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Review of  Working with Texts


Reviewer: Vilelmini Sosoni
Book Title: Working with Texts
Book Author: Maggie Bowring Angela Goddard Keith Sanger Ronald Carter Danuta Reah
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Book Announcement: 19.3076

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Review:
AUTHORS: Carter, Ronald; Goddard, Angela; Reah, Danuta; Sanger, Keith; Swift, Nikki
EDITOR: Beard, Adrian
TITLE: Working with Texts
SUBTITLE: A Core Introduction to Language Analysis
SERIES: The Intertext Series
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2008

Vilelmini Sosoni, Athens Metropolitan College

SUMMARY
The third edition of ''Working with Texts'' is a revised and updated version of a
well established introductory language textbook written by authors who have
extensive language teaching experience. The textbook doesn't assume any previous
experience of language analysis and aims at providing a basis for the analysis
of texts, thus constituting an essential tool for all students and early
researchers who focus on language.

The book is divided into seven units, each one of which works as an introduction
to a key aspect of language. All in all, the book focuses on signs, sounds,
words and things, sentences and structures, text and context in written
discourse, text and context in spoken discourse as well as on different ways in
which language and analysis can be taken further into investigative research.
Each unit of the textbook opens with a section called ''Aim of this unit'', then
moves on to the actual contents of the unit which appear under different
sub-headings, and continues with a section on ''Extension Activities'' and a
further section devoted to the answers to these activities and further
commentaries. The last section presents a list of satellite texts which look in
detail at the ideas covered in each unit. There is a glossary of terms which
guides readers through the key notions used in the book and a list of references
which can be used by readers who wish to delve into particular language aspects.

The first unit entitled ''Signs'' explores some of the visual aspects of writing
and attempts to show various ways in which written texts contain more than just
words. In the beginning of the unit the authors introduce main notions of
semiotics and describe two types of signs: iconic and symbolic. They then move
on to talk about the culture specificity of signs, the importance of
abbreviations and the strategy of sound effects. What is more, they focus on the
differences which exist between writing on paper and writing on screen. The
writers mainly underline the fact that electronic discourse is part of a rich
multimodal system, it works in interactive ways and is potentially readable by a
mass audience.

The second unit is entitled ''Sounds'' and it sets out to explore the relationship
between sounds and texts. It starts by linking sounds to texts and explaining
the relationship between spoken and written language. It then explains the
notion of Received Pronunciation and it goes on to focus on phonetics and
phonology and their uses, thus rendering clear their practical dimension. There
is also an interesting yet inconclusive reference to child talk.

The third unit is entitled ''Words and things'' and it examines the nature of the
English lexical system. It tries to define ''word'' and deals with the
classification of morphemes, problems of lexical ambiguity and polysemy,
metaphorical and idiomatic uses of words, denotation and connotation
computational analysis of word frequency and the origins of the English word
stock. In particular, it attempts to show the complex relationship between
individual words and meanings and it makes a distinction between homophones,
synonyms and polysemes. It also discusses extensively metaphor, i.e. the way in
which words can be used to create connections between areas of meaning that may
have no direct link, but still offer a useful comparison or connection which
helps enhance or render more vivid existing ideas and concepts. It looks into
denotation and connotation and the idiomatic use of language; it also explores
the way in which computers can help researchers study words and frequent
patterns of words, particularly through the use of corpora. Finally, this unit
provides useful information on the origins of the English word stock and the
ways in which the language gains new words through borrowing, through the change
of the use of existing words (including taboo words and euphemisms) and through
the creation of new words. A reference to multicultural London English is also
made towards the end of the unit indicating that language is not static and that
English in particular is a global language with a range of distinct varieties
around the world.

The fourth unit entitled ''Sentences and structures'' introduces some of the most
significant patterns of the English grammar. It touches upon specific features
of English nouns and noun phrases, pronouns, verbs and their tense forms, modal
verbs and modality, modifiers, structure of sentences and clauses, as well as
active and passive voice constructions. Like the previous unit, it also explores
the way in which computers can help researchers study language and in particular
grammatical patterns through the use of corpora.

The fifth unit entitled ''Text and context: written discourse'' focuses on the
cohesive devices that tie texts together across sentence boundaries. The authors
first try to explain the notion of discourse and then move on to explain
cohesion as the quality of text which helps readers identify it as a unified
whole, i.e. as text or as a collection of unrelated sentences, i.e. as non-text.
They then move on to discuss subtypes of cohesion, such as lexical cohesion,
grammatical cohesion, anaphoric and cataphoric connections between sentences,
demonstrative reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, and information
and thematic structure. Much attention is paid to functions of personal pronouns
and different forms of address in English.

