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Contrastive Discourse Analysis. Functional and Corpus Perspectives.

CONTRASTIVE DISCOURSE ANALYSIS. FUNCTIONAL AND CORPUS PERSPECTIVES

M. Taboada, S. Doval Suarez and E. Gonzalez Alvarez

Sheffield: Equinox, 2013.

Situated firmly within "the new wave of contrastive linguistics", as set forth at the Sixth International Conference on Contrastive Linguistics (Berlin, 2010) and carefully outlined in the introduction by the editors, the present volume offers fifteen thematically and methodologically varied contributions to the contrastive study of different languages, which are coherently organized around four different topics: (i) discourse markers; (ii) information structure; (iii) registers and genres; (iv) and phraseology. Since the fifteen chapters have as their main objective the comparison and contrast of two languages from different theoretical perspectives, so as to draw theoretical generalizations concerning the differences and similarities between them, they make, all in all, a good contribution to this renewed interest in theory that pervades the field of Contrastive Linguistics nowadays. This is a notable departure (except in the case of chapter 7 by Doval Suarez and Gonzalez Alvarez and chapter 14 by Rica Peromingo) from the clearly pedagogical orientation that was the distinguishing feature of the earliest constrastive studies published in the 50s, mainly after the works by Fries (1945) and Lado (1957), whose principal aim was no other than to compare the differences between the student's mother tongue and the language he was in the process of learning in order to predict potential areas of difficulty and, therefore, of possible interlinguistic errors that could be, in this way, corrected and avoided.

Discourse markers are the central subject-matter common to the first four chapters of the book. Couched in Mann and Thompson's (1988) Rhetorical Structure Theory, the first one by Taboada and Gomez-Gonzalez ("Discourse markers and coherence relations: Comparison across markers, languages and modalities") examines the distribution, realization and position of different types of concessive discourse markers in two English and Spanish corpora (a written corpus, part of the Simon Fraser University Corpus, and a spoken one, part of the CallHome set of corpora), to show that the differences in their usage are more pronounced across genres than across languages.

Taking the phenomenon of pragmatic triangulation as its starting point, the second contribution to the volume by Romero Trillo ("Pragmatic triangulation and mis-understanding: A prosodic perspective") offers, after Halliday's (1967, 1970) and Cruttenden's (1997) Nuclear Tone Theory, an acoustic analysis of the discourse markers mhm, ok, yeah and yes in 5 out of the 50 interviews in the Spanish section of the Louvain International Database of Spoken English Interlanguage, which reveals significant differences between the pitch and tone used by native and non-native female speakers of English.

In chapter three Stenstrom ("Spanish Venga and its English equivalents: A contrastive study of teenage talk") offers a valuable sociolinguistic comparison of the various uses of venga in the Corpus Oral de Lenguaje Adolescente de Madrid (COLAM) with their equivalents in the Bergen Corpus of London Teenage Language (COLT), which demonstrates that come on is the closest equivalent to venga in its directive and reactive functions and that elements such as well, okay, right and allright, are, in turn, its counterparts in its evaluative function.

In chapter four ("Discourse markers in French and German: Reasons for an asymmetry") Adam and Dalmas present an exploratory study that looks for the German functional equivalents of the French discourse markers dis donc, tu vois and ecoute in a corpus of written texts and their translations, which suggests, due to the different degrees of pragmaticalization observed in these markers, that the comparison between languages only makes sense on the functional level.

The following five chapters shape the second section of the volume, which is devoted to information structure. It opens with the probing contrastive study, based on Tavecchio's (2010) corpus, presented in chapter 5 ("Thematic Parentheticals in Dutch and English") by Hannay and Gomez-Gonzalez, in which interesting differences concerning the frequency, grammatical realization, rhetorical effect and discourse functions of English and Dutch thematic parentheticals are put forward.

In chapter 6 ("Word order and information structure in English and Swedish") Herriman offers an analysis of fronting, postponement by extraposition, existential sentences and clefting in English and Swedish which has important consequences for the information structure of these two languages, since it reveals, contrary to expectation, that the syntactic order of their clause elements is different.

In the contribution that follows (Chapter 7: "The use of it-clefts in the written production of Spanish advanced learners of English") Doval Suarez and Gonzalez Alvarez carry out a Contrastive Interlanguage Analysis (Granger 1996; Granger et al. 2002) on it-clefts in a corpus of argumentative essays extracted from the Spanish component of ICLE and the American and British university component of LOCNESS. The results are enlightening from a contrastive viewpoint, owing to the syntactico-semantic and pragmatic differences observed in the behaviour of it-clefts in the speech of native and non-native speakers of English.

In chapter 8 ("Annotating thematic features in English and Spanish: A contrastive corpus-based study"), Arus, Lavid and Moraton describe the preliminary results of the empirical study designed to test in English and Spanish some contrastive features of the category of Theme, as designed in the Systemic Functional Linguistic tradition (cf. Halliday and Matthiessen 2004 and Lavid et al. 2010), through corpus analysis and manual annotation, which is part of the CONTRANOT project.

