Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 33

A Study of the Use of the Simple Present

Tense in the Reading Material of ESP


Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

CHAPTER 1

LITERATURE REVIEW

The literature reviewed in this chapter encompasses research in the field of English
for Specific Purposes (ESP), studies of genre in ESP, developments in the teaching
of English as a foreign language, and works concerned with the tense system.

1.1. ENGLISH FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES (ESP)

1.1.1. ESP RESEARCH

Since its arrival in the 1960s, ESP has been developing steadily, particularly as a
consequence of the shift to a contextualized notion of language" (Master and
Brinton, 1998: 1). The field has been gaining ground ever since English emerged as
THE language for international communication and linguistic studies turned to the
consideration of social contexts to deal with language as communication. Early
studies on special languages were based mainly on the notion of 'register' which
expounded in a Firthian environment, and was useful to identify special functional
varieties according to lexical aspects as the means to differentiate them from
everyday language; more recent studies, however, concluded that this was not
enough, because differences not only operate at the lexical level but also involve
morphosyntactic and organizational patterns at the textual and pragmatic levels. The
different ESP specific subdivisions - for instance, English for Academic Purposes,
General English for Specific Purposes, English for Business and Economics,
English for Science and Technology, English for Legal Purposes, among others -
have come to be analyzed within the social context in which they are embedded and
according to the linguistic choices made in order to meet particular situational and
functional demands. These choices involve "lexical density, the complexity and the
length of clause structure, the degree of formality and the management of
information, to name but a few" (Master & Brinton, 1998:1).
Bronson (2001) gives an account of the evolution of ESP research and traces its
beginnings to the 1960s and 1970s, when the focus was laid on the so called 'needs
analysis', a notion of language which refers to the essential nature of the meanings

Universidad Nacional de Catamarca


Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

that academic genres, in the form of self-contained texts, possess. In this way, the
orientation changed from the notion of text as a 'linguistic object' to the premise that
a text is a 'vehicle for meaning'. The foundations of the studies oriented to the text
lie in the asocial conception of language insofar as meaning is to be found 'in' the
text - as Rosenblatt (1989) proposed rather than occurring as a consequence of
socially oriented transactions between readers and texts. The work based on this
textually oriented conception is mostly performed through the search for the formal
characteristics of an academic genre or register and the comparison of text samples
"within and across disciplines as constituted in professional publications" (Bronson,
2001: 2). By means of the identification of the different forms in the target texts,
learners are expected to achieve command of these forms and thus progress in the
disciplines they are engaged in. In this line of research, Barber's study (1962), cited
in Swales (1990: 2), appears as an original contribution to the identification of the
grammatical and lexical characteristics of 'modern scientific prose' which was used
to provide "a descriptively-adequate account of distributional frequencies in the
target language variety" (Swales, 1990: 2) in order to determine the priorities of the
teaching items in specific material. Barber concluded, for example, that in scientific
texts the continuous tenses 'could virtually be discounted' due to their rare
occurrence and that the prominence of passive voice in scientific discourse was
markedly higher than in non-scientific discourse.

An outstanding contributor to the development of ESP is John Swales. As pointed


out by Bloor (1998: 48), when 'idealized linguistic competence' was the main
linguistic concern, Swales showed a marked interest in language use in social
context, and when research was concentrated on language learning, acquisition
theory and psycholinguistic matters, Swales continued showing allegiance to
teachers and teaching.

Swales (1990) himself provides some historical background on this matter, tracing
the beginnings of the analysis of language for specific purposes back to the time
when the studies were carried out quantitatively and the focus was on linguistic
features of 'registers' of a language. He makes reference to the survey of the
occurrence of verb forms in scientific English carried out by Huddleston (1971) as a
typical example of these early approaches. These kinds of studies were undertaken
to show the frequency of occurrence of specific features in L2 with the aim of
7
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

choosing the particular aspects of specialized material to be taught in ESP courses.


Since Barbers study (1962) on the progressive tenses, ESP research has expanded
in several ways with different and deeper guiding purposes. In fact, this expansion
also involves the researchers' ability to "show how differentiating influences such as
changing communicative purpose" can work within a particular discourse type
(Swales, op.cit.3). Swales also emphasizes the increasing interest in appraising
rhetorical purposes, unpacking information structure and analyzing distinctive
grammatical and lexical selections in the material.

The trajectory of ESP research continued expanding its scope. In the 1980s models
of language began to be focused on "communicative competence", and the
emphasis was laid on the general efficacy of the writer's theme at the expense of
"more prescriptive formulations of style" (Bronson, op.cit.6). This line of study has
persisted to the present as can be seen in different issues of the journal English for
Specific Purposes. It was in that period that ESP began to concentrate on certain
linguistic and discoursal features embodied in special genres of particular fields of
study. Swales characterizes ESP studies in those days as "narrower and deeper"
(Swales, 1990: 3).

Towards the end of the 1980s, more attention began to be devoted to the structure
of text as a way to realize the writer's communicative aim than to the morphological
and syntactic elements at sentence level. Thus, texts started to be analyzed in terms
of their functional, contextual and social dimensions. Bronson (op.cit.6) includes
within this period Swales' analysis of the research article and Gianoni's study (1997)
of the Acknowledgement section in diverse fields, such as biology, economics,
linguistics and mathematics.

Bronson mentions the investigation carried out by Kuo (1998) as regards the way in
which personal pronouns in scientific journal articles may reveal the writer's
appreciation of his/her own behavior as a researcher and the projection of such
appreciation in relation to both the prospective readers and the scientific community
to which his/her work is addressed. Among the results of this study, we find that the
use of first-person plural pronouns occurs with higher frequencies than that of other
personal pronouns, and that the second, third and indefinite pronouns are used to

8
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

reveal the writer's attempt "to secure cooperation from, and stress solidarity with,
readers" (Bronson, op.cit.6).
The emphasis on 'why' authors choose certain words and grammar has
characterized the work of a number of researchers. For instance, Holmes (1995,
cited in Bronson, 2001: 7) concentrated on the Discussion section of research
articles drawn from history, political science and sociology. The analysis focuses on
the "sequence and structure of the rhetorical moves", and it points to variation
between academic genres across the different study fields as an issue relevant to
ESP needs. That is to say, the notion of "disciplines as distinct and disparate fields"
(Bronson, op.cit.7) constitutes the foundations upon which these studies were
grounded. These fields, in turn, are embodied in texts built according to specific
rules. It is in this context that the concepts of 'discourse community' and 'task'
become emblematic in ESP research.

Present research displays investigations ethnographically oriented towards the way


in which "real people in real settings produce and interpret textual genres in vivo"
(Bronson, op.cit.7). It is in this sense that Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL)
seems to run parallel to and develop simultaneously with the ESP approach, as SFL
proposes the analysis of form and function together and establishes the notion that
both language-in-use and grammar of genre constitute forms of social action
(Bronson, op.cit.8).

Turning to the South American context, it is worth considering the evolution of ESP
in Brazil, which is reflected in a book (Celani, 2005) published on the 25th
anniversary of the Brazilian ESP Project. In the introduction to the book, Celani
points out that although the Project deals with issues which have to do with
ESP/EAP teaching, it is also useful to illustrate the development of language
teaching methodology and is helpful "for students and practitioners of English
language teaching to speakers of other languages in any country" (op.cit.13).

