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Critical Reading and Writing

'Goatly's book provides lucid, clearly illustrated, concise explanations and well thought out exercises that

will give students the competence, confidence and motivation to engage critically with texts. An inval-

uable coursebook.'

Chris Christie, Department of English and Drama, Loughborough University

'For the first time we have a teaching tool for truly international, cross-cultural English Studies, that will

work across a wide range of university faculties and class work ... a much needed synthesis of the "what

and why" of critical language study and the "how-to" of critical writing instruction. We have waited long

enough for a book like this. I'm very glad it's finally here.'

David Stacey, Associate Professor, Humboldt State University

'This is a comprehensive and eminently comprehensible introduction to the basic terms, tools and tech-

niques of discourse analysis. At the same time, unusually, it offers systematic yet sensitive guidance in

practices of critical writing as well as reading.'

Professor Rob Pope, English Studies Department, Oxford Brookes University

Critical Reading and Writing is a fully introductory, interactive textbook that explores the power rela-
tions at work in and behind the texts we encounter in our everyday lives.

Using examples from numerous genres - such as popular fiction, advertisements and newspapers

- this textbook examines the language choices a writer must make in structuring texts, representing the

world and positioning the reader. Assuming no prior knowledge of linguistics, Critical Reading and
Writing offers guidance on how to read texts critically and how to develop effective writing skills.

Features include:

• activities in analysis, writing and rewriting

• an appendix of comments on the activities

• further-reading sections at the end of each chapter

• a glossary of linguistic terms

Written by an experienced teacher, Critical Reading and Writing has multi-disciplinary appeal
but will be particularly relevant for use on introductory English and Communication courses.

Andrew Goatly has taught English Language and Linguistics in colleges and universities in the UK,
Rwanda, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong and is currently Associate Professor at Lingnan University,

Hong Kong. He is the author of The Language of Metaphors (Routledge, 1997).

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discover ourselves and our ideologies in relation to others, the writing projects
suggested in this book should have a real readership. So they are designed to
give experience of analysing and producing the kinds of texts which will be
important in everyday life and professional life, or which, for future teachers, are
likely to be relevant to pupils.

0.4 Describing Text, interpreting Discourse and
explaining Ideology

There are three levels at which we understand and analyse what we read and
write (Fairclough 1989: 25-7). First of all, we decode the surface forms and
meanings of a text, and these meanings can be described. By text we mean "the
physical form which the writing (speaking) takes on the page (in the air) and the
meanings which this physical form encodes". This decoding depends upon
Semantics and answers the question 'What does the Text mean?'

At a second level, we have to interpret what we have decoded, as part of
discourse, working out, for example, to whom it refers and guessing what infer-
ences we are expected to make. By discourse we mean "the act of communica-
tion in which the writer intends to affect a reader, and the reader attempts to
work out the writer's intentions". This interpretation of intention depends upon
Pragmatics, and answers the question 'What does the writer mean by this Text?'

The third level, which we often ignore, is explanation, the end of critical
discourse analysis, showing why the discourse and Text are the way they are. It
asks the question 'What social and ideological forces underlie or determine Text
and discourse meanings?' By ideology we mean "the ways of thinking which
(re)produce and reflect the power structures of society", or, more briefly,
"meaning in the service of power" (Thomson 1984).

Table 0.1 Three levels of Text analysis



Text analysis

coding and describing
interpreting and inferencing
explaining the ideology behind 1 and 2

In this book

Part one
Part two
Part three (Parts one and two)

An example will make this clearer. Let's look at the news report "'Super-
man" may never walk again', (see pp. 4-5) from the International Express, 1-7
June 1995. At the first level, description, we could, for example, note that the first
two lines of the report and the headline are in a larger point size, and that almost
every sentence takes up a whole paragraph. These are features that help us to
place the text in the genre of news report. Or we might note a shift in formality


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between sentence 4 and sentence 5, with 92 per cent single-syllable words in
sentence 4, and only 60 per cent in sentence 5. We could also analyse the phrases
used to refer to and to describe the named characters in this text, noting in-
cidentally that these characters are generally given first position in the sen-

Christopher Reeve

Lisa Kastelere
Gael Exton
Dana Morosini

Superman star, partially paralysed, horse-mad, 43
and 6ft. 4in.
the actor's publicist, upset
British lover

Moving to the second level, discourse interpretation, it's quite clear that we
have to make several inferences in order to understand this passage. We would
infer, for example, that the events described in the last two paragraphs took place
before those in the first six. Or that Reeve's hitting the ground hard (sentence 4)
was the cause of his suspected broken back (sentence 1), since this is not actu-
ally stated. These two inferences are quite uncontroversial, but inferencing is a
risky business and a more controversial inference may be suggested by the in-
formation in sentences 8 and 9. These may imply that Reeve somehow deserved
this 'punishment' for abandoning his British lover and their two children and
striking up a relationship with Dana Morosini.

