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1.1. Aims of the unit.
1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. Text vs. sentence.
2.2. The relevance of semantics and pragmatics.
2.3. The notion of text linguistics.


3.1. On defining text.
3.1.1. Textual features:texture and ties.
3.1.2. Textuality: the seven standards.
3.1.3. Text types.
3.1.4. Main criteria for text typology.
3.2. On defining context.
3.2.1. The context of situation.


4.1. Text typology: main criteria.
4.1.1. Literary devices.
4.1.2. Order and sequence.
4.1.3. Text structure.
4.2. Text types: classification and description.
4.2.1. Narration.
4.2.2. Description.
4.2.3. Exposition.
4.2.4. Argumentation.
4.2.5. Instruction.

5.1. On defining register.


6.1. New directions in language teaching.
6.2. Implications in language teaching.


1.1. Aims of the unit.

The main aim of Unit 30 is to present the issue of text and context, text type and main criteria
for text typology, and register. Our aim is to offer a broad account in descriptive terms of these
notions and examine how text, context and register relate to each other in a communicative
situation. In order to do so, we shall divide our study in seven chapters.

In Chapter 2 we shall offer a theoretical framework for text, context and register so as to locate them
within linguistic studies and analyse how they related to each other in a communicative context.
Therefore, we shall provide an account of key notions and related issues which prove essential in the
understanding of these three concepts. So we shall review (1) the definition of text vs. sentence, (2)
the relevance of semantics and pragmatics and (3) the notion of text linguistics in order to frame the
following chapters on the issue of text, context, register and their main features.

Chapter 3 will offer then an insightful analysis and description of ‘text and context’ by offering (a)
definition and (b) main features; Chapter 4 will examine (1) the main criteria for text typology and
(2) a description of the main types of texts; Similarly, Chapter 5 will analyse the term ‘register’ in
relation to the previous notions. Chapter 6 will be devoted to present the main directions and
educational implications in language teaching regarding text, context and register following the
model for a Communicative Approach. Chapter 7 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our
present study, and Chapter 8 will include all the bibliographical references used in this study.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

An influential introduction to the analysis of text, context and register is based on relevant works of
van Dijk, Text and Context (1984); Brown and Yule, Discourse Analysis (1983); Cook, Discourse
(1989); Beaugrande and Dressler, Introduction to Text Linguistics (1988) and, still indispensable,
Halliday and Hasan, Cohesion in English (1976). Classic works on the influence of semantics,
pragmatics and sociolinguistic on text analysis, include van Dijk, Studies in the Pragmatics of
Discourse (1981); Hymes, Communicative Competence (1972) and Foundations in Sociolinguistics:
An Ethnographic Approach (1974); Halliday, Explorations in the Functions of Language (1975)
and Spoken andWritten Language (1985); and Searle, Speech Act (1969).

The background for educational implications is based on the theory of communicative

competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by Canale, From
Communicative Competence to Communicative Language Pedagogy (1983); Canale and Swain,
Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing (1980);
Hymes, On communicative competence (1972). In addition, the most complete record of current
publications within the educational framework is provided by the guidelines in B.O.E. (2002);
the Council of Europe, Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common
European Framework of reference (1998); Hedge Tricia, Teaching and Learning in the
Language Classroom (2000); and Celce-Murcia & Olshtain, Discourse and context in language
teaching (2000). New directions on language teaching is provided by the annual supplement of
AESLA 2001 (Asociación Española de Lingüística Aplicada).


We shall offer a theoretical framework for text, context and register so as to locate them within
linguistic studies and analyse how they related to each other in a communicative context. Therefore,
we shall provide an account of key notions and related issues which prove essential in the
understanding of these three concepts. So we shall review (1) the definition of text vs. sentence, (2)
the relevance of semantics and pragmatics and (3) the notion of text linguistics in order to frame the
following chapters on the issue of text, context, register and their main features.

2.1. Text vs. sentence.

The terms ‘text vs. sentence’ differ at the highest grammatical level of analysis in the rank scale,
where paragraphs and texts are considered to be ‘larger stretches of language higher than the
sentence’ (Aarts, 1988). At this level, language does not occur in solitary words or sentences
(simple, complex and compound) in grammatical terms, but in sequences of sentences, that is,
utterances in terms of meaning and use in connected discourse. Then we shall deal with
sequences of utterances which are semantically interrelated and that interchange in order to
establish relations of social interaction either in spoken or written language.

2.2. The relevance of semantics and pragmatics.

In fact, we can affirm that a sentence may be defined in grammatical terms whereas a text is
under the influence of semantics and pragmatics, that is, in terms of meaning and use. Several
years ago, syntax and semantics were studied with little regard for the ways people used
grammar and meaning in communication and the use of language was relegated to the field of
pragmatics. Nowadays, the question of use is freely treated in syntax and semantics and the
notions of ‘cohesion’ and ‘coherence’, usually related to semantics, can be also helpful when
studying a text only if they deal with how connections and relations are actually set up among
communicative contexts.

Then, in a text, pragmatics explores the attitudes of producers by means of such devices as
‘intentionality’ (the goal-directed use of conversation) and receivers by means of ‘acceptability’
(inmmediate feedback), and ‘informativity’ (the selection of contributions to conversation). In
addition, the communicative setting is described in terms of ‘situationality’ (particularly direct
communicative context; intonation contours) and ‘intertextuality’ (text types in operation, that is,
how to frame your text in regard to other people’s texts in the same discourse).