The ESP Project was born out of the needs of a large number of university teachers
from different parts of Brazil who were particularly concerned with the difficulties
encountered in giving instruction in specialized English courses in their universities.
In order to undertake the Project, they counted on the expertise of Maurice
Broughton, a British Council visiting professor who was a specialist in the teaching

9
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

of ESP. To carry out a feasibility study, twenty universities were visited across the
country, and meetings were held with people at different levels of the university
context, from rectors to students undertaking ESP courses, so as to assess the
national interest in and need for such a large project. The contribution of the British
Overseas Development Administration (ODA), through the British Council, for three
Key English Language Teaching (KELT) posts, helped to set the Project in motion in
1980, with the support of the three KELTS (Tony Deyes, John Holmes and Mike
Scott). The Project went on with official support until 1989, and since then it has
continued to develop under the local Brazilian National Project director and with
local leading co-ordinators and teachers attending short courses in British
universities like Lancaster and Aston" (Celani, 2005) to guarantee the Project's
sustainability.

One of the main Project publications, the "Working Papers" was derived from the
regional seminars and local visits by the KELTS, which contributed to the
development of the teams and constituted a source of information concerning the
different needs of the groups involved.

Out of the need for integrating materials preparation and teacher development, a
national resource center was created acting as a 'provider of materials' and a kind of
'clearing house' as well. This center was called CEPRIL (an acronym in Portuguese
for Resource Center for Research and Information on Reading). The emphasis was
laid on reading because, at the beginning of the Project, reading had been identified
as the main need in nearly the whole country, and the search for developing,
understanding and practicing an approach based "on the use of effective reading
strategies" (Celani, op.cit.16) was the common endeavor. CEPRIL was created to
respond to the different needs of a great number of institutions separated by
enormous geographical distances, providing sources to develop materials especially
for those teachers working in remote parts of the country who could not easily have
access to publications in English.

Because of its participatory character, the Project encouraged the development of a


positive attitude in ESP teachers, increasing their feeling of belonging to a
'community of practice' in which the specific local features were preserved, and it
also led to an approach to ESP that stressed "the knowledge that teachers and

10
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

students brought with them" as well as "a strong reliance on the first language,
Portuguese, not only in connection with the recognition of cognate words, but also in
classroom practice" (Celani, op.cit.17).

As time went on, new institutions joined the Project, such as the Technical Schools
now called Technological Centers for Higher Education (CEFETs), and they
continue as active members until the present. Moreover, groups teaching languages
other than English such as Portuguese and Spanish were also incorporated to the
Project. The main area of interest in the teaching of Portuguese has been writing for
academic purposes.

The framework of the Brazilian ESP Project was and continues to be an important
setting for the exchange of experiences between ESP teachers and the adoption of
new and wider perspectives on our common goals through the organization of
Seminars that are annually held in different Brazilian universities.

For almost 20 years, Latin American ESP Colloquia have provided new insights into
both theoretical advances and research findings springing from different Latin
American countries. The tenth edition of ESP Colloquium was held at Rio Cuarto,
Argentina, in 2007. This event provided a forum for sharing a wide range of studies
related to the fields of ESP and EAP at university level, including course design,
discourse analysis, assessment and testing, genre, materials design, needs
analysis, and text analysis, among others.

1.1.2. STUDIES OF GENRE IN ESP

Hyon (1996: 702) highlights the work done by several researchers in ESP on
descriptions of genres as "useful discourse models for ESP instructors", but she
finds as a drawback the lack of teaching methodologies to be applied in the
classroom. She mentions Hopkins and Dudley-Evans (1988: 120), who identified
"cyclical move patterns" in an analysis of scientific master's dissertations and
underlined their value as useful resources for teaching and learning in ESP classes.
However, they do not show exactly how to put this model to practical use in ESP.

Some other ESP genre scholars have provided classroom applications though
mainly directed to writing instruction. Hyon (1996: 702-703) mentions Swales (1990)
11
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

and his proposal of classroom tasks aimed at helping non-native students (NNS) to
deal with different aspects of genre in their writing. Vijay K. Bhatia (1993) and John
Flowerdew (1993) are also concerned with genre analysis in a variety of specific
contexts. As far as Bhatia is concerned, he developed EBT (English for Business
and Technology) materials for polytechnic universities in Singapore based on his
previous studies on business and scientific genres. Bhatia and other EBT specialists
provided materials directed to students, with examples of genres such as job
applications, letters of sales promotion, lab reports, together with guides to identify
the language strategies in the corresponding genres and to write scientific and
business texts exploiting these strategies. Similarly, Flowerdew gives an account of
the tasks he uses to raise students' consciousness in EPC (English for Professional
Courses) at the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong. His proposal deals with learners'
instruction in the techniques of text analysis as useful tools to recognize the basic
discourse principles underlying new genres that are currently developing outside the
classroom. These techniques include 'flow chart' analysis of genre structure, 'gap
filling' of structural slots, and 'concordancing' of verb forms found in genres such as
the sales letter" (Flowerdew, 1993: 310-312).

Flowerdew (2003) developed a research project in Hong Kong, concerning the


problem-solution pattern in technical writing in a student ("STUCORP") and a
professional ("PROFCORP") corpus based on systemic-functional analysis. The 60
PROFCORP reports and 80 STUCORP reports were analyzed by using WordSmith
Tools (Scott, 1999) to find key words in each text and in each corpus. After
categorizing "key key-words", the researcher used the concord option in the
software tool and classified the key words according to "their lexico-grammatical
patternings, within a systemic-functional framework" (Flowerdew, op.cit.496). In the
study, Flowerdew includes some pedagogic considerations derived from the
establishment of differences and similarities as regards student writing and
professional writing. Besides, the researcher finds that the main area of difficulty is
shown in the students' choice of causative verbs because cause/reason and
result/effect verbs were inappropriately used. Other deficiencies related to the verbal
domain were also found. The author highlights the importance of corpus-based
empirical data for language teaching as a means to exhibit the lexico-grammatical
choices that are most frequently used in specific texts.

12
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

1.1.3. MOVE ANALYSIS STUDIES

At this point, and before I trace the development of other studies which are relevant
to mine, it is worth clarifying some other concepts that will be used along this study.
The concept of "move", borrowed from Mc Kinley's (1983) by Dudley-Evans refers to
"a semantic unit which is related to the writer's purpose" (Dudley-Evans, 1986: 131)
and a structural unit that is positioned between the sentence and the paragraph in
the rank scale. This notion is related to that of 'schematic structure', as can be seen
in several linguistic approaches to genre analysis. The concept of schematic
structure has to do with the staging that defines the macro-structure of texts
(Swales, 1990; Bhatia, 1993; Hasan, 1977, 1984). That is to say, genres are
distinguished from each other in relation to the communicative aims which they
accomplish. In turn, different texts, or instances of genres, can be broken down into
smaller parts or stages that contribute to the fulfillment of these functions
(Flowerdew & Dudley-Evans, 2002). In the improved CARS (Create a Research
Space) model of schematic structure, Swales (1990: 140-1) analyzed the stages, or
moves, in the introductions to research articles in a serial order. Bhatia (1993)
examined the schematic structure of moves and their respective steps in sales
letters regarding business communication.

Adopting the models proposed by Swales (1990) and Bhatia (1993), Flowerdew and
Dudley-Evans (2002) carried out a generic analysis of editorial letters of a well
known applied linguistics journal. These researchers studied the schematic structure
of the texts in the corpus, as well as the linguistic and politeness strategies used by
the editor/s. In general terms, they describe and exemplify the prototypical
schematic structure of the letters. Thus, they find that this schematic structure is
based on four moves with obligatory and optional steps (op.cit.470-1). The four
moves found are: (1) preparing the reader for the decision; (2) conveying the
decision; (3) making recommendations for improvement; and (4) signing off.

