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Review of  Patterns of Text


Reviewer: Mario Saraceni
Book Title: Patterns of Text
Book Author: Michael R. Scott Geoffrey Thompson
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Book Announcement: 13.230

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Review:

Scott, Mike and Geoff Thompson, eds. (2001) Patterns of
Text: In Honour of Michael Hoey. John Benjamins, hardback
ISBN 90-272-2572-9 (Eur) / 1-55619-792-6 (US), vii+323pp.

Mario Saraceni, Institute for English Language Education,
Assumption University.

_Patterns of Text_ is a collection of twelve papers, each
one exploring a different aspect of language patterning that
can be observed above the sentence level. The subtitle
informs the reader that the volume was compiled in honour of
Michael Hoey. At first sight, the fact that the two editors
are from the same institution - the University of Liverpool
- as Hoey himself, may induce some into thinking that this
might be a sort of home-made enterprise, perhaps with a
limited scope and target audience. However, one simply needs
to read the table of contents and the names of the
contributors to realise immediately that the papers are
indeed very important contributions to the topic of written
discourse analysis. And the book acquires even greater
significance if one considers the fact that its area of
investigation is still relatively under-explored, despite
the advances made by text-linguistics and discourse analysis
over the last thirty years or so.

"Colligation, lexis, pattern, and text", by Susan Hunston,
is the first chapter in the book. As is the case for all the
other contributors, Hunston is interested in the textual
aspects of language,in the conviction that it is in texts,
rather than in isolated sentences, that language mostly
occurs. Her chapter focuses on the interesting, if somewhat
under-studied, phenomenon of colligation, and its role in
the subtle relationships which exist among grammar, meaning
and discourse.

In "Lexical signals of word relations", Antoinette Renouf
reports the findings of a study that she conducted about the
relationship that exists between lexical signals and such
sense relations as hyponymy and synonymy. Renouf, who has
been working in the field of Corpus Linguistics for some
time, pursues her enquiry on the basis of data collected
from large corpora.

In "Patterns of cohesion in spoken text", Susan and Geoff
Thompson explore the phenomenon of cohesion in spoken
discourse. As the authors observe, cohesion has been mainly
analysed in written texts, while very little research has
been conducted as far as spoken texts are concerned. This is
probably due to the very nature of cohesion, at least
according to the paradigms whereby it is normally described.
Thus, the paper, which focuses on the relationship that
words and sounds form in the establishment of patterns of
cohesion, certainly represents a useful step into a
relatively unknown territory.

Those familiar with Systemic Functional Linguistics will
immediately recognise the name of Peter Fries, the author of
the fourth chapter, entitled "Issues in modelling the
textual metafunction". Fries examines the ways in which
texts flow phorically and, particularly, the choices that
writers and speakers have available when presenting discrete
pieces of information as their texts unfold. His analysis is
based on the concepts of presenting and presuming reference,
as used by Martin 1992, as well as on the better known
linguistic notions of Given and New.

Mike Scott's paper, "Mapping key words to problem and
solution", represents an interesting case in which the
analytical approach proposed by Corpus Linguistics does not
entirely help in generating the answers the researcher sets
out to find. Scott's question is: do key words function as
signals of text structuring? The notion of "keyness" is here
defined in statistical terms: if the frequency of a word is
significantly higher, in proportion, in a given text than in
a large corpus, the word in question is said to possess the
property of keyness in that particular text. In the case of
words signalling a problem/solution textual structure, Scott
found that such words are rarely key words and that there
does not seem to be any clear indication suggesting the
existence of a relationship between the concept of keyness
and the function of signalling macro textual structures.

In "The negotiation of evaluation in written text", Adriana
Bolivar is interested in finding out how evaluation shapes
the structure of written texts and how it contributes to
determining text types and genres. She sees the notion of
"text" primarily as social interaction, and evaluation as a
fundamental element in such interaction. In her analysis of
newspaper editorials she identifies three-part structures,
composed of what she calls Lead, Follow and Valuate, the
third one being the evaluative part. This paper, which is
recognisably set in the Functional Linguistics tradition,
contributes a new framework for textual analysis.

The main concern of the seventh chapter is exactly what its
title says: "Some discourse patterns and signalling of the
assessment-basis relation". Michael Jordan explains the ways
in which the particular conjunction that obtains between
Assessment and Basis functions as a text forming device,
both on a micro level, i.e. with individual clauses, and on
a macro level, i.e. across longer stretches of discourse.
The Assessment-Basis relation is analysed not only in its
own right, but also, and perhaps even more interestingly, in
comparison, and in combination, with other types of logical
conjunction, such as Topic-Appraisal, Cause-Effect and
Purpose-Means.

Repetition plays a central role in the model of cohesion
developed by Michael Hoey, and the chapter by Ann Darnton,
"Repeat after me", focuses on the possible benefits that
repetition can have for young readers. Rather than pure
repetition per se, however, what Darnton finds more useful
is "repetition in context". The main tenet of this chapter
holds that it is the repetition of contexts, rather than the
repetition of isolated lexical items, that helps children to
read, since the familiarity created by repeated contexts
will facilitate the process of hypothesis-making when
children encounter unknown words and try to understand their
meaning.

