tertiary study. After analysing in depth each of the facets of historical texts encountered and produced by students, the final chapter makes explicit the pedagogical ped·a·gog·ic also ped·a·gog·i·cal
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of pedagogy.
2. Characterized by pedantic formality: a haughty, pedagogic manner. implications of those findings.
The content of book is divided into eight chapters. Coffin provides a comprehensive introduction to the subject where she clarifies her belief that the subject of history has distinctive textual forms which need to be comprehended and reproduced by the history student. In order to accommodate those new to the area she provides a brief explanation that encapsulates the key features of SFL in the second chapter. The third and fourth chapters describe and exemplify the broad historical genres: record and analysis. Recording texts are divided into autobiography, biography, recount and account. Analysis is seen as a conflation (database) conflation - Combining or blending of two or more versions of a text; confusion or mixing up. Conflation algorithms are used in databases. of argument and explanation; exposition, discussion and challenge are seen as forms of argument. Coffin analyses each of these textual forms in terms of their distinguishing social function, the purpose and context of the text, and the resultant lexical and grammatical choices made by the writer in order to answer the requirements of field, tenor and mode. Her purpose is to provide a basis for pedagogical strategies designed to facilitate student's competent interaction with such texts. Additionally there is consideration of visual texts including tables and flowcharts, which to be understood in terms of their implied cause and effect relationship need to be explicitly mapped to a parallel putative linear text. As well, Coffin makes the key ties to syllabus statements from a variety of education systems in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States demonstrating the relevance of her research.
Chapters five and six explore the lexical and grammatical choices made by writers in order to represent concepts of temporality tem·po·ral·i·ty
n. pl. tem·po·ral·i·ties
1. The condition of being temporal or bounded in time.
2. temporalities Temporal possessions, especially of the Church or clergy.
Noun 1. and causality effectively. Time is seen as a critical fulcrum fulcrum: see lever. of understanding on which concepts of "change, development, continuity, progression and regression" balance. In order to develop a historical perspective, Coffin identifies a perception of calendrical time and its relation to historical narrative as a seminal point of understanding, and argues that the linguistic choices made to represent such concepts as the sequencing and segmenting of time are key to historical understanding. Causality involves more "significant connections" than those of the temporal framework.
Student response to judgement and assessment of past events is the theme of the seventh chapter where Coffin investigates curriculum expectation that students will interpret and understand history from a variety of perspectives. She delineates an appraisal framework in terms of graduation of intensity, attitude, and engagement, with a monoglossic or heteroglossic text. This appraisal framework is then critiqued as a suitable basis for pedagogical intervention to develop increasing levels of ability to negotiate alternative judgements and opposing perspectives within the history field.
In the final chapter, Coffin draws the threads of her work together as she comments that precise feedback for students as to how they could specifically improve their textual constructions would be of benefit and that the SFL analysis provides a clear basis to achieve this. She does not suggest that the insights gained become the basis of prescriptive and formulaic text structure, but rather that understanding how and why particular aspects of a text function as they do will develop greater self-awareness in the student writer. Additionally the student will become more proficient at understanding how existent texts position the reader and engender social subjectivities. Finally she suggests a logical progression of text types in terms of difficulty of control and previous learning.
Coffin writes in a style that makes extensive use of the first person, singular and plural, and thereby creates a feeling of a comfortable collaborative experience with the reader. She strategically reiterates what has been said before and regularly signposts what will be dealt with in the future. There are clear summaries at the end of each chapter. Last but not least, there is a comprehensive glossary of terms included. All this combines to create a highly readable book with a wealth of interesting detail.
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