Mediterranean Editors and Translators Meeting 2007 – METM 07
Building Bridges, Constructing Networks

Real Jardín Botánico/CSIC, Plaza de Murillo 2, 28014 Madrid, Spain

25-26 October 2007:
Pre-METM Workshops and General Assembly
27 October 2007:
28 October 2007:
Post-METM Excursion

Plenary lecture: Ana Moreno

Cultural differences: What’s really known about how rhetorical features of texts differ between English and other languages?

Applied linguists have looked at both the details and the larger, overall structures and other rhetorical features of writing across languages and cultures. This talk will set forth some of the better-supported findings — both negative and positive — of the ‘contrastive rhetoric’ literature. It will provide some criteria for separating rumour and anecdote from the results of systematic observation. We’ll emphasize the usefulness of recent, well-controlled studies of large sets of comparable L1-written texts and then discuss the implications for editing L2-English texts or translating for an international readership.

Features linguists have examined have included thematic development, cohesion, hedging and other ‘metadiscourse’ devices that convey attitude, paragraph and text structure, and much more. Until fairly recently, however, studies in contrastive rhetoric were plagued by confounding variables and design flaws — such as lack of control over the expertise of writers whose texts were being compared or over the contexts in which the studied language features occurred. But, most importantly, many contrastive studies drew conclusions about non-English L1 rhetorics based on the analysis of English L2 texts, often prose written by English-L2 university students or insufficiently proficient professional writers. Readers of such studies were understandably left wondering how much attention to pay to them. In this talk the speaker will look at some of the claims that have been made and cast a critical eye on how some researchers came to their conclusions. Then we’ll move on to what we are now beginning to understand about how rhetorics differ.

Ana I. Moreno’s work in contrastive discourse analysis has appeared in such journals as English for Specific Purposes, Text, Journal of English for Academic Purposes and Multilingual Matters. Now a tenured researcher at Madrid’s Centre for Information and Scientific Documentation (CINDOC), a part of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), she brings an intercultural perspective to the group on Scientific and Technical Information and Communication through the Internet. Her work has implications for those teaching academic or professional communication or anyone working with professional L2-English texts. Her concern with good contrastive research practice is extending her message beyond her own focus on the English–Spanish pair.