Similarly, there are other studies that can be regarded as corpus-based and are
grounded on "the ESP genre camp" (Flowerdew, 2005: 325). The researcher
indicates that in spite of the fact that all these studies do not openly establish the
approach they have taken, their methodological descriptions evince their agreement

13
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

to join "various genre principles of ESP-type text analysis" (op.cit.325). In this


respect, the author highlights that, in many cases, the researchers have created
"tagging systems" in order to specify the generic "move structures" of the ESP texts
under study. As examples of successful applications of these methodologies,
Flowerdew mentions Thompson's (2000) analysis of the citations used by native
speakers (NS) in 20 Ph.D. theses dealing with agriculture topics at the University of
Reading. Likewise, the research carried out by Upton (2002) on direct mail letters
from 71 organizations also used a "move structure tagging system" (Flowerdew,
op.cit.326) to analyze the rhetorical structure in this discourse type. Although some
scholars have proposed some fixed moves in texts similar to the ones in the corpus
under investigation, genre analysts in general underline that 'move structures' have
to be considered not as an inflexible group of labels for analyzing a text but rather as
sets of options that different genres will permit.

Among the shortcomings of this kind of 'discourse-based tagging', Flowerdew


alludes to their being manually made. Besides, they are highly time-consuming
since they require a thorough inspection of texts. Thus, "its application is therefore
restricted to small, specialized corpora..." (op.cit.327). Such is the case with the
corpus selected for the present study. (See Chapter 2)

As regards specialists' written texts, the work of Connor and Mauranen (1999) is
based on a study of 34 grant proposals as a significant part of the professional
writing of many researchers and graduates who must apply for funds to do research
and undertake further academic studies. In this study the grant proposals from
universities and research institutions in Finland were analyzed in terms of the
"rhetorical moves that constituted the texts." (op.cit.51) The authors identified ten
functional moves in the sample and they emphasized the similarity in communicative
purpose with the genre of the research article, particularly in the introduction, and
likewise, with the sales letters and job applications studied by Bhatia (1993).
Nevertheless, the researchers highlight that "grant proposals seem to have their
own special features which emerge from the identification of the moves" (Connor
and Mauranen, op.cit.60); they identify achievements, benefits, importance and
compliance as the moves which seem to be specific to the genre under research.
They hold that the teaching of both rhetorical and linguistic features of proposals, as
persuasive writing, have to become "an integral part of writing in academic courses
14
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

for graduate students and other non-native English-speaking researchers"


(op.cit.62) and at the same time, they encourage research on this kind of genre
written in other cultures and locations to explore inter-cultural variation in grant
proposal writing as well as to determine the validity of the moves that were spotted
in their research.

Another study which deals with schematic structures is the one conducted by
Nwogu (1991) in order to distinguish the discourse structure of the Journalistic
Reported Version (JRV) of research articles in magazines and newspapers which
are concerned with the popularization of science, in this case in the medical field.
The study is based on Swales' genre-analysis model and adheres to "schema-
theoretic principles of information processing" (op.cit.112). The identification of
schematic units was carried out on a corpus of 15 texts drawn from a popular
science magazine (The NewScientist), a well-known British newspaper (The Times)
and a magazine of general interest (Newsweek). The results of this study show: (a)
that nine possible moves can be realized in a JRV text, with an average of six
moves and (b) that there is a tendency for the moves to appear in order. The author
explains that the nine moves identified seem to fall into three main groups: 'initial',
'medial' and 'final moves', and he highlights that this division is similar to Van Dijk's
characterization of the structure of news in the press as well as to the DEE
(Description, Explanation and Evaluation) System which is followed by journalists
when presenting news items. Nwogu emphasizes the fact that JRV, as is the case
with all genres, "is constrained by social and professional routines of science
journalists in institutional settings" and also by "the need for an effective cognitive
processing strategy of popularized science information by both writers and readers"
(op.cit.120). As a conclusion, the existence of a schema for common scientific
medical texts is underscored, as are the pedagogical implications of the approach
used in this study, particularly in "ESP situations and in the teaching of academic
writing and reading" (op.cit.121).

1.2. THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

From the wide-ranging field of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), we


have selected two issues which are particularly relevant to our purposes in this

15
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

work, namely: the development of reading skills and the teaching of grammar in
specific professional or and academic settings.

1.2.1. READING INSTRUCTION

Johns (1998) alludes to the importance that has been given to instruction in reading
English as a foreign language for students who need to have access to information
sources published in English. Having in mind that English is the universal language
for international communication at all levels, and that in many countries English
language teaching at school (both at primary and high-level education) is
precarious, university students come to their higher learning studies with little or no
knowledge of English, which is the case in the context of the present study. As
regards reading in English, the activities have traditionally involved reading aloud,
translation of short passages, analysis of certain vocabulary items, and answering
questions about the content of the passages.

Johns refers to more modern methods which tend to concentrate "on the
development of oral skills by means of 'habit-formation' drills within a restricted
vocabulary and a limited range of syntactic patterns" (op.cit.102). The author
contrasts the deficiency of both methods in producing skilled readers with the
positive outcomes of 'self-taught' learners, drawing an analogy with 'successful
language learners' whose advantageous position lies in their motivation, as they
deal with familiar subject-matter to make appropriate guessing and to focus on the
message instead of on secondary linguistic details. In this sense, the author points
to Hosenfeld's (1977) comparison between 'successful' and 'unsuccessful language
learners'. The former evince a 'positive self-image' when dealing with a reading
activity, since they are able to retain the general theme in memory, to take
advantage of the theme to infer unknown vocabulary or to ignore certain
unimportant lexical items. The latter usually show a negative self-image. The main
characteristics of unsuccessful language learners reside in their behavior: they
spend a great deal of time looking up unknown expressions in glossaries or
dictionaries, they lack appropriate strategies for guessing, they approach texts in
very small fragments and they do not hold the main theme within "their span of
attention or memory" (Johns, op.cit.103).

16
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

In Johns' view, Hosenfeld's research is very much like the one by Goodman (1967)
and the one by Smith (1971), for whom the reading process is a kind of
psycholinguistic 'guessing-game', since readers permanently make predictions and
anticipations as the reading act evolves. The similarity between the researchers'
positions is evident in the fact that both investigations suggest the possibility of
training students in efficient reading strategies.

Eskey (2002) poses similar questions regarding reading: what reading is and how it
can be taught, especially in L2. The researcher admits that both such large
questions cannot be thoroughly addressed in a single article; nevertheless, he
encourages ESL reading teachers to "take a new or first step in the right direction"
(op.cit.5). For the first question, Eskey provides a partial definition of reading:
"Reading is the process of acquiring information from a written or printed text"
(op.cit.5). However, this definition points to the results of reading and not to the
reading process itself, and understanding this process may be a useful way to help
learners become more skillful readers.

The author refers to "reading aloud", which does not always mean that the reader is
paying attention to the meaning; instead, he or she may be more concerned with
correct pronunciation or appropriate expression in the reading aloud act. Eskey
explains that in the reading process, the eye movements of readers are produced in
short, quick motions - called 'saccades' - in which eyes take a 'chunk of text' which is
decoded by the brain to transform language forms into meaning, with only the
minimum visual information. In this way, skillful readers do not need all the
information on the page, but only "enough to get the meaning" (Eskey, 2002: 5).
Due to the fact that the brain is already full of knowledge organized into networks
which are called schema, the new information is related to the larger body of
knowledge a reader already has, to obtain meaning from the text.