On the other hand, semantics explores the relationship between syntactic structures (and therefore
grammatical categories building phrases, sentences and clauses) and the logical relationship between
them in a text by means of coherence and cohesion, having as a result the whole text under the shape
of a pragmatic coherent discourse, that is, in a communicative context.

2.3. The notion of text linguistics.

Finally, the notion of text linguistics designates ‘any work in language science devoted to the text as
the primary object of inquiry’ (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988). In fact, many fields have approached
the study of texts: linguistics (from grammar, morphology and phonology), anthropology (different
speech acts in different cultures), psychology (speaker and hearer behaviour), stylistics
(correctness, clarity, elegance, appropriateness, style), literary studies (text types) and so on, but
the most important fields are sociology (which explores conversational studies and gives way to
text analysis), semantics (coherence, cohesion, connectors) and pragmatics (speech acts,
contexts) which shape the text into a pragmatic coherent structure (van Dijk, 1984).

Yet, the oldest form of preoccupation with texts and the first foundation for the analysis of texts
and its articulation is drawn from the notion of text linguistics which has its historical roots in
rethoric, dating from Ancient Greece and Rome through the Middle Ages up to the present under
the name of text linguistics or discourse. Traditional rethoricians were influenced by their major
task of training public orators on the discovery of ideas (invention), the arrangement of ideas
(disposition), the discovery of appropriate expressions for ideas (elocution), and memorization
prior to delivery on the actual occasion of speaking.

In the Middle Ages, rethoric was based on grammar (on the study of formal language patterns in
Greek and Latin) and logic (on the construction of arguments and proofs). Rethoric still shares
several concerns with the kind of text linguistics we know today, for instance, the use of texts as
vehicles of purposeful interaction (oral and written), the variety of texts which express a given
configuration of ideas, the arranging of ideas and its disposition within the discourse and the
judgement of texts which still depends on the effects upon the audience.


3.1. On defining text.

Following Halliday & Hasan (1976), “the word ‘text’ is used in linguistics to refer to any
passage, spoken or written, of whatever length, that does form a unified whole”. As a general
rule, we know whether an utterance or sequence of utterances constitute a text or not though it
may be “spoken or written, prose or verse, dialogue or monologue, and also anything from a
single proverb to a whole play, from a momentary cry for help to an all-day discussion on a
committee” (1976). Hence, a text is not defined by its size but by its meaning.
Although it may be envisaged as a grammatical unit larger than a sentence, a te xt is not a
grammatical unit but a unit of language in use; in other words, a text is best regarded as a
semantic unit and not a unit of form. Linguistic form is important but is not itself sufficient to
give a stretch of language the status of a text, for instance, ‘Dangerous road’ is an adequate text
though comprising only a short noun phrase.

3.1.1. Textual features: texture and ties.

It must be born in mind that a text does not consist of sentences; it is realized by sentences. In
fact, the property of ‘being a text’ is given by textual features such as texture and ties. First of
all, the concept of texture expresses in itself the property of ‘being a text’ and this is what
distinguishes a text from something that is not a text. Texture, then, functions as a unity with
respect to its environment. The resources that English has for creating texture contribute to its
total unity and they are called ‘ties’.

Halliday and Hasan (1976) define ‘ties’ as the term used to refer to a single instance of cohesive
relation (anaphora, cataphora, reference). The concept of a tie makes it possible to analyse a text
in terms of its cohesive properties and give a systematic account of its patterns of texture. We
can characterize any segment of a text in terms of the number of kinds of ties which it displays:
reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical cohesion 1.

3.1.2. Textuality: the seven standards.

As it has been stated above, a text is not an undifferentiated sequence of words, much less of bytes. In
addition, written texts conform to rules that most successful writers unconsciously follow and native
readers unconsciously expect to find. It is relevant, then, to address the term textuality in written and
oral texts as it is involved in rules governing written discourse. In the approach to text linguistics by
de Beaugrande & Dressler (1988), a text, oral or printed, is established as a communicative
occurrence, which has to meet seven standards of textuality : cohesion, coherence, intentionality and
acceptability, informativity, situationality and finally, intertextuality. If any of

It must be borne in mind that the concept of cohesion can therefore be usefully supplemented by that of
register (the context of situation), since the two together effectively define a text.
these standards are not satisfied, the text is considered not to have fulfilled its function and not to be

(1) Cohesion and coherence are text-centred notions, designating operations directed at the
text materials. On the one hand, cohesion is related to the function of syntax and
therefore, it concerns the ways in which the components of the surface text (the actual
words we hear or see: phrase, clause, sentence) are mutually connected within a
sequence. It also deals with cohesive ties as mentioned above (anaphora, cataphora,
ellipsis, etc) and signalling relations (tense and aspect, modality, uptdating, junction,
conjunction, disjunction and subordination).

(2) Coherence is “the outcome of actualizing meanings in order to make sense” (Beaugrande
& Dressler, 1988). It concerns the ways in which the components of the textual world are
mutually accessible and relevant. These components are the concepts and relations
which underlie the surface text: a set of relations subsumed under causality (cause,
enablement, reason, purpose time) and global patterns (frames, schemas, plans, and
scripts). They are responsible for making a text be “senseless’ or non-sensical”. In other
words, if cohesion gives meaning to a text, coherence enhances the continuity of sense
within the text (meaning vs. sense).

