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There is, accordingly, a long tradition of investigating lexico-syntactic difference between languages, a tradition which can be traced back to such 19th century comparative philologists as Friedrich von Schlegel, Franz Bopp and the Brothers Grimm. Cross-cultural difference in thought and writing patterns, on the other hand, has become a serious field of enquiry only in the last twenty years or so.

Two opposing positions have emerged, one stressing the universality of academic discourse Widdowson 1979, Schwanzer 1981the other postulating the culture-specificity of cognitive and textual structures e.

I take issue with the first position here, thus favouring the second. Universalists such as Widdowson 1979: While there are good reasons for positing syntactic and stylistic universals characteristic of scientific discourse — such as passive constructions or nominalisation — such an analysis is far too superficial.

In fairness to Widdowson, however, it must be pointed out that, when setting up his thesis, he probably had in mind only exact sciences such as physics or chemistry, where there is indeed a greater degree of rigidity in discourse conventions, especially as far as textual macrostructure is concerned.

However, other disciplines claiming science status, such as social psychology see Hutz 1997 or sports science see Trumpp 1998have remained averse to abandoning culture-specific patterns. These show that classification by academic disciplines and text types yields a more subtly differentiated picture of cross-cultural difference.

The present article looks at some of the major relevant studies, moving from general assumptions about culture-specific thinking styles Section 2 to the more specific issues of academic writing Sections 3 and 4. The concluding sections 5 and 6 discuss issues surrounding the preservation or abandonment of the current plurality of academic cultures and their implications for composition and translation teaching.

Intellectual Styles In a wide-ranging speculative sweep Galtung 1985 suggested four metaphors to capture divergences in intellectual style between four broadly-conceived academic communities: Here is a thumb-nail sketch of the conclusions he draws for the languages engaging our attention: The Saxonic intellectual style, which can be further subdivided into a US and a UK style, is characterized by avid collection and organisation of data in what is often a team effort.

Accordingly, it is strong on hypothesis generation, but weak on theory formation. Moreover, Saxonic academics actively engage in dialogue with their peers, seek to smooth out divergences of opinion and are generally more tolerant of diversity. The typical questions posed by the Saxonic when confronted with a thesis are: Gallic intellectual style is seen as being preoccupied with linguistic artistry.

Clarity and elegance of style are as important as theory formation, and the best theory is one which shows balance and symmetry.

  • To avoid drowning the reader in a multitude of detail, it is time now to briefly summarize our findings on academic thinking and writing styles in the three languages under investigation;
  • It is especially useful with regard to syntax and the arrangement of particular ideas […] It is also useful where language-particular syntax, metalanguage, text type norms and logical defects impair text comprehension;
  • From a series of investigations into pragmatic difference between German and English conversation House 1979, 1982a, 1982b, 1982c, 1989a, 1989b, 1996 a clear pattern emerges:

Criticism of peers is concealed behind the smoke screen of language. The typical research question is: All this testifies to the great relevance of aesthetic concerns to linguistic sentiment in France and other Southern countries. Education Systems and Writing Styles It is not difficult to relate the cultural differences perceived by Galtung to the education systems of each culture. In France mastery of the generally accepted essay technique is of greatest importance, permitting, as it does, to obtain highly coveted posts in academia and administration.

A typical essay question in French literature asks students to comment on a quotation from a renowned author who features among the set works; witness the following example: Ionesco writes in Notes et Contre-notes: Say whether this statement reflects your idea of comedy, drawing on your experience of the theatre and the cinema, but also taking into consideration the comedians whose sketches you know.

The examinee has to treat such questions with ordered precision and analytic rigour, paying equal attention to all possible aspects of the problem in hand. The essay follows a clear progression: This outline must be strictly observed in the body of the essay. The latter consists of three or four evenly-sized parts, which in turn fall into paragraphs of similar length. Each paragraph develops one argument; arguments are arranged in logical succession from the simple to the complex. Transitions between paragraphs are provided by bridge sentences which take up the thread of the argument.

In the conclusion, the examinee presents her solution and may then take a brief look at the wider implications of the problem under discussion.

Further, it must show rigid adherence to the time-endorsed technical terms compiled in specialized vocabulary books. Nowhere is there such an abundance of style and other language guides as in France; and nowhere does there seem to be such ironclad agreement on what constitutes good style. To turn now to Britain, Hermanns 1985 notes that British students of language and literature are required to write one or two essays of no less than 3000 words each week.

The finished products are read out aloud in one-to-one tutorials, with the tutor asking questions and offering comments. It is only logical, then, that reader orientation and essay form should be of utmost importance to Anglo-Saxon academic culture: A concluding sentence helps to end one paragraph and to provide a smooth transition to the next cf.

Of equal importance is a strong focus on the assigned topic cf. These features of higher education in English-speaking countries clearly lay the foundation for the tolerant Saxonic intellectual style described by Galtung, as well as for the reader-oriented Saxonic writing style to be discussed below.

In marked contrast to their English and French counterparts, German students have until recently received no principled instruction in composition in either secondary or higher education, and their university courses do not normally include face-to-face reading and discussion of essays.

As a rule, students write their essays in isolation; professors or their assistants then read their finished products, mark them and attach some written comment.

  • In France mastery of the generally accepted essay technique is of greatest importance, permitting, as it does, to obtain highly coveted posts in academia and administration;
  • Contrariwise, the highest proportion of impersonal expressions 5.

Through exposure to the publications of acknowledged scholars students are assumed to pick up automatically, as it were, the complex features of German academic register, where citations from secondary literature are generally more important than in the Anglo-Saxon and French academic cultures.