Eskey comments on the different models of the reading process: 'bottom-up', 'top-
down' and 'interactive' models, providing some general characteristics of each of
them as well as their pros and cons, and emphasizing that the last one interactive
model - appears as the most accurate model as it presents a more balanced view of
brain-text interaction to achieve meaning. The researcher emphasizes that when
reading in L2, students have to take risks so as to learn to make guesses and go on
17
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

reading when they encounter unknown expressions, since there is interference in


the reading process when they stop "to look up words" or "think about" (op.cit.7),
and this interrupts the process of relating the new information to the knowledge
already stored in the brain.

Eskey highlights the nature of reading as social practice, as a "culturally learned


behavior" (op.cit.7) we engage in for different purposes; the texts and the aims
being provided by the culture. As the reader is an individual constrained by a
number of natural or social conditions, his/her attitudes toward reading and reading
behavior will be "idiosyncratic and unpredictable." (op.cit.8). The author provides
some advice for teaching reading and concludes by saying that understanding how
people learn to read can give teachers insights into how to encourage students to
read and become skillful readers.

Stott's (2001) study, which deals with the reading issue in ESL students, makes
reference to the important role that background information - schemata - plays in
helping ESL students to improve their reading comprehension skills. The author
provides some information concerning research into schema theory and its
applications to ESL reading, highlighting the positive influence of this model, and at
the same time pointing out some of the difficulties that could be encountered. For
example, teachers should "pay attention to possible schema interference or non-
activation" (op.cit.5), which may hinder appropriate reading-comprehension.
Similarly, he emphasizes that "basic bottom-up processing must not be ignored and
the importance of a lexico-grammatical focus, especially in the first learning stages,
needs to be recognized" (op.cit.5). He holds that L2 readers have to be prepared to
recognize many words and structures with the aim of reading extensively in order to
"build and improve the schemata they need for fuller enjoyment of the texts they
read" (op.cit.5).

Bell (1999), in a study developed in Indonesia, which consisted of content-based


English language and study skills training in the field of biotechnology, explores to
what extent EAP teachers require content knowledge of the academic subjects to
successfully prepare their learners at tertiary level. Two distinct EAP programs were
applied: one for postgraduates at Master and Doctoral levels and the other for
laboratory assistants and technicians. The teaching objectives of both programs

18
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

were also different, the ones for postgraduates being wider in their scope, as they
included seminar presentation skills to develop students' ability to describe their
research, listening to lectures and seminars and taking appropriate notes, reading
sections, writing summaries of texts and oral fluency to be able to discuss topics
related to the field. The author concludes that due to the fact that the programs
described in his study were carried out in a common academic field for both groups,
in this case biotechnology, some relevant knowledge of the subject content is
desirable for training undergraduates, and he claims that, for postgraduates,
relevant knowledge is essential for effective training results "in the complex
academic and language skills required" (Bell, op.cit.7).

Another research work related to the teaching of reading in a foreign language is the
study by Johnson (1997), directed at inquiring about the ways in which engineering
students approach instruction discourse in a real life context in order to meet the
demands of technical education institutions; in other words, the study is concerned
with the teaching of the "functional (reading-to-do) literacy skills" (op.cit.1) in relation
to foreign language education. The students worked in pairs using varied strategies
for a given period of time, and performed their tasks "through individual sub-tasking
and shared problem-solving and negotiation of textual meaning". The author points
out the relevance of procedural, metacognitive and content-specific knowledge to
complete the tasks and to efficiently access the instruction text. Moreover, and in
keeping with the findings of the experiment, he highlights pair collaboration as a
means to make "practical problem-solving with reading faster" as it "potentially leads
to a high amount of shared cognition" (op.cit.2). After presenting a number of
possible tasks to be performed in the language classroom, the author concludes by
emphasizing the special needs that people who have to read technical books and
manuals in a foreign language must respond to. He adds that these special needs
are best satisfied by concentrating on "their meta-orientation by using a task-based
approach" (op.cit.3), particularly of a collaborative type.

1.2.2. GRAMMAR INSTRUCTION

Sysoyev (1999) conducted some experimental lessons in order to address L2


grammar teaching to ESL students through an integrative method which proposes
three stages: exploration, explanation and expression (EEE). This method is
19
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

proposed out of the increasing interest in the teaching of 'real language' as used in
different cultural and social environments.

"Exploration" - the first stage - has to do with inductive learning by means of which
students have to find the pattern and formulate the rule after being provided with
sentences which illustrate such rule. The author considers this stage as an
"excellent tool for motivation" (op.cit.3) since by exploring the language, students
find the knowledge easier to recall.

"Explanation" - the second stage - involves the possibility on the part of students or
teacher to summarize what was found out in the previous stage, and this time
concentrating on patterns of form. It is also useful to relate the examples and
findings of the exploration stage with 'textbook rules' to make students feel confident
since they know the rules and have sources "to go back to in case of confusion or
for future reference" (op.cit:3).

"Expression" is the last stage in the process. In this stage, students practice the
production of appropriate utterances with each other in communicative tasks, after
having discovered grammatical patterns in the first stage and having learned the
rules in the explanation stage.
The experience was developed with students from Russia, Ukraine, Taiwan and
China who were enrolled in the ESL program in the Tambov State University in
Russia. After giving a detailed explanation of the development of the three stages
undertaken in the study, the author adds that an anonymous evaluative
questionnaire was administered to the students. The results show their positive
attitude towards the EEE method to learn L2 grammar, as opposed to form-based or
meaning-based only approaches.

Thrush (2001) developed a study to deal with significant problems involved in writing
for international audiences, including non-native speakers of English. In order to
address these problems and the somewhat low literacy rate of English speakers in
some fields, a number of systems were developed, namely: Plain English, Simplified
English and Controlled Language. These systems are geared "to produce English
that is easily readable, accessible and usable" (op.cit.290). Thrush explains that
Controlled Language systems are created and used to facilitate a faster and more
accurate machine and human translation, as well as to enhance communication
20
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

among professionals in the same field of work. The author explains that these
systems are grounded on the way in which readers process text, and consequently
they have the tendency to concentrate on similar rules of writing, especially on
diminishing the English vocabulary in order to put into use more understandable
terms and syntactic forms that may be readily processed.

Thrush then refers to a study of her own in which she attempted to find out whether:
(a) "phrasal verbs may make texts less accessible to non-native speakers of
English"; and (b) "Latin-based English vocabulary items [ ... ] actually aid the
comprehension of some readers and hinder that of others, relative to their native
language backgrounds" (op.cit.293). The study was conducted to figure out the
effectiveness of Plain English guidelines with a group of students of technical
subjects in the areas of engineering and computer science who where undertaking
EFL courses. The group of students included French speakers and German
speakers. After administering a reading test to ensure that the students had the
same level of proficiency in English, Thrush also carried out the experiment with a
small number of students of different language groups (Spanish, Thai, Mandarin
Chinese and Russian) who had all passed the standard score on the TOEFL test.
The first part of the study showed that both French and German groups "were able
to identify the meanings of only about one-third of the phrasal verbs tested"
(op.cit.294). The second part of the study - which was considered more difficult to
develop - sought to know if students recognized and preferred words of Germanic or
Latin origin and if the vocabulary selection influenced general comprehension. The
results show that students from both groups chose a considerable higher proportion
of Latin words than of Germanic ones. As regards general comprehension, the
author concludes that further testing is needed due to the lack of significant
differences between both groups and to the time constraints in her study.

Thrush highlights the difficulty that phrasal verbs present for non-native speakers of
English even in the case of advanced learners. The differences in the meanings of
verb phrases in British and American English is also emphasized. The author
provides some helpful guides to prepare students for dealing with such difficulties,
taking into account the audience and the purpose of their writings.