So, a text is organized for different purposes, divided into many different units and
different types or sizes. For instance, prose text might be divided into sections, chapters,
paragraphs, and sentences. A verse text might be divided into cantos, stanzas, and lines.
Once printed, sequences of prose and verse might be divided into volumes, gatherings,
and pages (Swales 1990). Also, structural units of this kind are most often used to
identify specific locations or reference points within a text (the third sentence of the
second paragraph in chapter ten or page 582), but they may also be used to subdivide a
text into meaningful fragments for analytic purposes (how many paragraphs mention a
specific word or how many pages a book has).

(3) The remaining standards of textuality are user-centred, concerning the activity of textual
communication by the producers and receivers of texts. A language configuration must
be ‘intended’ to be a text and ‘accepted’ as such in order to be used in communicative
interaction, that’s why we shall examine the attitudes of intentionality and acceptability
together. They both involve some tolerance towards disturbances of cohesion or coherence,
as long as the purposeful nature of the communication is upheld. Hence the production and
reception of texts function as discourse actions relevant to some plan or goal.

Intentionality, on the one hand, subsumes the intentions of text producers, that is, their
attitude. In the most immediate sense of the term, the producer ‘intends’ the language
configuration under production to a cohesive and coherent text instrumental in fulfilling the
writer intentions. This standard deals with the pragmatic perspective of discourse, that is, the
conversational maxims of co-operation: quantity, quality, relation and manner on saying ‘be
informative, be truthful, be relevant and be brief’ (first, quality envisages messages to be
truthful; quantity , by means of which messages should be as informative as is required, but
not more informative; relation, for messages to be relevant; and manner, where messages
should be clear, brief and orderly). Acceptability, on the other hand, concerns the receiver
attitude. Here a set of occurrences should constitute a cohesive and coherent text having
some use or relevance for the receiver in an appropriate context of communication.

(4) Informativity concerns the extent to which the occurrences of the text are expected vs.
unexpected or known vs. unknown or uncertain. Usually, this notion is applied to
content, but occurrences in any language system might be informative. The emphasis on
content, that is, content words (verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs), arises from the
dominant role of coherence in textuality, while language systems like phonemes or
syntax seem to have focused less attention. Content words activate more extensive and
diverse cognitive materials and can elicit more pronounced emotions or mental images
than can function words (articles, prepositions and conjunctions). Hence we expect
different types of texts (poetic, scientific, literary, etc).

(5) Situationality concerns the factors which make a text “relevant to a current or recoverable
situation of occurrence” (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988). The effects of a situational setting
are very rare when there is no mediation and therefore, the extent to which one feeds one’s
own beliefs and goals into one’s model of the current communicative situation. Yet, the
accessible evidence in the situation is fed into the model along with our prior knowledge and
expectations about how reality is organized but then, we guide the situation through situation
monitoring and situation management, which can vary depending on the views of the
individual participants (i.e. in dramatic texts, as a subclass of literary texts, there exist
the prerogative of presenting alternative organizations for objects and events in live
presentations (prologue, unusual frequency of events, actions with no reason, etc).

(6) Finally, intertextuality concerns the factors which make the use of one text dependent upon
knowledge of one or more previously encountered texts, that is, the ways in which the
production and reception of a given text depends upon the participants knowledge of other
texts. The usual mediation is achieved by means of the development and use of text types,
being classes of texts expected to have certain traits for certain purposes: descriptive,
narrative, argumentative, literary and poetic, scientific and didactic. Usually, the are defined
along functional lines (descriptive: to enrich knowledge spaces; narrative: to arrange actions
and events; argumentative: to promote the acceptance of certain beliefs; and so on).

The above seven standards of textuality are called constitutive principles (Searle 1965), in that
they define and create textual communication as well as set the rules for communicating. There
are also at least three regulative principles that control textual communication: the efficiency of a
text is contingent upon its being useful to the participants with a minimum of effort; its
effectiveness depends upon whether it makes a strong impression and has a good potential for
fulfilling an aim; and its appropriateness depends upon whether its own setting is in agreement
with the seven standards of textuality (Beaugrande & Dressler 1988).

3.2. On defining context.

The term context means literally ‘accompanying text’ and it is defined as ‘the state of affairs of a
communicative situation in which communicative events take place’ (van Dijk, 1981). A context
must have a linguistically relevant set of characteristics for the formulation, conditions and rules
for the adequate use of utterances, for instance, it must be ‘appropriate’ and‘satisfactory’ for the
given utterance. Moreover, the notion of context is rather static when it is merely used to refer to
a state of affairs. Hence we may introduce the term ‘communicative’ so that an event may be
successful if a given context changes into a specific new context (i.e. speaking face to face vs.
speaking on the phone).
3.2.1. The context of situation.

The term ‘situation’, meaning the ‘context of situation’ in which a text is embedded, refers to all
those extra-linguistic factors which have some bearing on the text itself. These external factors
affect the linguistic choices that the speaker or the writer makes on the basis of the nature of the
audience, the medium, the purpose of the communication and so on. The concept of ‘context of
situation’ was formulated by Malinowski in 1923 2 and further on, Hymes (1969) categorized the
speech situation in terms of eight components: form and content of text, setting, participants,
ends (intent and effect), key, medium, genre and nteractional norms. It is within this context that
we shall develop later the construct of register (linguistic features typically related to situational

Following Halliday and Hasan (1976), “the use of context in the collocation context of situation
seems to us a metaphorical extension. But it is fairly easy to see that there is a logical continuity
from naming (referring to a thing independently of the context of situation), through situational
reference (referring to a thing as identified in the context of situation) to textual reference
(referring to a thing as identified in the surrounding text); and in this perspective, situational
reference would appear as the prior form”. In fact, the nature of a text is closely related to the
context of situation in which it takes place.

