RE: Thinking in a foreign language

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Thu May 08 2003 - 04:20:01 PDT

Dear Elina -- you wrote:
>I found it quite important to question the approaches to teaching literacy
>vs. oracy through speech genres. As we know, Bahtin argued that there was
>a difference between primary and secondary speech genres (simple and
>complex): secondary speech genres (i.e. novels, dramas, all kinds of
>scientific research, commentary) "arise in a more complex and
>comparatively highly developed and organized cultural communication
>(primarily written) that is artistic, scientific, sociopolitical and so
>on. During the process of their formation they absorb and digest various
>primary (simple) genres that have taken form in unmediated speech
>communication. These primary genres are altered and assume a special
>character when they enter into complex ones. They lose their immediate
>relation to actual reality and to the real utterances of others". The
>question is whether we create the dialogic situation where both genres are
>present and anal! yzed, or teach them as separate and disconnected.

You have foregrounded a very important issue. In the curriculum that I am
working on, which is based on systemics theory but does not use systemic
functional grammatical terminology, a very important pedagogical issue is
helping students become aware of the "mode continuum", with spoken texts
accompanying action at one end, and formal written texts at the other end
(and a whole host of modes in between, including multi-modal texts). Only
today, I encouraged my class to compare two written texts on the same
topic, but which differed in the lexicogrammatical choices and rhetorical
staging employed by the writer. One text was further toward the spoken end
of the continuum, and included more concrete, everyday language (personal
pronouns, material process verbs, etc) which was used to reflect personal
experience, whilst the other included many grammatical devices that
abstracted the reader and writer from the 'here and now' (such as
nominalised processes). It is crucial, in my mind, to not disconnect the
situations in which different genres are realised through texts, but to
help learners become critically aware of cultural and social contexts that
both determine and are determined by the unfolding of texts. Yes, I agree!
We shouldn't separate primary and secondary speech genres -- they are both
purposeful activitie systems that often co-occur in everyday life.

You also wrote:
I believe that there should be further discussion of the notion of
Bakhtinian speech activity with its post-structural stance and goal
directed classical version of Leontiev's activity. It seems to me the
accents are different, therefore the webs of meanings too.

This is a very interesting point which I would like to spend some time
tossing around. I am currently working through how Bakhtin's speech genres
might or might not resonate with the concept of register in the systemics
model of language.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this topic with this diverse range
of people.




This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jul 08 2003 - 11:29:41 PDT