Volume 24, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


When reading lengthy expository texts, Australian-born (Aus) learners of Modern Standard Chinese (MSC) as a second language (L2) often find it difficult to elicit the main points being expressed by the text author. Contrastive rhetoric studies attribute this to the differing stylistic patterns of argumentation between L1-English and L1-MSC discourse. This explanation, however, is far from universally accepted, with many studies refuting such conclusions. This study seeks to contribute to the debate by applying a more rigorous analytic framework, the Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) framework, to lengthy newstext, so as to explicate the lower level, more local features of Chinese discourse that may lead to the problems faced by L2 learners of MSC. Results reveal that local level placement of clauses differs between Australian and Chinese newstexts. Pedagogical implications are discussed, namely the benefits of promoting awareness of such cross-cultural variation within the language classroom.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Backlund, I.
    (1988) Grounds for prominence. On hierarchies and grounding in English expository text. Studia Neophilologica60:37–61. doi: 10.1080/00393278808587986
    https://doi.org/10.1080/00393278808587986 [Google Scholar]
  2. Bateman, J. A. and K. J. Rondhuis
    (1997) Coherence relations: towards a general specification. Discourse processes24:3–49. doi: 10.1080/01638539709545006
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01638539709545006 [Google Scholar]
  3. Baumann, J. F.
    (1986) Effect of rewritten content textbook passages on middle grade students’ comprehension of main ideas: making the inconsiderate considerate. Journal of Reading Behavior18:1–21.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Callow, K. and J. C. Callow
    (1992) Text as purposive communication: a meaning-based analysis. In W. C. Mann and S. A. Thompson (eds) Discourse description: diverse linguistic analyses of a fundraising text. Amsterdam, John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/pbns.16.03cal
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.16.03cal [Google Scholar]
  5. Clyne, M.
    (1987) Discourse structures and discourse expectations: implications for Anglo-German academic communication in English. In L. E. Smith (ed.) Discourse across cultures: strategies in world Englishes. New York, Prentice Hall.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. (1994) Inter-cultural communication at work: cultural values in discourse. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Connor, U.
    (1994) Text linguistics and the study of contrastive rhetorics. In S. Cmejrkova , F. Danes and E. Havlova (eds), Writing vs speaking: language, text, discourse, communication. Tubingen, GNV Gunter Narr Verlag.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. (1996) Contrastive rhetoric: cross-cultural aspects of second-language writing. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139524599
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139524599 [Google Scholar]
  9. de Beaugrande, R.
    (1991) Linguistic theory: the discourse of fundamental works. London, Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Fox, B.
    (1987) Discourse structure and anaphora in written and conversational English. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511627767
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511627767 [Google Scholar]
  11. Freebody, P. and R. C. Anderson
    (1986) Serial position and rated importance in the recall of text. Discourse Processes9:31–36. doi: 10.1080/01638538609544630
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01638538609544630 [Google Scholar]
  12. Goldman, S. R. , E. U. Saul and N. Cote
    (1995) Paragraphing, reader and task effects on discourse comprehension. Discourse Processes20:273–305. doi: 10.1080/01638539509544942
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01638539509544942 [Google Scholar]
  13. Grabe, W. and R. B. Kaplan
    (1996) Theory and practice of writing: an applied linguistic perspective. London, Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Hatch, E.
    (1992) Discourse and language education. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Hinds, J.
    (1987) Reader versus writer responsibility: a new typology. In U. Connor and R. B. Kaplan (eds) Writing across languages: analysis of L2 text. Reading, Massachusetts, Addison Wesley.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. (1990) Inductive, deductive, quasi-inductive: expository writing in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Thai. In U. Connor and A. M. Johns (eds) Coherence in writing: research and pedagogical perspectives. Alexandria, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Hoey, M.
    (1991) Patterns of lexis in text. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Kaplan, R. B.
    (1989) On written text. Anglo-American Studies9:117–27.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Kieras, D. E.