The context makes explicit the basis on which utterances are formed by the speaker and received
by the listener. In other words, the context of situation is related to the material, social and
ideological environment whe re those words are uttered. The linguistic patterns make it possible
to identify what features of the environment are relevant to linguistic behaviour and so form part
of the context of situation (here again we prepare the ground for the concept of register).
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Chapter 4 approaches the concept of text from two main perspectives: (1) the main criteria for
text typology by means of which we review basic principles for all types of texts regarding
literary devices, order and sequence elements and common text structures; and (2) a text type
classification and description.

4.1. Text typology: main criteria.

4.1.1. Literary devices.

Before providing a brief account of text types and their respective instances within a literary
production, it is relevant to mention those basic principles (or main criteria) by which all text
types are interrelated as literary productions, that is, lay behind the notion of intertextuality, as
we shall see below.

Literary texts are formed from constituents that are not always immediately recognizable, such
as specific conditions of production, contradictory cultural discourses, and intercultural
processes. For such reasons, literary texts may be polysemous, having a range of in terpretive
possibilities. However, there are some basic principles of literature which have common
characteristics that make it possible for them to be classified into genres and text types.

These basic principles are considered to be literary elements and devices to evaluate how the
form of a literary work and the use of literary elements and devices, such as setting, plot, theme,
and many more to be mentioned, contribute to the work’s message and impact. Among the basic
principles of literature applied to all text types, we may find that the subject is expressed in terms
of theme ; the writer approaches this subject with a specific point of view, both physical and
psychological, and from a definite perspective; the writer’s attitude toward a subject is expressed
through his voice, real and assumed, which is marked by a distinctive tone. Satire, irony, and
hyperbole are special attitudes and tones.

It was published in a supplement called ‘The Meaning of Meaning’ which further developed into a paper called ‘Personality
and language in society’ (1950).
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Furthermore, the distinctive voice of the writer speaks through his style, which essentially is a
product of language, the choice and combination of words, sentence structures, and the rhythms
of larger elements; the writer also structures the material of experience into artistic forms and
patterns; contrast and likeness of elements are important aspects of pattern and form, and are
heightened through repetition, balance, and the internal rhythms of the piece itself.

4.1.2. Order and sequence.

Moreover, basic to the concept of form is the notion of order and sequence, which can be logical,
chronological, or psypchological; much of literature deals with storied elements which have their
genesis in some type of conflict; plot, then, moves from complication, through conflict, to
resolution where deeper levels of meaning are suggested through image, metaphor, and symbols;
such storied literature takes place in a real or imagined setting, within a time and a place; and
finally, participants are considered to be characters, and the reality they represent is

4.1.3. Text structure.

By studying the textual and lexical elements of text types, one can learn to regularly recognize
the overall structure of a text. For example, if one finds lexical signals that indicate situation-
problem-response-result (Hoey 1994), we can know with some certainty that we are dealing with
a Problem-Solution test. When one identifies vocabulary items that signal doubt or skepticism,
(words such as appear, suggests, speculation, etc.), we know we are dealing with a Claim-
Counterclaim structure. In fact, while the sequence of these structures may be varied, we should
always find all the elements we are looking for in a well-formed text.

Following a general division of any kind of text we may sometimes begin with a brief heading
or descriptive title, with or without a byline, an epigraph or brief quotation, or a salutation, such
as we may find at the start of a letter. They may also conclude with a brief trailer, byline, or
signature. Elements which may appear in this way, either at the start or at the end of a text
division proper, are regarded as forming a class, known as divtop or divbot respectively .
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The following special purpose elements are provided to mark features which may appear only at
the start of a division. Firstly, the head, which may contain any heading, such as the title of a
section, a list or a glossary. Sometimes regarding text type, the heading may be categorized in a
meaningful way to the encoder. Secondly, an epigraph which contains a quotation, anonymous
or attributed, appearing at the start of a section or chapter, or on a title page. Thirdly, an
argument in terms of a formal list or prose description of the topics addressed by a subdivision
of a text. Finally, an opener which groups together dateline, byline, salutation, and similar
phrases appearing as a preliminary group at the start of a division, especially of a letter. The
conclusion will be characterized by a brief trailer of the subject matter as a summary of facts. A
byline or a signature may also conclude any piece of writing.

4.2. Text types: classification and description.

Literary works are not created merely in an individual author’s mind. A literary work can be said
to have a ‘personality’ of its own, which is interwoven with the ruling social and cultural
circumstances. However, a literary text is influenced not only by the social and political
circumstances of its time. It is also engaged in a dialogue with other texts to which it relates,
critically or affirmatively. This process is called intertextuality.

Moreover, literary works do not occur in isolation, but as members of groups, as a novel among
novels, a poem among poems, or a drama among dramas. Historically and structurally, they are
connected to other works of the same genre, as well as other genres. The relationship between
text types and genres is not straightforward since genres reflect differences in external format
and text types may be defined on the basis of cognitive categories (Smith 1985). For all genres,
intertextuality is a basic feature. If each literary work relates to other works and other forms, it is
also influenced in subtle ways by the form or medium in which it is presented. A literary text is
capable of changing its manner of access and presentation.

For 2,400 years there have been two traditions of classifying texts. The first one, deriving from
Aristotle’s Rethoric, where the term rethoric refers to the uses of language. More specific, it refers to
modes of discourse realized through text types, thus narration, description, directive, exposition
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and argumentation. Within the second tradition, rethoric refers to communicative function as
rethorical strategies. According to Trimble (1985) we may classify texts in two ways. Firstly,
according to purpose, and secondly, according to type or mode.