21
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

As regards Plain English guidelines, the researcher stresses that there is a need for
further investigation since the guidelines have proved to be applicable in general
terms to prepare "technical materials for non-native speakers and for translation"
(op.cit.295), but they are not useful for dealing with specific features.

Thrush closes her paper recommending a careful consideration of these issues


because an appropriate comprehension of written material is important to discover
the effect of writers' choices on their readers and to enhance communication within
a profession as well as "among the peoples of the world" (op.cit.295).

1.3. TENSE SYSTEM STUDIES

The use of tenses in scientific texts has been explored by a number of researchers.
The early ESP studies in this direction, such as Barber's (1962) and Huddleston's
(1971), aimed at providing an adequate descriptive report of the distribution
frequencies in the functional variety or 'registers' of the target language and in this
way, to offer a base to establish priorities in the teaching of specialized material
(Swales, 1990: 2).

Several research works followed those of Barber and Huddleston. For instance,
Master (1991) developed a study concerning the use of active verbs with inanimate
subjects since this is a source of difficulty in writing for EST students whose L1 is an
Asian language. Although active verbs with 'instrumental or inanimate subjects' are
widely used in English, particularly in scientific prose, Japanese students, for
example, find this structure "unacceptably anthropomorphic" (op.cit.15). Master's
study reveals that an active verb with an inanimate subject is possible in English
only when the subject has an 'inherent function' represented by the verb; for
instance, the inherent function of a thermometer is to measure, of a graph to show,
of a law to state, and so on. Through the analysis of 2979 subject-verb pairs from
Science News, the author provides several examples of students' errors in the use
of the passive in place of the active voice, and the use of active in place of the
passive voice, which suggest that "writers may have an interlanguage rule requiring
active verbs to have inanimate subjects" (op.cit.19) in the first case; or, in the
second case, in spite of being aware of the fact that in English inanimate subjects

22
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

can have an active verb, they overgeneralize the rule and this could be due to the
uncertainty as regards which verbs the rule can apply to.

Thus, the researcher is interested in "determining how frequently inanimate subjects


with active verbs occur in scientific prose" (op.cit.20). The ten scientific areas
selected for the study were: anthropology, behavior, biology, chemistry, earth
sciences, environment, medicine, physics, space sciences, and technology. These
areas were consistently represented in a corpus of texts produced along the decade
1975-1985. A data base computer program was used to store every subject and its
associated verb.

The results suggest "that inanimate subjects with active verbs are more prevalent
than inanimate subjects with passive verbs" (op.cit.15), particularly with an abstract
subject. The analyzed structure was found to have two main functions: to exhibit the
cause-effect relations, and to explain. The study provides some suggestions and
pedagogical tips to help students overcome the problem when writing in English.

Tarone et al. (1998) analyze the frequency of the active and passive verb forms in
two astrophysical journal articles, and they also study the rhetorical functions of
these forms. The authors explain that astrophysics papers constitute a distinct type
of article, as "the subject matter does not lend itself to experimentation" (op.cit.115),
and journals provide accounts of logical arguments which report observations,
procedures, and proposals for new observations by means of mathematical
equations. As regards frequency, the results show that in both journals, the
occurrence of active verb forms is higher than that of passive forms. Before
providing some generalizations concerning the rhetorical functions of the active and
passive verb forms in the papers, the researchers emphasize that "rhetorical and
syntactic choices are made first, and then the lexical verb is used which fits into that
structure" (op.cit.119). Finally, the authors point to the need for extending the
research on these issues to other fields, including both experimental and logical
argument.

Larsen-Freeman et al. (2001) study choices of tense and aspect available in the
English verb system, taking as a starting-point the difficulties that ESL/EFL students
have in this respect. The authors hold that, paradoxically, this area does not seem to
be difficult to teach, as "many grammatical rules exist that capture the structural
23
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

facts concerning the various tense-aspect combinations" (op.cit.3) and the semantic
facts related to the meanings of such combinations. They provide a description of
the 12 verb tense-aspect combinations of the system, as well as a synoptic view of
the meanings conveyed through the simple present tense, to show why learning
tense and aspect choices demands such a great effort from ESL/EFL students. After
proposing some exercises adapted from different sources, the researchers conclude
that in order to achieve discourse cohesion, tense/aspect choices have to be taught
in combination to contrast them within an overall system, and not with the focus on
individual sentences only.

Other related studies in the field include Burrough-Boenisch's (2002) research on


Discussion sections from Dutch-authored science articles concerning past and
present tense conventions. Some of the conclusions show that tense changes are
frequently motivated by an effort to maintain consistency of tense within a sentence
or paragraph; that the use of present tense in scientific writing can be subjective,
and that tense conventions are often ignored in scientific writing.

In the first stages of a pilot study, Mason and Hunston (2004) employ computational
processing for the recognition of verb patterns by means of a 'parsing process'.
Although this study is not directly concerned with verb tenses, it is interesting to
note, because of its relevance to the present study, that the researchers draw
attention to the problem of 'tagging errors' they encountered when dealing with the
data, since as the tagger used in this case was completely automatic, it was not
possible to detect the "verb-noun homographs" (Mason and Hunston, op.cit.265) - a
problem the present study is concerned with- and thus the tagger could easily
ascribe the wrong label. This, in turn, can produce "structural ambiguities that can
result in choosing an incorrect interpretation" (op.cit.265). Their conclusion shows
the feasibility of a larger-scale project and the possibility of expanding the method to
analyze other patterns in a variety of registers as well.

Albright et al. (2003) conducted a study that advocates a third approach, apart from
rules and analogy, to the learning of inflectional morphological patterns of past tense
forms. They propose a model of morphology using multiple stochastic rules. Other
researchers have taken RA's sections to develop their studies in the fields of
engineering, physics, agriculture, and so on. All of them represent important

24
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

contributions to the discourse community in which they are embedded and serve as
a basis for further research. Bronson (2001) cites, for instance, research articles that
deal with verbal tenses in engineering texts (Lackstrom et al., 1972), modals (Ewer,
1979), tense and aspect (Ard, 1982), and voice (Tarone et al., 1981). In his survey
of the literature, Swales makes reference to Lackstrom (1978), whose study deals
with modals in general science works; Wingard (1981), who focuses on verb forms
in medicine; Heslot (1982), who deals with tense in the field of plant pathology; Een
(1982), who focuses on tense in geotechnical engineering; and Malcolm (1987), who
deals with the same aspect in medicine, among other fields and other authors, by
analyzing the Research Article as a whole a type of text emblematic of scientific
literature.

In the previous sections of the present chapter, we have explored the state of the
art in the field of ESP, Genre Studies in ESP, ESL teaching and research on the
tense system. The survey focused on works considered relevant to the development
and the aims of the present study. In the following section, we will consider the
theoretical foundations upon which this study was based.

1.4. THEORETICAL FRAME

This section will analyze the theoretical perspectives from which the present study
has drawn its key concepts and analytical tools, namely: Systemic Functional
Linguistics and Genre Studies.

1.4.1. SYSTEMIC FUNCTIONAL LINGUISTICS

First, we will focus on the contributions which gave rise to Systemic Functional
Linguistics (SFL) with a brief account of the most representative works through time.
We will then refer to the characteristics of SFL that make it a useful model for
analysing discourse in general as well as scientific language. In the second part, we
will concentrate on the studies of genre from their beginnings, and we will introduce
some key concepts in the area that have been found useful for the development of
the present study.

Let us now consider the scholarly work that laid down the foundations for the
evolution of SFL. In 1923, Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski introduced the concept of
25
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

'context of situation' in his supplement to Odgen and Richards' "The Meaning of


Meaning". This concept was then elaborated by the British linguist John R. Firth,
especially in a paper called "Personality and Language in Society" (1950).