In chapter 9 ("Topic and topicality in text: A contrastive study of English and Spanish narrative texts") Hidalgo and Downing present the findings derived from the exhaustive English-Spanish contrastive analysis of topic organization they develop in a corpus of comparable and parallel narrative texts, in which special emphasis is given to the similarities found in the two languages and across genres concerning Topicality (aboutness and frames setting topics), on the one hand, and Info Status (givenness of the discourse referents), on the other.

The third part of the volume comprises four chapters about discourse and genres. It opens with the text-based English-German contrastive analysis of cohesion developed by Kunz and Steiner, after Halliday and Hasan's (1976) theory, in two subcorpora of the CroCo corpus (Chapter 10: "Towards a comparison of cohesive reference in English and German: System and text"), in which especial emphasis is given to the contrasts observed between the English neuter pronoun it and its German counterpart es, on the one hand, and the set of demonstrative pronouns in the two languages, on the other, in the original and translated texts as well as in the two types of register (fiction and essay writing) analysed.

In chapter 11 ("Genre- and culture-specific aspects of evaluation: Insights from the contrastive analysis of English and Italian online property advertising"), Pounds presents a contrastive analysis of expressions of positive evaluation, as outlined in Martin and White's (2005) APPRAISAL framework, in a corpus of English and Italian online property descriptions, where evaluation and evaluative strategies are shown to be both genre- and culture-specific.

Chapter 12 ("Contrastive analyses of evaluation in text: Key issues in the design of an annotation system for attitude applicable to consumer reviews in English and Spanish") by Taboada and Carretero also deals with evaluative language; specifically, with the part of the CONTRANOT project that focuses on the coding scheme designed for the subcategory of Appraisal known as Attitude (cf. Martin 2000, Martin and White 2005) in a small corpus of just 32 reviews, varied in terms of language, kind of evaluation and product evaluated, which, as such, only points, at this stage of the research, to some preliminary conclusions concerning the quantitative difference between the tokens of Attitude attested in English and Spanish and their similar distribution and polarity.

Also part of the CONTRANOT project is the contribution on modality offered in chapter 13 ("An annotation scheme for dynamic modality in English and Spanish") by Zamorano-Mansilla and Carretero, where a series of annotation experiments in a corpus of 40 English and Spanish examples with the modality expressions must/ deber, possibly/posiblemente and have to/tener que and can/poder in the present and past tenses, extracted at random from the BNC and Corpus del Espanol (20th century), respectively, is described. Alhough deontic, epistemic and dynamic modality are shown in them to display a similar behaviour in the two languages, some disagreement between the annotators as regards dynamic modality and its relationship with the other two modality types has been found, calling thus for further research in this specific area.

The final section of the book contains two chapters that focus on phraseology. In chapter 14 ("Corpus analysis and phraseology: Transfer ofmulti-word units") Rica Peromingo accounts, first, for the over- and underuse of the unexpectedly abundant presence of multi-word units (cf. Biber 2004 and Biber et al. 1999, 2004) in English argumentative texts extracted from the ICLE and the CEUNF corpora, if compared with their real frequency of occurrence in the native corpora LOCNESS and SPE, thus demonstrating the mother tongue's influence on the learner's production. At the end of the chapter some methodological indications about how to teach these lexical units in the EFL class are provided.

And in chapter 15, "Lying as metaphor in a bilingual phraseological corpus (German-Spanish)", in order to identify the affinities and divergences between German and Spanish when it comes to understanding reality, Mansilla explores the conceptual metaphors related to lying, deceit and falsehood in the 1430 German and Spanish phraseologisms found in the SPEAK/BE SILENT (HABLAR/ CALLAR) corpus that is part of the FRASESPAL project. The findings obtained prove that, despite the versatility of the concept of lying and its variants in the two languages, German and Spanish follow similar cognitive models to designate the various facets of lying, thus reinforcing the cognitive theories developed by Lakoff and Johnson (1999) and Dobrovol'skij (1995).

In my view, the present volume is, all in all, a very valuable and original piece of work for two main reasons: first, because the diversity of European languages dealt with in the book (Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and English, of course), together with the variety of methodological strategies (ranging from concordancing and careful annotation to painstaking qualitative analysis) used to analyse the different discourse phenomena dealt with, show that the contrastive analysis of languages can be approached from very different angles. And second, because, due to the preliminary character of almost all its chapters, it opens some interesting new lines of research within the field of Contrastive Linguistics. Notice at this point that it revolves around very diverse discourse issues from corpus and functional perspectives which up to now have been almost completely disregarded within the contrastive linguistic tradition, thus calling for further contrastive studies of this type.

Works cited

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(by Beatriz Rodriguez Arrizabalaga, Universidad de Huelva) arrizaba@uhu.es
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Date:Jan 1, 2015
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