According to purpose, in terms of communicative functions, the discourse is intended to inform,

express an attitude, persuade and create a debate. According to type or mode, the classification
distinguishes among descriptive, narrative, expository, argumentative, and ins trumental modes
(Faigley & Meyer 1983). Here the focus is on functional categories or rhetorical strategies
regarding abstract meaning. However, genre refers to completed texts, communicative functions
and text types, being properties of a text, cut across genres. Thus informative texts (newspaper
reports, TV news, and textbooks); argumentative texts (debates, political speeches, and
newspaper articles).

Analytic interpretation of texts in all genres should become part of every literary student’s basic
competence (B.O.E., 2002). There are hidden influences at work beneath the textual surface: these
may be sociocultural, inter and intratextual, or ecological. The literary student has to discover these,
and wherever necessary apply them in further examination. Interpreting a literary text thus calls for a
fundamental interest in making discoveries, and in asking questions. The main aims that our currently
educational system focuses on are mostly sociocultural, to facilitate the study of cultural themes, as
our students must be aware of their current social reality within the European framework.

According to Brown and Yule (1983), one of the pleasures of teaching the written language is
that it is so easy to provide good models of almost any kind of writing. We may find models of
texts and models of sentences created for different purposes. We will deal with in this section
with models of texts, as models of sentences will be examined in section six under the heading of
routines and formulae speech. In each case the model is one which the student can profitably
base his own production on and, if he copies the model carefully, the teacher can tell him that
what he produces is right. This comfortable notion of correctness is a good deal less obvious
when it comes to teaching the spoken language since native spoken language reveals so many
examples of slips, errors, and incompleteness that we do not have when writing.

Therefore, this continuum of activities that range from the more mechanical or formal aspects of
“writing down” on the one end, to the more complex act of composing on the other end, are
generally classified, as mentioned above, as mainly narrative, descriptive, expository,
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argumentative and instructive texts. Accordingly, these texts belong predominantly to the
category or text types of narration, description, exposition, argumentation and instruction. We
shall provide in five subsections their basic characteristics.

4.2.1. Narration.

The purpose of a narrative text is to entertain, to tell a story, or to provide an aesthetic literary
experience. Narrative text is based on life experiences and is person-oriented using dialogue and
familiar language (Wolpow, & Zintz 1999). Narrative text is organized using story grammar. The
genres that fit the narrative text structure are folktales (wonder tales, fables, legends, myths, tall
tales, and realistic tales); contemporary fiction; mysteries, science fiction, realistic fiction,
fantasy, and historical fiction.

A main feature of narrative texts is the telling of a story of events or actions that have their
inherent chronological order, usually aimed at presenting facts. This story telling involves the
participation of elements such as characters and characterization, setting, plot, conflict, and
theme. Besides, we find other two relevant narratives features which deal with the order of
events, and the narrator’s point of view. Telling a story does not mean, necessarily, that we are
dealing with fiction. So instances of narrative texts are novels, short stories (including myths,
folk tales, and legends), poetry, plays, drama and non-fiction. Also, news story, a biography or a
report are text forms that generally adhere to the narrative text types.

Thus, regarding characters, they may be classified as main characters if they are the protagonists,
or supporting characters if they are secondary to the development of the plot. A similar, but
different term is characterization which refers to the way the author portrays stereotypes, and it
is often related to medieval literary texts where morals were identified in a fable and folk tales.
In relation to the setting, we may say it refers to the environment, the context, and the
circumstances of the story, that may happen in real or imaginery situations. Since the plot
involves the action around which the story is developed, the conflict is directly related to it, as it
is usually drawn from complication, through conflict, to a solution,stated or open-ended.
Finallly, the theme is concerned with an interesting and attractive issue which will be the starting
point to develop the story, thus love, injustice, or a murder.
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The order of events that are structured by time, rather than space, is what marks a text as
narrative. The order is given by the focus on the story ending. Therefore, we may find three
types of narrative developments. Firstly, in order to know the ending of the story, we shall find a
linear development which follows a chronological order from the beginning to the end of the
story. Secondly, if the focus is not on the ending but on the circumstances leading to the ending,
events may start at the end of the story and be described, then, in terms of flash-backs in order to
attract the reader’s attention. Thirdly, if the focus is on both the beginning and the ending, the
telling may start at an intermediate point within the story for events to be described in terms of
backwards and forwards movements. This technique is to be called in medias res narration.

Moreover, another relevant feature within narrative te xts is the narrator’s point of view. Thus,
the narrator is the person who tells the story, and therefore he is in charge of introducing the
characters, and explaining the circumstances in which events may take place. He is, in fact, the
one who makes the story telling a lively and dynamic text. As a result, there are three different
perspectives depending on the point of view the narrator describes events, thus a first person
narration where the the narrator is an omniscient character who knows every detail in the story
and takes part in it as any other character, that is, as a main or supporting character, or as a
witness. When the narrator and the main character are the same person, we refer to an
autobiography. Secondly, a second person narration where the narrator becomes both narrator
and character at the same time, addressing to himself. Thirdly, a third person narration where the
narrator is the author and it is a mere witness in the story.