Malinowski's anthropological fieldwork showed that language is not an autonomous,


self-contained system; rather, it is entirely dependent on the society in which it is
used, and this seems to hold true in two senses: first, language has developed in
order to respond to the specific demands of any given society, so that its nature and
use exhibit specific features of that society; and second, language use "or any
instance of its use in that society is entirely context dependent" (Kress, 1976: viii).

Firth, following Malinowski, viewed language as part of the social process, and
meaning as function in context, and attempted to incorporate these concepts into a
theory of language, thus linking linguistic units with the socio-cultural context (Kress,
1976: x). Firth did not develop a comprehensive theory of language and its relation
to context. It was the most representative of his disciples, Michael A. K. Halliday,
who worked out a coherent and explicit theoretical framework for the analysis of the
relationship between linguistic units at all levels and the socio-cultural settings in
which they occur.

Halliday further developed the theory formulated by his predecessors with a view to
creating a linguistic approach that regards language as the basis for the construction
of human experience. The approach is now called Systemic Functional Linguistics
(SFL). A fundamental notion in Halliday's model is the "context of situation" which
obtains "through a systematic relationship between the social environment on the
one hand, and the functional organization of language on the other" (Halliday, 1985:
11).

The concept of situation is a very simple notion that accounts for the fact that
language takes place in social contexts and makes connections with the realities
that make up those contexts. A social context is an abstract conception within which
meaning occurs. Those realities, however, may be found in the persons and objects
that are present in the immediate nearness.

Halliday takes from Malinowski, through the mediation of Firth, the definition of
meaning as function in context, and the view of language as a multi-functional
26
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

system. The notion of system is a crucial theoretical concept in Halliday's view


(Kress, 1976), as will be shown below. As Kress puts it, "a formal theory based on
the notion of meaning as function in context must give central place to the category
of system" (op.cit. xviii).

At this point, then, it is important to clarify some concepts that will be used along this
work, according to the taxonomies and the nomenclature provided by Halliday
(2004). In SFL, structure is defined as the syntagmatic ordering of language, that
is to say, the regular observable characteristics referring to what goes together with
what. On the other hand, and as a contrastive concept, system is the arrangement
of patterns in what could go instead of what, and the author calls this the
paradigmatic ordering in language (op.cit.22). Text is defined as a product of
continuing choice in a significant network of systems. Thus, the label systemic
derives from "the fact that the grammar of a language is represented in the form of
system networks." Language is defined as a means through which meaning is
achieved and "meaning resides in systemic patterns of choice" (op.cit.23). Halliday
& Matthiessen hold that analyzing a text means displaying its structural functional
organization and the meaningful selections carried out. Thus, they speak of
structural features as realizing systemic choices (op.cit.24) and they explain that
realization results from the stratified character of language as a system.

In the 70s, Halliday moved to Australia where he organized the linguistic department
at the University of Sydney, thus giving rise to what is now called "the Sydney
School" in recognition of the important work done by functional linguists and
educational linguists along the 80s and 90s in that country. Some well-known
representatives of this school are James Robert Martin, Clare Painter, Suzanne
Eggins and Christian Matthiessen. SFL has spread throughout Australia and other
parts of the world, and has exerted considerable influence on language education.
In England, the main proponents include Margaret Berry, Dick Hudson, Chris Butler
and Robin Fawcet, among others. In Toronto, Canada, the theory became known
through the works of Jim Benson, Michael Cummings, Bill Greaves and Michael
Gregory.

The descriptive and interpretive frame provided by SFL has been widely applied in
the fields of text analysis to help students understand grammar theory and apply it to

27
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

specific texts (Martin, Matthiessen et al, 1997); it has also proved useful for the
study of language evolution through time and in children, and for the teaching and
learning of both mother tongue and second or foreign languages (Eggins, 1994).
The categories introduced by SFL have also been applied in the field of critical
discourse analysis (Fairclough 1992). The common focus underlying such a wide
range of applications is the examination of texts as genuine products of social
interaction in relation to the social and cultural settings in which they are
accomplished, or, in Eggins' words, the understanding of "why a text means what it
does, and why it is valued as it is" (1994: 1).

Systemic Functional Linguistics provides us with the appropriate framework for the
analysis and interpretation of texts, since it makes it possible to count on "a basic
lingua franca for text analysts" (Martin, Matthiessen and Painter, 1997:2) working in
different contexts, and to undertake a deep and thorough analysis and interpretation
of texts. The SFL model of description reveals how the clauses, phrases and lexical
choices in a text build its meanings - ideational, interpersonal and textual meanings -
and "why a text is the way it is" (op.cit.3).

Since the late 1970s, a great number of systemic scholars have developed their
works along the lines laid down by this theory, and the prevailing interest common to
all of them originated an advance of four main theoretical assertions regarding
language: "that language use is functional; that its function is to make meanings;
that these meanings are influenced by the social and cultural context in which they
are exchanged, and that the process of using language is a semiotic process, a
process of making meanings by choosing" (Eggins, op.cit.2).

In the development of linguistics within the English-speaking world, SFL was neither
the first nor the only school of thought that tried to link language and society. In
America, the interest in the relation between language and context arose from
anthropological linguistics and is associated with the early work of Edward Sapir and
Benjamin Lee Whorf and with Dell Hymes. The latter, particularly in his work
"Models of interaction of language and social setting" (1967) characterizes the
speech situation as consisting of eight elements that can be summarized as: form
and content of text, setting, participants, ends, key, medium, genre and interactional
norms. This analysis of the communicative event resulted in Hymes' (1972) well-

28
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

known "SPEAKING grid", which was an early attempt at characterizing the


components of context (Eggins & Martin, 1997).

Systemic Functional Linguistics, however, takes a step further in the study of


language in its different contexts of use by exploring and systematizing the specific
lexico-grammatical resources that encode contextual variables in a text. Thus, unlike
sentence grammars, it takes the text as the main unit of analysis and it brings to
light the correlation between form and function in context, in a theoretically complete
formulation.

As to the usefulness of a functional approach to grammar for second language


teaching, Graham Lock, in his book Functional English Grammar. An Introduction for
second language teachers (1996) provides abundant examples and tasks directed
to enable the reader to explore and apply the tools offered by a functional
perspective on grammar, as well as to understand the difficulties that students may
encounter when dealing with grammatical items as text-building resources (op.cit.
xi).

Let us now narrow down the perspective of SFL regarding language in general to
the view this model offers as regards technical and scientific language.

Luke, in the Introduction to Halliday and Martins Writing Science, Literacy and
Discursive Power (1993) holds that in these linguists view science is conceived of
as an inter-organistic practice, a linguistic/semiotic practice which has evolved
functionally to do specialized kinds of theoretical and practical work in social
institutions" (op.cit.x). Tracing a parallelism with the origins and evolution of ESP,
Luke explains that the growth of the Western nation states after World War II,
whether historical winners or losers in economic, strategic and geopolitical
domains, is estimated according to the countries' technological and scientific
advances. Scientific work and the rules of capital and government were put together
in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century in Great Britain,
Germany and the United States. Nevertheless, the society that emerged after World
War II was founded on the cooperative relationships developed between
governments, corporations and research centers throughout the war. From then on,
progress in applied approaches to mathematics, statistics, physics, electronics and
computing, engineering and other fields, came out to view. Luke also highlights the
29
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

problems of educational policies and practices concerning scientific education as


regards language, text and discourse which have not been given the necessary
attention from those engaged in this issue. The author states that a socially-based
linguistic analysis of the texts and discourses of scientific work [ ] is an important
political and pedagogical move" (op.cit.xii).

