Volume 12, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1387-6732
  • E-ISSN: 1570-6001
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Attaining rhetorical competence requires the capacity to use linguistic form to communicate discourse stance as well as discourse content. Languages provide their speakers with a range of options to express content in ways that reveal orientation, generality of reference, and attitude to the propositional content of their message to create a more involved or detached discourse stance. This paper focuses on the linguistic means used by children (9–10-, 12–13-, and 15–16-year olds) and university graduate students in French and Spanish in their attempt to create a detached discourse stance in expository texts. Two types of linguistic means for encoding discourse stance are examined: local devices which call for the manipulation of morphology and the lexicon, and phrase-level devices which require manipulation of argument structure. Our results show (1) that children in both languages are sensitive to the necessity of encoding a depersonalized discourse stance in expository texts early on; (2) that local devices are productive before those involving the rearrangement of argument structure; and (3) that with development and increasing interaction with academic texts the range of devices employed increases. The data reveal that for the phrase-level devices French speakers prefer passive constructions, while Spanish-speakers prefer se-constructions. Our results illustrate how later language development is influenced by language-specific facts and literacy interacting with universally shared communicative needs.


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