    (1985) Thematic processes in the comprehension of technical prose. In B. K. Britton and J. B. Black (eds) Understanding expository text: a theoretical and practical handbook for analyzing explanatory text. Hillsdale, New Jersey, LEA Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Kies, D.
    (1990) Indeterminacy in sentence structure. Linguistics and Education2: 231–58. doi: 10.1016/S0898‑5898(05)80021‑X
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0898-5898(05)80021-X [Google Scholar]
  21. Kirkpatrick, A.
    (1993) Information sequencing in Modern Standard Chinese. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics16,2: 27–60. doi: 10.1075/aral.16.2.03kir
    https://doi.org/10.1075/aral.16.2.03kir [Google Scholar]
  22. (1995) Chinese rhetoric: methods of argument. Multilingua14,3:271–95. doi: 10.1515/mult.1995.14.3.271
    https://doi.org/10.1515/mult.1995.14.3.271 [Google Scholar]
  23. (1996) Topic — comment or modifier — modified? Information structure in Modern Standard Chinese. Studies in Language20,1:93–113. doi: 10.1075/sl.20.1.05kir
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sl.20.1.05kir [Google Scholar]
  24. Knott, A. and R. Dale
    (1994) Using linguistic phenomena to motivate a set of coherence relations. Discourse Processes18:35–62. doi: 10.1080/01638539409544883
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01638539409544883 [Google Scholar]
  25. Krzeszowski, T. P.
    (1990) Contrasting languages: the scope of contrastive linguistics. Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110860146
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110860146 [Google Scholar]
  26. Leki, I.
    (1991) Twenty-five years of contrastive rhetoric: text analysis and writing pedagogies. TESOL Quarterly25:123–43. doi: 10.2307/3587031
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3587031 [Google Scholar]
  27. Lorch, R. F. Jr
    (1989) Text-signaling devices and their effects on reading and memory processes. Educational Psychology Review1:209–34. doi: 10.1007/BF01320135
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01320135 [Google Scholar]
  28. Lotfipour-Saedi, K. and F. Rezai-Tajani
    (1996) Exploration in thematization strategies and their discoursal values in English. Text16:225–49.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. McGregor, W.
    (1991) Discourse analysis and intercultural communication. Australian Journal of Communication18,1:13–29.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. McKoon, G. , R. Ratcliff , G. Ward and R. Sproat
    (1993) Syntactic prominence effects on discourse processes. Journal of Memory and Language32:593–607. doi: 10.1006/jmla.1993.1030
    https://doi.org/10.1006/jmla.1993.1030 [Google Scholar]
  31. Mann, W. C. and C. M. I. M Matthiessen
    (1991) Functions of language in two frameworks. Word42:231–49. doi: 10.1080/00437956.1991.11435839
    https://doi.org/10.1080/00437956.1991.11435839 [Google Scholar]
  32. Mann, W. C. and S. A. Thompson
    (1986) Relational propositions in discourse. Discourse Processes9:57–90. doi: 10.1080/01638538609544632
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01638538609544632 [Google Scholar]
  33. (1988) Rhetorical Structure Theory: toward a functional theory of text organization. Text8:243–81.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Mann, W. C. , C. M. I. M. Matthiessen and S. A. Thompson
    (1992) Rhetorical Structure Theory and text analysis. In W. C. Mann and S. A. Thompson (eds) Discourse description: diverse linguistic analyses of a fund-raising text. Amsterdam, John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/pbns.16.04man
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.16.04man [Google Scholar]
  35. Matthiessen, C.
    (1992) Interpreting the textual metafunction. In M. Davies and L. Ravelli (eds) Advances in systemic linguistics: recent theory and practice. London, Pinter.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Mauranen, A.
    (1993) Cultural differences in academic rhetoric: a textlinguistic study. Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Meyer, B. J. F.
