Introducing A Topic In The Writing of Chinese Argumentative Essays: Implications of A Genre-Based Investigation for Essay Writing Instruction
Introducing a topic effectively often constitutes a major component in argumentative essay writing, but how an essay is introduced effectively remains an interesting area that has yet to be studied in sufficient detail. This genre-based investigation looked into how professional writers introduce their essays impressively using a broad array of rhetorical strategies and language resources. Its specific objectives are to (i) identify the range of communicative functions as reflected in the rhetorical steps needed in introducing a topic in Chinese argumentative essays, and (ii) explore how these steps are realised using various lexico-grammatical resources. Our study employed (i) the basic move-step analytical framework proposed by Swales (1990, 2004), and (ii) the initial rhetorical categories proposed by Hyland (1990) for argumentative essays. Identification and descriptions of salient language resources were largely based on the categories of linguistic expressions explained by Yip and Rimmington (2004) and Ross and Ma (2006). Three specialist informants were also invited to provide additional information on the percentages of texts containing the specific rhetorical steps concerned and the use of prominent language resources. Based on the analysis, we have found that professional writers of argumentative essays employ two different rhetorical steps, namely ‘presenting a hook’ and ‘signposting the direction’ to effectively introduce their argumentative essays. Interestingly, while ‘signposting the direction’ is used in only a small percentage of the essays, ‘presenting a hook’ is employed in a vast majority of the argumentative essays. We have also found that writers depict current situations using adjectival modifiers that highlight the prevalence of a noteworthy situation in a bid to arrest the interest of their audience. Writers also use verb phrases and predicator-object structures denoting undesirable social behaviours in an effort to warn readers of the alarming situation in society, thus attracting readers’ attention to the issue highlighted in their arguments. While four-character idiomatic expressions illustrating favourite activities are used to capture readers’ interest in the current situation faced in society, expressions denoting variations are employed by writers to depict rapid changes and social transformations, thus adding a dramatic element to the initial portion of an argumentative essay. Recommendations are made in regard to how Chinese language instructors can use the rhetorical strategies and language resources recommended in this study to design exercises aimed at helping learners to appropriately and meaningfully introduce their argumentative essays.
Keywords - Genre studies, discourse analysis, language for academic purposes, Chinese linguistics, argumentative essays, essay introductions