4.2.2. Description.

The purpose of a descriptive text is to describe and present the attributes and features of people,
animals, items and places, or to provide a detailed, neutral presentation of a literary situation.
Descriptive texts are usually based on material objects, people or places, rather than with
abstract ideas or a chronological sequence of events. In opposition to narrative texts, descriptive
texts tend to be structured in terms of space, rather than time (Halliday and Hasan 1976). The
genres that may fit into the descriptive text structure are brochures, descriptions of animals, or
descriptions of scientific and technical concepts. Yet, the descriptive process is to be compared
to the painting process because of the details the reader may perceive through most of the senses.
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We may distinguish first, types of descriptions regarding the description of people and animals
(prosopographic), the description of landscapes (topographic), and the description of objects. On
the other hand, there are other types of description concerning the mode of discourse, thus
scientific, literary, static and dynamic. Firstly, the scientific description is concerned with the
notions of objectivity and rigour. Mechanisms, different phenomena, or reactions are accurately
described in terms of external appearance, elements, and features, mainly in technical and
scientific research. Secondly, the literary description is concerned with the writer’s subjectivity,
where his or her point of view is emphasized, regarding practical and sensorial things, such as
the five senses: hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and seeing.

Within the static description, the writer describes in a precise way the object which is placed
statically at a certain distance. It is depicted by means of photographic techniques, giving details
on shape, size, colour, material, among other aspects. Finally, the dynamic description is featured
by movement. Thus, the object is progressively described as the writer sees it passing by. In it,
the writer describes the reality in front of him by means of a cinematographic technique through
which he makes the reader discover the object at the same time as him.

Descriptive texts are usually aimed at precision and clarity. The choice of words may range from
metaphors, similes or comparisons in order to give as many details as possible in terms of colour,
height, length, beauty, or material type. The vocabulary used can therefore be expected to be exact
and price, the overall style neutral, unemotional and sometimes technical and dry to the point of
boredom. Qualifying adjectives and relative sentences may also enrich the descriptive process.

Usually in descriptive writing, the main topic is introduced and then the attributes are included in the
body of the paragraph. An organized structure may be used to map the indiv idual characteristics or
traits of the topic being introduced. This structure can be expected to be mirrored in the text by means
of different paragraphs which would deal with different parts of the object described. For instance, in
the description of a person’s physical appearance, the first paragraph may deal with an overall
impression of the individual regarding average age, beauty, height, or weight; the second with his
head description in detail, thus hair, eyes, mouth, or eyebrows; the third with his body, thus arms,
legs, and so on; and the fourth with special body features.
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4.2.3. Exposition.

Expository texts are usually written in attempts at analyzing, explaining, describing and presenting
events, facts and processes that may be quite complicated. Besides, they may be used to persuade as
well. Their structure would be determined mainly by logical coherence, but aspects of time and space
may also be quite important, depending on the subject-matter. It is thus not always easy to
differentiate between expository texts and narrative or descriptive texts, especially as expository texts
sometimes include elements of narration or description. An expository essay should be fairly detailed
and precise in order to convey accurate and objective information.

The organization of the structure of expository text is dependent upon the form or genre, and,
therefore it may include a letter, a brochure, a map, essays, speeches, lab procedures, journal
entries, government documents, newspaper and magazine article s, and directions, among other
things. Moreover, the language used in expositions is virtually always neutral, objective and
analytical. You would not expect to find emotionally loaded terms or subjective comments in an
expository text.

First, students ne ed to understand the characteristics of an expository text. A narrative text includes
such elements as a theme, plot, conflict, resolution, characters, and a setting. Expository texts, on the
other hand, explain something by definition, sequence, categorization, comparison-contrast,
enumeration, process, problem-solution, description, or cause-effect. Where the narrative text uses
story to inform and persuade, the expository text uses facts and details, opinions and examples to do
the same. There are, however, seven basic structures of expository text and researchers recommend
that teachers begin to teach expository text structure at the paragraph level. Heller (1995) lists the
following text structures: definition, description, process (collection, time order, or listing),
classification, comparison, analysis, and persuasion. Included for each type of text structure will be
designed questions that can be asked for each text structure. Expository text is subject-oriented and
contains facts and information using little dialogue.

4.2.4. Argumentation.

Argumentative texts are intended to convince, or only to persuade, the reader of a certain point of
view, or to understand the author’s reason for holding certain views on a matter under discussion.
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This subject-matter may often be a controversial issue, but that is not a necessary requirement of
argumentative texts. Argumentative texts include demonstration brochures, government
speeches, debates, face-to-face discussions, thesis and the research field.

The author will analyze the question or problem he wishes to discuss and will present his own
opinion to the reader, along with the arguments that lead him to this opinion. Most argumentative
texts weigh the pros and cons of the issue, but simpler argumentations may restrict themselves to
merely one side of the debate. The argumentation in these simpler texts would thus be linear in
nature, while more complex argumentations can be expected to be dialectical

A framed layout is to be applied in these type of texts. Firstly, the writer starts by stating the idea that
constitutes the starting point of the argumentation, and besides he also holds a subjective position
regarding the stated issue. Secondly, within the development body of the text, the writer must support
his assertion by means of presenting good, convincing and solid arguments for, and poor,
unconvincing and dubious if the arguments are against the issue. Also, the writer illustrates his view
with several examples to prove the assertion made above. His aim is to persuade the reader about the
rejection or acceptance of the theory stated. Finally, the author concludes by presenting his arguments
in a neutral or balanced way on the convinction of persuading the reader through his line of
reasoning. His line of argumentation must be consistent, logical and conclusive.