In "Lexical segments in text", Tony Berber Sardinha
addresses a challenging question: can a computer programme
effectively divide a text into segments in a way which
complies with the intra-textual boundaries set by the
author? In trying to answer this question, Berber Sardinha
interestingly enough uses Michael Hoey's model of cohesion,
which, by definition, applies, to text connectivity rather
than to text segmentation, at least in Hoey's original
intention. In principle, though, the idea is not without a
sound rationale. If Hoey's model of cohesion can be used to
identify segments, i.e. groups of contiguous sentences with
a high degree of lexical similarity, the same model can also
tell us if two contiguous sentences are _not_ similar,
thereby setting a segment boundary. Although the findings of
the study seem to provide interesting indications confirming
the importance of repetition in identifying segments of
text, they also, at the same time, highlight the limitations
that computer-based textual analysis still suffers from.

One of the stalwarts of the Birmingham school, Malcom
Coulthard, is the author of "Patterns of lexis on the
surface of texts". That this chapter is, like the book as a
whole, a tribute to Michael Hoey is evident not only in the
title, with its clever echo of two of Hoey's main books, but
also, and more significantly, in the analytical approach
that Coulthard has chosen to adopt. Hoey's model of
cohesion, based on links and bonds among sentences, forms
the basis for establishing the degree of similarity between
two texts, and such similarity, in turn, is used by
Coulthard to identify cases of plagiarism in students'
essays. Although, as the author himself observes, this
method is still in its early stages of development, a
stimulating prospect is outlined, in which it may be
possible, in the near future, to "find ways of identifying
written voices."

The eleventh chapter, "Patterns of text in teacher
education", reiterates the central idea of the volume as a
whole: language is most usefully analysed in texts rather
than in isolated sentences or lexical items. This
consideration should have an impact in foreign language
teaching and learning. Too often both teachers and students
are preoccupied with grammar and vocabulary only, neglecting
the fact that these alone are not enough to guarantee the
production of well written, or even merely comprehensible,
texts. More awareness, that is, is needed of the ways are
structured on a macro level. In order to prove their point,
the authors of this chapter, Julian Edge and Sue Wharton,
describe the pattern of Situation - Problem - Response -
Evaluation (SPRE), first devised by Michael Hoey.

The last chapter of the volume, "The deification of
information", is by none other than John Sinclair, one of
the fathers of discourse analysis and corpus linguistics.
Sinclair offers his critical reflections on Human-Machine
Interaction (HMI), a type of communication which, with the
increasing importance of networked computers, is becoming
more and more common. His main argument is that HMI is
essentially a one-way type of communication, as opposed to
the two-way model which characterises human-to-human
communication. This one- way nature of HMI is due to the
fact that the human participant does not really have a
choice of responses apart from a few clicks on specified
points of the screen. Much of what is enthusiastically
described as "interactive", actually involves very little
real interaction. And, increasingly and somewhat
disturbingly, human beings find themselves unable to handle
the vast amount of information made available by computers.

When language is analysed at the level of discourse, one of
the most problematic notions to describe is that of
"aboutness". If such difficulty arises when the subject of
analysis is a single text, it becomes even more complex when
a cluster of texts are considered together. The present
collection of papers is no exception, as it is indeed
typical for this type of volumes to lack a strong sense of
connectedness. This is in fact not necessarily a
disadvantage, since the heterogeneous nature of such books,
on the contrary, allows the reader to become acquainted with
a variety of issues, the discussion of which would not
normally be found within the boundaries of the same volume.
Mike Scott and Geoff Thompson come from somewhat different
backgrounds and this diversity is reflected in the healthy
range of contributors and the range of aspects of textual
analysis they treat.

The book title, in cases like this, acquires extra
significance, as it functions as a binding force. And the
name of Michael Hoey certainly plays this role, given than
most of the contributors make explicit or implicit
references to Hoey's work in the field (mainly written)
discourse analysis. Indeed, one final note I would like to
spend precisely on the title. What is the meaning of "in
honour of" here? Whatever the intentions of Scott and
Thompson might have been, I like to think that such an
expression is meant as a way to remind people of Hoey's
important contribution to the understanding of text as
linguistic entity. Books like _On the Surface of Discourse_
(1983) and _Patterns of Lexis in Text_ (1991) have been
fundamental, among other things, in fostering progress after
Halliday and Hasan (1976) developed their model of cohesion
more than 25 years ago. In spite of that, Hoey's work, like
that of J. R. Martin for example, is probably not as well
known as it deserves to be, and to me "in honour of" in the
title of this useful book sounds as a reminder for anyone
who may not be familiar with Michael Hoey's work.

REFERENCES
Halliday, M.A.K. and R. Hasan (1976) Cohesion in English.
London: Longman.

Hoey, M. (1983) _On the Surface of Discourse_. London:
George Allen and Unwin.

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

Hoey, M. (2001) _Textual Interaction_. London: Routledge.

Martin, J.R. (1992) _English Text_. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Mario Saraceni received his PhD from the University of
Nottingham, UK. He is currently a lecturer at the
postgraduate department in the Institute for English
Language Education, Assumption University, Bangkok. His
research interests lie in the areas of written discourse
analysis, semiotics, English as an international language,
and corpus linguistics.


 
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