Discourse in Writing
by Emma Worrall
Some possible solutions
to the problems
So, how can we address the over-use and misuse of linkers
in our students' work? Crewe (1990: 321) outlines three pedagogical
approaches which represent what he describes as "three
stages of awareness that connectives have a textual meaning
and are not just surface-level fillers". He refers to
these three approaches as 'reductionist', 'expansionist' and
The reductionist approach suggests that students should be
presented with a small subset of a long list of linkers and
over time students should become more aware of their semantic
and discoursal value.. A shorter list would have the advantage
of "allowing the contrasts between the connectives to
be more easily stressed" (Crewe 1990: 322). Crewe develops
this further with his table of conjunctive relations (which
he bases on Halliday and Hassan's table, 1976 in Crewe, 1990).
He describes three problematic areas of conceptual categories:
"Additive", "Adversative" and "Causal"
and within those areas there are fourteen logical linkers.
He suggests that advanced ESL students would be able to master
these before progressing to more abstract ones (see appendix
The expansionist approach encourages "Explicit markers"
(Crewe 1990: 322) which are expressions which explicitly state
the connection with either the preceding or following textual
matter. Most of these expressions would contain the reference
word 'this'. Some examples that Crewe lists are 'because of
this', 'for this purpose', as a result of this'.
The criticism of the above two approaches is that they work
backwards from lexis to discourse. Rather than concentrating
on the discourse first they only consider the methods of controlling
output. As they focus at the level of lexis the logical development
of the argument or discussion is taken for granted.
To try to remedy this defect, Crewe presents a third approach:
The 'deductionist' approach "begins by obliging the students
before the writing process (within the essay plan, for example)
to state the connection between the stages in the argument"
(Crewe 1990: 323). If we do this first we can use lexical
selections from a more complex list where, rather than having
opaque terms like 'additive' and 'adversative' as the category
titles, the sections could be labelled with discourse questions.
Crewe (1990: 323) suggests some of the following:
- Does your next section add another similar point to the
If so, is it of the same importance or of greater importance?
Same? Use 'also', 'in addition', or 'besides'. Greater?
Use 'moreover', or 'furthermore'.
- Does your next section add an opposing point to the argument?
If so, are both points valid or does the second one cancel
out the first?
Both valid? Use 'but', 'however', 'nevertheless' or 'on
the other hand'.
The second cancels out the first? Use 'on the contrary'.
Crewe says that the "schema" above will ultimately
need to contain a full range of discourse "moves"
(1990: 323), for example, listing, comparing, exemplifying,
showing consequence, rephrasing, and concluding.
A further suggestion Crewe makes for teachers can help students
by encouraging them to avoid using linkers in their first
writing drafts and asking other students to analyse the logical
progression of their argument before deciding on the suitability
of possible linkers. Although this method counters the idea
of looking at discourse first and then selecting the supporting
words after, it is probably better than accepting students'
work which has not been assessed for any logicality at all.
Crewe concludes that students need to be aware of the problems
of using linkers in their writing and, therefore, they need
more rigorous training which would oblige the students to
think through their argument first and then decide how they
might reinforce it with linkers. I would like to pursue some
of the ideas that Crewe mentions in further FCE writing based
classes. For example, doing a letter or essay without any
linking devices and asking the students, in groups, to evaluate
their work together, deciding on the types of discourse markers
they should use. I also want to encourage the students to
create a personal 'database' of linking devices that we use
in the class so that they may refer to them in future classes
and when revising for the exam. In general, I would like to
do more group writing activities, whether it be peer correction
or collaborative writing to give students more creative space
and confidence in their work.
A. Battersby Instant Grammar Lessons, 1996, Language Teaching
Cohen et al Reading English for Specialized Purposes: Discourse
Analysis and the Use of Student Informants, 1979, TESOL Quarterly13/4
W.J. Crewe ELT Journal, Vol 44/4 Oct. 1990, OUP.
J. Hadfield Classroom Dynamics, 1992, OUP.
M. McCarthy Discourse Analysis For Language Teachers, 1991,
D. Nunan Language Teaching Methodology, 1991, Prentice Hall
S. Thornbury About Language, 1997, CUP.
R. White & V. Arndt Process Writing, 1991, Longman Group.
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