In any argumentative text, the language used by the author will, to a greater or lesser degree,
reflect his personal views on the subject-matter. It is generally less neutral than the style
employed in other non-fictional texts and may, in some cases, make use of devices such as irony
or sarcasm, as well as rather emotional terminology and phrases that express a clear opinion. You
would also expect to find more of the stylistic devices common in fictional texts in
argumentation than in any other type of non-fictional text.

4.2.5. Instruction.

Instructive texts exist for the sole purpose of telling their reader what to do in a clearly specified
situation, usually referring to future activities (Wolpow, and Zintz, 1999). While an argumentative
text may very well try to persuade the reader to engage in a certain course of action, the author of an
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instructive text assumes that the reader knows very well what he wants to do, but he needs to be
told how to do it.

A typical example of an instructive text might be a recipe in a cookery-book or the user’s

manual giving instructions for a high-tech product. The author´s style and choice of words are
generally fairly objective and unemotional although decisions the author makes about structure
and word choice contribute to the effect of the literary production on the reader, as assembly and
operation instructions.

The style in instructive text is simple, straight-forward and aimed at utmost precision. However,
sometimes the reader may find a sheet of instructions that has been translated from Korean into
Japanese, which in turn, has been translated from English into German, in which case the
language tends to make no sense. This fact may leave the reader with an emotional sensation of
feeling helpless and confused.

You can often recognize instructive texts simply by the fact that the syntax is dominated by
simple imperatives, sentences in the passive form, and suggestive remarks. Besides, stage
directio ns take the form of simple present tense. Regarding the use of vocabulary, there is an
emphasis on technical and impersonal use of vocabulary.


5.1. On defining register.

As stated above, the concept of register can be usefully supplemented by that of cohesion since
the two together effectively define a text. Following Halliday & Hasan (1976), “a text is a
passage of discourse which is coherent in these two regards: it is coherent with respect to the
context of situation, and therefore consistent in register”. Neither of these two conditions is
sufficient without the other, nor does the one by necessity entail the other.

The term ‘register’ is closely related to that of situational reference, that is, referrring to exophoric
(situational) and also endophoric (textual) reference. Within the latter type , ‘register’ is related to
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anaphora (elements referring to preceding text) and cataphora (referring to following text). One
of the features that distinguish different registers is the relative amount of exophoric references.
If the situation is one of ‘language -in-action’, with the language playing a relatively small and
subordinate role in the total event, the text is likely to contain a high proportion of instances of
exophoric reference. Hence it is often difficult to interpret a text of this kind if one only hears it
and has no visual record avalaible (i.e. a conversation between an adult and a four-year-old child.
For instance: Child:- “Why does “that” one come out?”/Father: -“That what?”/ Child: -“THAT
one!”/Father: - “That what?”/Child: “That ONE!).


6.1. New directions on language teaching.

From a practical perspective in education, providing experiences for contact with language in
context proved difficult for foreign language teachers as they were forced to rely on textbooks
and classroom materials in teaching language. However, nowadays new technologies may
provide a new direction to language teaching as they set more appropriate context for students to
experience the target culture. Present-day approaches deal with a communicative competence
model in which first, there is an emphasis on significance over form, and secondly, motivation
and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies.

Regarding writing skills, there is a need to create classrooms conditions which match those in
real life and foster acquisition, encouring reading and writing, and within this latter one, to
distinguish text types and its main characteristics. The success partly lies in the way the language
becomes real to the users, feeling themselves really in the language. Some of this motivational
force is brought about by intervening in authentic communicative events. Otherwise, we have to
recreate as much as possible the whole cultural environment in the classroom.

This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular, the
Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of
foreign languages where students are intended to carry out several communication tasks with
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specific communicative goals within specific contexts and registers. Thus, foreign language
activities are provided within the framework of social interaction, personal, professional and
educational fields.

Writing skills are mentioned as one of the aims of our current educational system (B.O.E. 2002)
and in particular, for students about how to write a narration, argumentation or description. It is
stated that students will make use of this competence in a natural and systematic way in order to
achieve the effectiveness of communication through the different communication skills, thus,
productive (oral and written communication), receptive (oral and written comprehension within
verbal and non-verbal codes), and interactional role of a foreign language as a multilingual and
multicultural identity.

This effectiveness of communication is to be achieved thanks to recent developments in foreign

language education which have indicated a trend towards the field of intercultural communication.
The Ministry of Education proposed several projects within the framework of the European
Community, such as Comenius projects and Plumier projects. The first project is envisaged as a way
for learners to experience sociocultural patterns of the target language (text types) in the target
country, and establish personal relationships which may lead to keep in contact through writing skills.
Besides, the Plumier project uses multimedia resources in a classroom setting where learners are
expected to learn to interpret and produce meaning with members of the target culture.

Current research on Applied Linguistics shows an interest on writing skills, such as on the
pragmatics of writing, narrative fiction and frequency on cohesion devices in English texts,
among others. We may also find research on intercultural communication where routines and
formulaic speech are under revision of contrastive analysis between English and Spanish.
However, the emphasis is nowadays on the use of multimedia and computers as an important
means to promote a foreign language in context.

6.2. Implications in language teaching.

With so much writing in foreign language classes over so many years, one would expect to find
highly effective methods for teaching this skill and marked success in learning it. Unfortunately,
examination papers in composition the world over are, with few exceptions, disappointing. Many
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college and university students with four, five, even six or more years of study of another
language behind them are still unable to express themselves in a clear, correct, and
comprehensible manner in writing (Rivers 1981).