The description and interpretation levels of understanding and analysis
lead to ideological explanation. For example the description phase shows that
Lisa Kastelere is depicted as 'upset'. This fits neatly into the stereotype of
women as prone to emotions or unable to hide them (Fowler 1991: 101). In addi-
tion, the only nationality adjective used in the passage is 'British', used to
describe Gael Exton. We can explain this if we know the ideological position of
the newspaper. Express Newspapers are British with a capital 'B', unashamedly
nationalistic, featuring the Union Jack flag and a medieval crusader as masthead
adjacent to their title. Reeve's former partner - who was a 'lover', by the way,
not just someone like Dana Morosini with whom he had a 'relationship' - was
British. This might make Britain somehow more important, or at least enable the
British reader to relate more closely to the story. Such a nationalistic background
also provides an ideological explanation for the doubtful interpretation - that the
accident was deserved as a punishment for infidelity.

'Superman' may never walk again

(1) SUPERMAN star Christopher Reeve is in hospital with a
suspected broken back.

(2) His family ordered hospital officials not to give out any information -

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which claim that the increase in the number of cars works against two government

The Chain

The two paragraph patterns we have looked at so far show very tight organisa-
tion. But the chain has a more exploratory or rambling feel about it. It is a design
where the sentences appearing in succession are linked most obviously only to
the previous sentence.

Mosquitoes are the greediest creatures I have ever met, my children not
excluded. They combine the vice of greed with the virtue of persistence,
and buzz around for hours in the darkness seeking out those few patches
of bare white flesh I negligently leave uncovered. Under that flesh, as they
well know, flow pints of that red juicy food known as blood. Blood is to
mosquitoes, what Fosters lager is to Australians. However, it is only the
females which suck blood, the males feeding on nectar. If they both fed on
blood there would be no hope. But, as it is, providing we can live far
enough away from flowers there is some hope that, to find a mate, the
blood-sucking sex will have to keep away from us.

The chain-like structure links one sentence to the next. This cohesion is
achieved by repeating vocabulary, or using pronouns to refer "back" to some-
thing which has come in the previous sentence; for example

Sentences 1-2

Sentences 2-3
Sentences 3-4
Sentences 4-5

Sentences 5-6

Sentences 6-7

bare flesh
males, females
no hope

that flesh
males, females
they both
some hope


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The Balance

The last basic design for paragraphs or texts is the balance. The metaphor sug-
gests a weighing up of descriptive facts, or arguments for and against a proposi-
tion, giving equal proportion to each side, without coming down firmly in favour
of one or the other.

The Institute of Education certainly has a more human scale than the
National University, both in the size of student population and in its archi-
tecture. On the other hand, the University, being more modem in its build-
ings and larger in size, can afford better resources than the Institute. Its
library is one of the best in the region, and the computing facilities are sec-
ond to none. However it is sprawled over Kent Ridge, with narrow bend-
ing walkways which never allow you to see anyone else from a distance,
and this, coupled with its long, bare, windowless corridors gives it a rather
impersonal and sinister atmosphere. The Institute, by contrast, may have
decaying, termite-infested buildings, cave-like offices, and uneven floors,
but it has a more homely, if messy, human feel to it. And while a larger pro-
portion of students at the University are just after a certificate to improve
their chances of material success, the undergraduate at the Institute of Edu-
cation is more likely committed to a worthwhile career, and may be a
kinder kind of soul.

There are several Balances in this paragraph. Very often one sentence is
weighed against another by using words or phrases specifically to point con-
trasts, 'on the other hand', 'by contrast', 'however'. At other times the fulcrum
of the Balance occurs in mid-sentence through use of a conjunction like while.
More generally, the frequent use of comparatives - 'better', 'kinder', 'more' -
gives an overall sense of weighing up two things in opposition.

Sometimes the Balance is unequal. We may have made up our mind
already which side we come down on, and simply concede one or two contrary
arguments to make us appear reasonable. For example

Although pet cats and dogs are invaluable companions for old people, and
are creatures 'for children to learn benevolence upon', these advantages
cannot outweigh the negative impacts they have on the environment. They
consume huge amounts of protein in a world where a quarter of the popula-

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