    (1992) An analysis of a plea for money. In W. C. Mann and S. A. Thompson (eds) Discourse description: diverse linguistic analyses of a fund-raising text. Amsterdam, John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/pbns.16.05mey
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.16.05mey [Google Scholar]
  38. Mohan, B. A. and W. A. Y. Lo
    (1985) Academic writing and Chinese students: transfer and development factors. TESOL Quarterly19:515–34. doi: 10.2307/3586276
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3586276 [Google Scholar]
  39. O’Brien, T.
    (1995) Rhetorical structure analysis and the case of the inaccurate, incoherent source-hopper. Applied Linguistics16:442–82. doi: 10.1093/applin/16.4.442
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/16.4.442 [Google Scholar]
  40. Sanders, T. and C. van Wijk
    (1996) PISA - a procedure for analyzing the structure of explanatory texts. Text16:91–132.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Sanders, T. J. M. , W. P. M Spooren and L. G. M Noordman
    (1992) Toward a taxonomy of coherence relations. Discourse Processes15:1–35. doi: 10.1080/01638539209544800
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01638539209544800 [Google Scholar]
  42. Scollon, R. and S. Scollon
    (1997) Point of view and citation: fourteen Chinese and English versions of the ‘same’ news story. Text17,1: 83–125.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Tai, J. H. Y.
    (1985) Temporal sequence and Chinese word order. In J. Haiman (ed.) Iconicity in syntax. Amsterdam, John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/tsl.6.04tai
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.6.04tai [Google Scholar]
  44. Tai, J. H. Y
    (1993) Iconicity: motivations in Chinese grammar. In M. Eid and G. Iverson (eds) Principles and prediction: the analysis of natural language: papers in honor of Gerald Sanders. Amsterdam, John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/cilt.98.14tai
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.98.14tai [Google Scholar]
  45. Taylor, G. and T. Chen
    (1991) Linguistic, cultural, and subcultural issues in contrastive discour[s]e analysis: Anglo-American and Chinese scientific texts. Applied Linguistics12,3: 319–36. doi: 10.1093/applin/12.3.319
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/12.3.319 [Google Scholar]
  46. Thompson, S. A. and W. C. Mann
    (1987) Rhetorical Structure Theory: a framework for the analysis of texts. IPRA Papers in Pragmatics1:79–105. doi: 10.1075/iprapip.1.1.03tho
    https://doi.org/10.1075/iprapip.1.1.03tho [Google Scholar]
  47. Tomlin, R. S.
    (1985) Fore ground-background information and the syntax of subordination. Text5:85–122.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Tomlin, R. S. , L. Forrest , M. M. Pu and M. H. Kim
    (1997) Discourse semantics. In T. A. van Dijk (ed.) Discourse as structure and process. London, Sage. doi: 10.4135/9781446221884.n3
    https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446221884.n3 [Google Scholar]
  49. Tyler, A.
    (1994) The role of syntactic structure in discourse structure: signaling logical and prominence relations. Applied Linguistics15:243–62. doi: 10.1093/applin/15.3.243
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/15.3.243 [Google Scholar]
  50. Tyler A. and Bro, J.
    (1992) Discourse structure in nonnative English discourse: the effect of ordering and interpretive cues on perceptions of comprehensibility. Studies in Second Language Acquisition14: 71–86. doi: 10.1017/S0272263100010470
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263100010470 [Google Scholar]
  51. Uhlirova, L.
    (1993) Parts of the sentence: evidence of their communicative significance in text structure. Quantitative Linguistics52:263–70.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. van den Broek, P. and T. Trabasso
    (1986) Causal networks vs. goal hierarchies in summarizing text. Discourse Processes9:1–15. doi: 10.1080/01638538609544628
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01638538609544628 [Google Scholar]
  53. van Dijk, T. A.
    (1980) Text and context: explorations in the semantics and pragmatics of discourse. London. Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Wang, X.
    (1994) Writing concepts in Chinese writing instruction. Issues in Applied Linguistics5:211–29.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Wong, S. L C.
    (1988) What we do and don’t know about Chinese learners of English: a critical review of selected research. RELC Journal19:1–20. doi: 10.1177/003368828801900101
    https://doi.org/10.1177/003368828801900101 [Google Scholar]
  56. Young, L. W. L.
    (1994) Crosstalk and culture in Sino-American communication. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511519901
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511519901 [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error