The sixth unit entitled ''Text and context: spoken discourse'' attempts to
demonstrate that like written discourse, spoken discourse is also governed by
rules, although language users are largely unaware of them. It looks at some
important aspects of spoken varieties, both in naturally occurring and in
mediated texts. This unit starts by explaining speech events and moves on to
focus on three varieties of spoken discourse: conversation (including telephone
dialogues), speeches and storytelling. The analysis is based upon Searle's
classification of speech acts, Labov's description of oral narrative's
structure, Grice's classification of conversational maxims, and Schegloff's
model of conversational routine. Particular attention is paid to genderized talk
and the representation of region, social class and ethnicity in oral discourse.
What is more, there is a section dedicated to computer mediated communication
which places emphasis on the fact that MSN language although written has many
features of spoken language.

Unit seven, the last and the shortest one, points forward to the ways in which
language and analysis can be taken further in investigative research. This
section has some hints that can be helpful for students when they decide on the
topic of their essay or research paper. At the end of the section there is a
list of references and URLs recommended by the authors.

EVALUATION
This is an excellent introductory textbook, ideal for beginner students of
language studies since it works as an introduction, and is informative,
challenging, engaging and entertaining. Major topics are explored via a
fascinating range of texts and snippets, which, apart from verses and fiction,
include texts produced by children, advertisements, texts taken from the
Internet, and other texts from real, contemporary, everyday language.

The book uses an interactive, activity-based approach to enhance students'
understanding of language structure and variety. Theoretical explanations and
descriptions of language features are followed by activities, which include
texts and assignments. The Commentaries which are provided after many of
activities not only suggest answers, but also stimulate students to discuss or
think further about main points of language use. Thus the textbook may form the
basis for work in groups though it can also be used by individuals working
alone. Answers to the activities not followed by commentaries are provided in
''Answers to activities'' section concluding each unit.

One drawback is the fact that the book has limited references within the actual
units. This is awkward, since any academic work should acknowledge the work of
scholars mentioned in the book; this also interferes with the overall excellent
structure of the book. For instance, terms like lexical cohesion, ellipsis,
substitution, discourse analysis, morphology, polysemy, etc. are explained and
defined, but seminal work used for their explanation is not acknowledged,
including the works of Lyons (1995), Halliday and Hasan (1976), Hoey (1991), de
Beaugrande (1980) and Dressler, which are largely unacknowledged.

In addition, in the fifth unit entitled ''Text and context: written discourse'',
which focuses on the cohesive devices that tie texts together across sentence
boundaries, collocation, which according to Halliday and Hasan (1976) is the
second main category alongside reiteration, is not mentioned at all. Collocation
is extremely important and Halliday and Hasan (1976: 285-6) define it as: ''The
possibility of lexical cohesion between any pair of lexical items which are in
some way associated with each other in the language.'' In particular, Halliday
and Hasan claim that collocation is achieved through the association created by
habitually co-occurring lexical items, which tend to occur in similar
situations. They claim that a very marked cohesive effect derives from the
occurrence in proximity with each other of pairs such as the following, whose
meaning is not easy to classify in systematic semantic terms: laugh...joke,
blade...sharp, garden...dig, ill...doctor, try...succeed, bee...honey,
door...window, king...crown, boat...row, sunshine...cloud. Collocations do not
only occur when pairs of lexical items are involved, but also when long lexical
chains are present. For example, hair...split-ends...comb...blow-dry...perm.
This is a major omission which renders the particular section incomplete.

Finally, in the same unit, under the discussion of information structure and
thematization patterns, reference is made to tense and voice. This is quite
confusing since these two aspects belong to grammatical cohesion but cannot be
really related to thematic patterns. Therefore, a restructuring is required.

REFERENCES
De Beaugrande, R. (1980) _Text, Discourse and Process_. Norwood: Ablex.

Halliday, M. A. K and Hasan, R. (1976) _Cohesion in English_. London: Longman.

Hoey, M. (1991) _Patterns of Lexis in Text_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lyons, J. (1995) _Linguistic Semantics: An Introduction_. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Vilelmini Sosoni is the Head of the Department of Applied Languages and
Translation at Athens Metropolitan College, Greece, a part-time lecturer at the
Faculty of English Studies, School of Philosophy at the National and
Kapodistrian University of Athens and a Translator at the Hellenic Data
Protection Authority. She holds a PhD in Text Linguistics and Translation and
her research interests lie in the areas of translation quality, text linguistics
and translation, norms in translation, text hybridity, language diversity and
multilingualism, language ideologies, translation and political discourse,
translation and EU texts, didactics and teaching methodology in translation.
 

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