According to Halliday and Martin, scientific discourse and language show special
characteristics that cannot be found in everyday language, such as the
representation of technicality and abstraction. Emphasis should be put on the
situation of students -in this case, university students- who need to have access to
the registers of disciplinary knowledge so as to succeed in the world of academia.
These learners must be faced with the knowledge of how scientific discourse is
elaborated through grammar, involving claims about both the natural and social
worlds, and how these worlds are put together into "sequences or agents and
causes, relations and consequences" (Luke, in Halliday & Martin,1993: xiii).

In general, the language of science appears to be difficult and rather unnatural, with
a considerable number of technical terms. It is common to regard the technical
terms as the cause of the difficulty; however, Halliday & Martin hold that the
problems do not arise from this cause alone but from the lexico-grammar as a
whole, which results in the distinctive quality of scientific language, as scientific
discourse engenders in the reader "a response to the total patterns of the discourse
(op.cit.4). Here, the linguists claim that the presence or absence of the reader's
response will depend on the readers tongue, that is, if the scientific language is part
of the parent language the reaction can be an "alienated" feeling. If, on the other
hand, the reader is faced with scientific English in a second language, the challenge
is much greater, particularly if the reader is faced with the language of science for
the first time. In short, the language of science can be recognized by certain
features and co-occurrence patterns that involve specific choices at different levels.

Let us now turn to the characteristics of SFL which make it a useful model for the
analysis of the corpus selected for this work. These characteristics, adapted to our
needs from Halliday & Martin (1993: 22-23), can be grouped into five orientations.

30
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

a. Language as a resource for meaning: ESP students must grasp the


meaning of scientific and technical material to gain access to knowledge
sources.

b. Texts as the basic units to reach meaning: This conception favors the
relationship between the semantic organization of scientific texts and the
systems of meaning they instantiate. ESP students must deal with
scientific and technical texts from different sources to enlarge their
specialized knowledge.

c. Texts as social accomplishments: For ESP students, it is important to


identify the elements that establish the relationship between texts and
their communities of use/rs.

d. Language as a system for construing meaning: The focus is on the role


of grammar in the building up of a specific view and understanding of
reality which characterizes science as discipline. ESP students need to
come to grips with the way knowledge is built in their disciplinary field by
means of more or less conventionalized patterns of linguistic choices.

e. Language as a system for negotiating meanings: ESP students have to


be aware of the power of language to exchange and negotiate meanings
successfully in their disciplinary and interdisciplinary studies.

Halliday (in Halliday & Martin, op.cit.70) claims that it is necessary not only to
identify the problematic features of scientific English but also to illustrate the
functions these features have in the entire discourse. The author explains that the
difficulty lies more with the grammar than with the vocabulary, and he holds that
the difficulty in dealing with technical terms arises from the fact that they have a
complex relationship to each other; they have to be understood as part of a larger
framework" as each one is often defined by reference to all the others (op.cit.71).

This view coincides with recent research that has demonstrated that in many cases,
non-technical features such as conjunctions, adverbial phrases and anaphoric
reference can be difficult to understand (Cohen et al., 1988). Moreover, in the case
of reading in English for specific purposes, learners must devote some time to

31
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

discovering the relevance of visual, lexical and syntactic features of a language that
are different from their native language, and to manage them automatically
(Mandatori, 2005).

Thus far, we have dealt with one of the theoretical foundations on which the present
work is based. The second perspective we draw upon for our study is related to
genre studies, which will be approached in the following section.

1.4.2. GENRE STUDIES

The development of genre theory can be traced back to the mid 20th century.
However, it was not until the late 1970s and 1980s that the interest in genre
gathered momentum in the field of educational linguistics, which resulted in the
production of a great body of research. The period between 1950s and 1960s is
considered by Christie (2006) as marking a rapid growth and expansion of linguistic
research. This author highlights the important contribution as regards functionally
and socially driven research made by Halliday and his associates (Halliday et al.,
1967) in the British context and by Hymes (1967), Gumperz (1968) and Labov
(1972), among others, in the North American context.

According to Paltridge (in Christie, 2006) the notion of genre began to be introduced
into educational discourse in the 1980s in three areas: Systemic Functional
Linguistics (SFL), derived from Hallidays work (1978), English for Specific
Purposes, following Swales (1990), and New Rhetoric Studies, after Miller (1984).

Christie (2006) alludes to the attention given by Halliday to the ways in which
language varies according to 'different situation types' as well as his adoption of the
term 'register' to involve 'field', 'mode' and 'tenor'. Christie also refers to the
simultaneous development of a genre-based approach as part of an interest in
English for Specific Purposes, as put forth by Swales and others (Swales 1990;
Bhatia, 1993). As regards New Rhetoric studies, they originated in the North
American context and were mainly oriented to an audience of mother tongue
learners, thus displaying different objectives from those of Swales or Halliday and
his colleagues.

32
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

Linguists who adhere to the Systemic or Hallidayan School have discussed the
concept of genre and its relationship with the concept of register. The distinction
between genre and register is clarified in the work of Eggins & Martin (1997). For
these authors, the notions of 'register' and 'genre' are technical concepts that are
used to "explain the meaning and function of variation between texts" (op.cit.234).
As regards the concept of 'register', these scholars highlight that it is "a theoretical
explanation of the common sense observation that we use language differently in
different situations". In a more technical sense, Eggins and Martin (op.cit.234) refer
to the 'impact' that the contextual dimensions of field, tenor and mode exert upon
language when certain meanings together with their linguistic patterns are more
likely to be made than others. In the same way that texts show variation in terms of
register, they may also display variation as regards genre. The authors acknowledge
the traditional notion of genres as 'types of literary production' but side with Bakhtin's
(1986) view of speech genres as interactive expressions of 'relatively stable types'.
Thus, the notion expands to involve literary and everyday genres in both written and
spoken modes.

Couture (in Swales, 1990: 41) also makes a distinction between registers, where
the limitations work at the level of vocabulary and syntax, and genre, in which the
limitations operate at the level of discourse1 structure.

Another definition of genre is the one proposed by Martin in the Inaugural Lecture of
the Sydney University Arts Association 2000, in which he characterizes genres "as
staged goal-oriented social processes". He explains each term in the definition as
follows: "(i) staged because it usually takes more than one phase of meaning to
work through a genre; (ii) goal oriented because unfolding phases are designed to
accomplish something [...]; and (iii) social because we engage in genres
interactively with others" (Martin, 2000:4).

Swales (1990: 33), in turn, says that at present, the term is "used to refer to a
distinctive category of discourse of any type, spoken or written, with or without
literary aspirations". Let us now turn to his own definition of genre. Swales
emphasizes three defining features of genres: a) genres are classes of

1
'Discourse' is used along this work as equivalent to 'text', following van Dijk (1997).
33
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

communicative events directed to a goal; b) genres have schematic structures, and


c) genres are independent from styles or registers. In his own words,

"A genre comprises a class of communicative events, the members of which


share some set of communicative purposes. These purposes are recognized
by the expert members of the parent discourse community, and thereby
constitute the rationale for the genre. This rationale shapes the schematic
structure of the discourse and influences and constrains choice of content and
style".(1990: 58)

At this point, it is necessary to clarify some important characteristics of the discourse


community as proposed by Swales (1990). The group of people constituting a
discourse community is identified by having a number of public aims, and special
ways of communication among its individual members that permit information
exchange with different goals in accordance with the established objectives of the
group. Moreover, the group identified as a discourse community makes use of one
or more genres in the advancement of its goals. Besides, a discourse community
employs specialized lexical items that are used in technical fields such as the lexis
used in medical communities. Finally, the discourse community members share an
appropriate level of 'content' and 'discoursal expertise'. Swales acknowledges that
the members change: they join the community as novices and leave by involuntary
reasons. Nevertheless, the communitys existence depends on an average
proportion "between novices and experts" (Swales, op.cit.27).