As a result, the focus in German academic writing is on subject-matter knowledge and content rather than form or style, and there is a greater tolerance of digression. From a series of investigations into pragmatic difference between German and English conversation House 1979, 1982a, 1982b, 1982c, 1989a, 1989b, 1996 a clear pattern emerges: German subjects tended to interact in ways that were more direct, more explicit, more self-referenced and more content-oriented.

German speakers were also found to be less prone to resort to using verbal routines than English speakers. Writing on cultural differences in the world of work, Hofstede 1984; 1991 comes up with four dimensions along which cultures differ: It is evident that cultural divergences along these dimensions may also make themselves felt in academia and may therefore impact on styles of academic writing, to which we now turn.

Breadcrumb

There are a number of studies lending credence to the assumption that cultures differ with regard to their writing styles. Having compared a large number of translations from various languages as well as English-language compositions produced by natives of different countries, he postulated five types of paragraph movement in English, Russian, Semitic, Oriental and Romance languages.

By contrast, French paragraph writing is found to be much more tolerant of digression. Drawing on a substantial corpus of linguistic and sociological texts written by English and German speakers, Clyne brings into higher relief the extent to which German and English academic texts differ in linearity or digressiveness. Each text is subjected to a complex analysis within four parameters: Which macropropositions are dependent on which others?

How is the text developed in terms of a main argument and subsidiary arguments? How long are the various sections of the text in comparison? Are parallel text segments […] structured in the same order or according to the same conventions? Firstly, and most importantly, he finds that texts by German-educated speakers show a greater degree of digressiveness, which can be ascribed to two major causes.

In other words, digression often has a well-defined function in German academia: The second cause is that texts may simply not be well-planned, there being, for example, a mismatch between theoretical and empirical sections.

By the same token, German texts are seen to be more assymetrical on two counts: It is easy to see that both these findings link up with the aforementioned focus on content rather than form prevalent in German writing. Another finding is the relative paucity of advance organizers in texts by German academics. Similar considerations apply to definitions.

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Clyne shows that English academics are more likely than their German colleagues to define technical terms, and also to place their definitions near the start of their texts. In view of our above discussion of composition instruction, it is hardly surprising to learn that texts by English-educated scholars show a greater percentage of topic sentences than those by German academics.

Germans are far more likely to fall back on bridge sentences for paragraph linkage. In fact, these patterns become even more marked in their English texts, probably because much processing capacity is used up at the linguistic level in second language writing Clyne 1987: A number of criticisms have been levelled at the above studies. The most general is that Clyne fails to reveal his corpus sources cf. It is in the nature of research to generalize across individual experiences, and this is exactly what Clyne does.

While his findings may not apply to all German writers, they certainly point to common tendencies. It is also claimed that this Anglo-American norm, as portrayed in a substantial section of the composition literature, is based on an idealized notion of the English paragraph.

  1. Interlingually, he finds that differences between summaries are least significant in the engineering sciences e.
  2. Drawing on a substantial corpus of linguistic and sociological texts written by English and German speakers, Clyne brings into higher relief the extent to which German and English academic texts differ in linearity or digressiveness. The examinee has to treat such questions with ordered precision and analytic rigour, paying equal attention to all possible aspects of the problem in hand.
  3. The second version follows an — arguably — cruder procedure in that it makes enumerative markers do the job of tying the text together.
  4. These show that classification by academic disciplines and text types yields a more subtly differentiated picture of cross-cultural difference. Think the idea of arming pilots is new think again every time you board a plane , you trust the pilots with your life and there was a time that.
  5. The finished products are read out aloud in one-to-one tutorials, with the tutor asking questions and offering comments.

The repetitions of Arabic and the circularity of Indian writing occur in native English as well. By focussing on text-type specific differences, they have managed to avoid the danger of oversimplification. Oldenburg 1992 makes multivariate comparisons between conclusions and summaries found in English and German journal articles from various disciplines.

His intralingual comparisons show that divergences between the English-language journals are more marked than those between the German-speaking journals. Interlingually, he finds that differences between summaries are least significant in the engineering sciences e.

Arming pilots

Journal of Applied Mechanics vs. Forschung im Ingenieurwesen and most significant in the language sciences e. Trumpp 1996 compares English, French and German journal articles, reviews and abstracts in the field of sports science, producing highly intriguing findings: Around 63 per cent of English paragraphs start with a topic sentence, whereas the figures for French and German are considerably lower, at 40 and 36 per cent respectively.

Not so with reviews, where the topic sentence predominates in all three languages. Metacommunicative statements are as common in reviews as in journal articles, whereas advance organizers occur with insignificant frequency in reviews — a clear, if predictable, contrast with journal articles. Both in reviews and in journal articles, the genera verbi are used with differing frequencies in each of the languages examined.

Agents are named significantly more frequently in French than in the two other languages. As it is generally agreed that the naming of agents is an important factor in fostering clarity of style e. Contrariwise, the highest proportion of impersonal expressions 5. While no one textual building block is peculiar to just one language, there is significant cross-cultural difference in the space given to each.

Only 40 per cent of German journal articles contain a summary of findings, as against 65 per cent of English articles and 54 per cent of French articles. Contrastingly, 92 per cent of German articles contain an evaluation of the significance of the findings presented, while the figures for English 77 per cent and French 79 per cent are somewhat lower.

The greatest common denominator in German reviews appears to be information on price, at 75 per cent. English and French reviewers are more reader-oriented. In their great majority, they consider it very important to provide information on the structure of the work under review. Only a third of German reviewers think it necessary to touch upon this point. German reviewers, especially when writing reviews for academic colleagues, tend to take a more critical stance than their English and French counterparts.