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Questions in English and French Research Articles in Linguistics: A Corpus-Based Contrastive Analysis

Abstract

Although research on evaluation in academic writing has profited from developments in contrastive linguistics since the late 1980s, very little empirical research has been conducted with respect to questions in contrastive studies. The aim of this study is to investigate the functions of questions as a means of reader engagement in academic research articles in English and French in the discipline of linguistics. To do this, a corpus-based contrastive analysis of two subcorpora of KIAP (Fløttum et al. in Academic voices across languages and disciplines, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 2006) is conducted. The English and French subcorpora are assessed using Hyland’s model of stance and reader engagement in terms of questions and their seven functions as evaluative markers of reader engagement (Text 22(4):529–557, 2002; Discourse Stud 7(2):173–192, 2005b), including their form and distribution within the text. This analysis focuses on two particular functions of questions, namely ‘framing the discourse’ and ‘organising the text’. The results suggest that, although there is some degree of homogeneity in the use of questions in terms of function, form and distribution, there is also evidence of important differences between the two languages. These findings illustrate some distinctions in writing in these two discourse communities and their potential for informing language pedagogy in both English for academic purposes and Français langue académique.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The acronym KIAP comes from the Norwegian: Kulturell Identitet i Akademisk Prosa.

  2. 2.

    Readers familiar with the history of the French language may be surprised to find that it is not given the highest ranking for clarity given the much quoted phrase by De Rivarol (1784) ‘ce qui n’est pas clair n’est pas français’. Rivarol explicitly situates French above languages such as English and Italian in terms of clarity.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article.

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Correspondence to Niall Curry.

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Curry, N., Chambers, A. Questions in English and French Research Articles in Linguistics: A Corpus-Based Contrastive Analysis. Corpus Pragmatics 1, 327–350 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41701-017-0012-0

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Keywords

  • Contrastive linguistics
  • Comparable corpora
  • English academic writing
  • French academic writing
  • Reader engagement
  • Questions