In the same way, it is worth explaining the concept of 'rationale'. This has to do with
the restrictions imposed by genres on permissible contributions as regards their
form, content and positioning (Swales, 1990). The members of a discourse
community use genres to achieve their purposes. These purposes can be
recognized by parent discourse community members, partially recognized by novice
members, or either recognized or unrecognized by non-members. The rationale is
provided by the recognition of purposes, and produces restricting principles. These
principles experience evolution and can be challenged in a continuous process, but
they however "continue to exert influence" (Swales, op.cit.54).
Swales' work is considered 'seminal' by some authors precisely because he
included genre theory in ESP by taking into account both the social function and the
form of language in academic and research contexts (Flowerdew, 2005).
34
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

Some researchers, as Yang and Allison (2004), hold that genre analysis is a kind of
'textual' or 'event' interpretation and that this interpretation has a basis in descriptive
evidence although it is not established by it. That is why they sustain that both genre
analysis and text analysis should be taken into account together with writer
response information, but as the latter is not always available interpretation is
always a requirement. The authors state that, as a consequence, to understand and
research about genre continues to be a "systematically informed, useful and
practical approach." (op.cit.267)

Returning to the SFL framework, Eggins and Martin (1997: 236) point out that
"different genres are different ways of using language to achieve differently culturally
established tasks, and texts of different genres are texts which are achieving
different purposes in the culture". According to Martin, (in Eggins 1994: 26), "a genre
is an activity [ ... ] in which speakers are involved as culture members". Due to its
character as social activity related to culture and situation, genres allow
classifications and sub-classifications, for instance: literary genres, such as novels,
sonnets, self-biographies; educational genres, such as scientific reports,
conferences, textbooks, and others. It is through genre that the purpose of texts is
recognized and particularly, through the different generic stages by means of which
a genre unfolds in a text.

The model provided by Eggins (1994: 36-37) served as the basis for the analysis
carried out here. For the purposes of this study, it is important to bear in mind how

LANGUAGE

Context of Situation
REGISTER

Context of Culture
GENRE

35
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

systemicists relate the concept of genre with the levels of context of situation, and
language. The preceding figure, adapted from Eggins (op.cit.34) illustrates such
relation.

The context of situation, the more specific level, is described as the 'register' of the
text and involves the variables of tenor, field and mode which, as Hasan & Perret
(1994: 186) point out "are always active in the production and comprehension of any
discourse" and derive from the "ongoing evidence from language in use". The
context of culture is the more general and abstract level, and is described as the
'genre' of the text. Eggins (op.cit.32) describes two ways through which register
intervenes in genre realization, the first is by making out the details that are pertinent
to the specific situation in which the genre is used. This is related to the organization
by stages or the 'schematic structure' of particular texts; the second concerns the
'genre potential' of a specific culture, that is, "all the linguistically-achieved activity
types recognized as meaningful (i.e. appropriate) in a given culture." (Eggins,
op.cit.35). As genres are realized through language, so the lexico-grammar used will
vary as genre varies, and the lexico-grammatical choices will determine the
realization patterns of the different schematic stages across genres.

For the purpose of this study, it is relevant to bear in mind the aims of the 'target
genre' to develop a move analysis, as these aims will direct the "propositional
contents", "schematic pattern" (Kwan, 2006) and the register selection of the genre.
Thus, it is necessary to identify the function of the text and analyze the way in which
each move in the structure contributes "to the fulfillment of that function" (Kwan,
2006: 32). In the corpus under study here, for example, the texts are representative
of the technical report, the type of discourse most frequently used in ESP classes for
students of Engineering. The main purpose of this genre is to report on
developments and advances in the field in question.

For each of the moves, or stages, the realizational patterns comprise characteristic
clause types, particular choices of verbs, agents, attributes, conjunctions, and so
forth. In order to determine the boundaries between stages, it is necessary to spot
these lexico-grammatical features. To accomplish this task, it is also necessary to

36
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

assign appropriate labels to each stage. In this respect, Martin (2000) holds that in
functional linguistics, two kinds of labels can be distinguished: 'class labels' which
tell us what something is, and 'function labels' which tell us what something is
actually doing. In line with this view, in this study we adopted the functional labeling
since it is "much richer semantically" and thus more relevant to an analysis of
grammar applicable to genre. Martin adds that if genres are regarded "as patterns of
meaning" it is necessary to deploy a grammar which concentrates on meaning
instead of using class labeling which focuses mainly on form. (Martin, 2000: 14)

In the following sections of the chapter, we will state the problem which inspired the
study, as well as the purposes and the hypothesis of the work.

1.5. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Along a number of years devoted to the teaching of ESP to university


undergraduates, I have noticed again and again that students find it difficult to
identify verbal tenses in the texts related to the disciplinary content of Surveying and
Mining, two careers from the Engineering study program offered by Facultad de
Tecnologa y Ciencias Aplicadas de la Universidad Nacional de Catamarca. Some
tenses in English represent a greater degree of difficulty than others, of course.
Such is the case, for instance, of the Simple Present Tense, which is a problematic
area for readers of English as a second language, on account of the following:

- In English, there are many pairs of words with identical morphology but different
grammatical functions, e.g.: work (Noun - Verb), use (Noun - Verb), "study"
(Noun - Verb), "means" (Noun - Verb).

- The inflexion in such words causes confusion when it is necessary to establish


the word function as, very frequently, the final -s/-es of the third person singular
present indicative is interpreted as the plural marker -es attached to nouns and
not as a verbal inflexion.

A similar problem appears in the case of the final -d/ed of regular verbs, when it is
necessary to decide if such word is a past participle form with adjectival function, a
noun postmodifier, or a finite verb in the Simple Past Tense.

37
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8
A Study of the Use of the Simple Present
Tense in the Reading Material of ESP
Courses from a Genre-based Perspective
Mandatori, Laura Delicia

The importance of the mastery of verb tenses to reach a good understanding of the
texts students are exposed to in the above mentioned careers, among other
branches of Engineering, makes it necessary for ESP instructors to explore the topic
from new perspectives, so as to produce innovative teaching material that can
facilitate the recognition of tenses in specific texts and thus promote improvements
in reading comprehension in the foreign language.

1.5.1. AIMS OF THIS STUDY

1.5.2. GENERAL OBJECTIVE

- To identify the most recurrent verbal tenses in a body of technical texts drawn
from the disciplines Mining and Surveying with the aim of finding the
correspondence between the choice of Simple Present Tense and the function
of the utterances in which it occurs.

1.5.3. SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES

- To determine the function of different text segments as generic moves in the


discourses under analysis.

- To inquire into the frequency of occurrence of Simple Present Tense in these


moves, as opposed to all other tenses.

- To identify the relation between move type and use of SPT.

- To provide guidelines for the elaboration of didactic material aimed at facilitating


reading comprehension in ESP university courses.

1.6. HYPOTHESIS

There exists a correspondence between the choice of Simple Present Tense and
the function of specific moves in texts from the disciplines Mining and Surveying.

38
Universidad Nacional de Catamarca
Secretara de Ciencia y Tecnologa Editorial Cientfica Universitaria
ISBN: 978-987-661-043-8