Saturday, 5 November 2005: 16.00-17.15
METM 05, Barcelona, Spain

Contrasting Discourse Styles in Spanish and English Research Article Discussions: Evidence for Progressive and Retrogressive Patterns

Ian A. Williams, University of Cantabria

This paper examines discourse styles in Spanish and English discussion sections. The study was based on an extensive corpus of medical research articles (RAs) and compared the discussions of 64 Spanish RAs with those in 64 studies published in English language journals. The analysis of discourse style was based on a system of rhetorical moves (i.e., statements providing background information, expressing results, comparing current and previous findings, or making knowledge claims) and the amount of initial background information. The quantitative results provide evidence for the existence of two contrasting discourse styles, progressive and retrogressive, which are represented differently in the Spanish and English RAs. Spanish writers showed a preference for the progressive pattern whereas English language authors preferred the retrogressive pattern. Qualitative analysis of the texts suggests that adjustment of the rhetorical patterning to the preferred discourse style is feasible. Awareness of differences in rhetorical style could help non-native writers and author’s editors or translators who work directly with authors to produce more acceptable target language texts.