We would do well to examine critically the role of writing in foreign and second-langugage
learning, to analyze what is involved in the process of writing another language, and to trace out
the steps by which this skill can be progressively mastered. At this stage it may be well to recall
two facts often ignored by language teachers, who traditionally have expected students to write
something as a demonstration of learning: first, that many highly articulate persons express
themselves very inadequately in writing in their native language, and, second, that only a
minority of the speakers of any language acquire the skill of writing it with any degree of
finesse, and then only after years of training in school and practice out of school. We must
realize that writing a language comprehensibly is much more difficult than speaking it.

However, follow ing Widdowson (1978), and more recently, the guidelines of the Ministry of
Education (B.O.E.,2002), the writing skill is to be given a prominent role, over past years, in
acquiring a foreign language within the framework of a communicative competence theory. Yet,
there is a need for integrating writing with other language skills such as reading, speaking and
listening, in the belief that this leads to the effectiveness of communication.

Byrne (1979) says that writing serves a variety of pedagogical purposes to be enumerated as follows.
First, writing enables us to provide for different learning styles, needs and speeds. Especially learners
who do not learn easily through oral practice alone feel more secure if they are alllowed to read and
write in the target language. Secondly, it also satisfies a psychological need since written work serves
to provide the learners with some evidence that they are making progress in the language. Thirdly,
being exposed to more than one medium is likely to be very effective.

Thus, writing provides variety in classroom activities and increases the amount of language contact
through work that can be done out of the class. Finally, we have to speak about a practical reason.
Writing is often needed for formal and informal testing. Due to the limit of time available for exams
and to the large number of students per class we are often forced to use some form of written test.

All the above considerations on the advantages and disadvantages of writing strongly suggest that
while still concentrating on aural oral skills in the early stages, we can make good use of writing, as
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part of an integrated skills approach to language learning because it seems it has valuable
pedagogical applications.

It is in listening comprehension and reading that a sophisticated level is required for handling the
language, because in these areas there will be no control over the complexity of the material they
encounter. These are the skills through which we can improve our knowledgde of the language at
a later stage. However, in speaking and writing, the non-native speaker rarely achieves the same
degree of mastery as the native speaker, even after living in a country whre the language is
spoken. What students most need in these production areas is to be able to use what they know
flexibly, making the most of the resources at their command to meet the occasion.


Taking into account text types, context and register, the role of writing skills in present society is
emphasized by the increasing necessity of learning a foreign language as we are now members
of the European Community, and as such, we need to communicate with other countries at oral
and written levels. Written patterns are given an important role when language learners face the
monumental task of acquiring not only new vocabulary, syntactic patterns, and phonology, but
also discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence, strategic competence, and interactional

Students need opportunities to investigate the systematicity of language at all linguistic levels,
especially at the highest level of written discourse. Without knowledge and experience within
the discourse and sociocultural patterns of the target language, second language learners are
likely to rely on the strategies and expectations acquired as part of their first language
development, which may be inappropriate for the second language setting and may lead to
communication difficulties and misunderstandings.

One problem for second language learners is not to acquire a sociocultural knowledge on the foreign
language they are learning, and therefore, have a limited experience with a variety of interactive
practices in the target language, such as reading a complaint sheet, writing a letter to a
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department store, or writing a letter to an English person with the appropriate written patterns.
Therefore, one of the goals of second language teaching is to expose learners to different discourse
patterns in different texts and interactions. One way that teachers can include the study of discourse
in the second language classroom is to allow the students themselves to study language, that is, to
make them discourse analysts (see Celce-Murcia & Olshtain, 2000), by learning in context.

By exploring natural language use in authentic environments, learners gain a greater

appreciation and understanding of the discourse patterns associated with a given genre or speech
event as well as the sociolinguistic factors that contribute to linguistic variation across settings
and contexts. For example, students can study speech acts by searching information on Internet
about a job application, address patterns, opening and closings of museums, or other aspects of
speech events (written discourse).

To sum up, we may say that language is where culture impinges on form and where second
language speakers find their confidence threatened through the diversity of registers, genres and
styles that make up the first language speaker’s day to day interaction. Language represents the
deepe st manifestation of a culture, and people’s values systems, including those taken over from
the group of which they are part, play a substantial role in the way they use not only their first
language but also subsequently acquired ones. The assumptions of discourse analysis, then, are
important not only for understanding written discourse patterns and the conditions of their
production, but also for a critical assessment of our own cultural situation.
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Secundaria Obligatoria en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

B.O.E. 2002. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 113/2002, de 13 de septiembre. Currículo de Bachillerato en la
Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.
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and J. Holmes (eds.), Sociolinguistics, pp. 269-93. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Celce-Murcia, M,. & Olshtain, E. (2000). Discourse and context in language teaching. New York: Cambridge University

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Cook, Guy. 1989. Discourse. Oxford University Press.

Halliday, M.A.K. 1975. Explorations in the Functions of Language. London: Edward Arnold.

Halliday, M.A. K. and R. Hasan. 1976. Cohesion in English. Longman.

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Hedge, T. 2000. Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom (OUP).

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van Dijk, T. 1984. Text and Context: Explorations in the Semantics and Pragmatics of Discourse. London: Longman.

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Revistas de la Asociación Española de Lingüística Aplicada (AESLA):

De la Cruz, Isabel; Santamaría, Carmen; Tejedor, Cristina y Valero, Carmen. 2001. La Lingüística Aplicada a finales del
Siglo XX. Ensayos y propuestas. Universidad de Alcalá.
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