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5 years ago

RW chap8

RW chap8

e conversational in

e conversational in style and structure, even within chapters. Open University courses, for example, were originally conceived as ‘tutorials in print’ (Rowntree 1982) containing ‘self-assessment questions’ for students to monitor their progress. Textbooks such as these are based to a large extent on the work of educational psychologists who have exhaustively investigated the use of inserted questions (reviewed by Anderson & Biddle 1975) 189 —although question and answer sequences in the form of Socratic dialogues and catechisms are, of course, an ancient pedagogic technique. Figure 8.2 From P. Haggett, Geography: a modern synthesis, 2nd edition, London: Harper & Row, 1975). Reduced, original in two colours. Question and answer structures present typographers with what has become known as a ‘routeing’ problem. Some recent case studies have been published in relation to question/answer sequences in textbooks (Waller 1984a) and the design of administrative forms (Waller 1984a; Frohlich 1986). Approaches range from radical alternatives to prose (Lewis, Horabin & Gane 1967, Wright & Reid 1973, Bhatia 1983), interactive computerized alternatives (Frohlich, in press) to enhancements of 189 The original source of the steady stream of papers on inserted questions that appeared in the educational psychology literature of the 1970s was Rothkopf’s theory of ‘mathemagenic’ activity (Rothkopf 1970). The Greek roots of ‘mathema-genic’, a word coined by Rothkopf, suggest ‘giving birth to learning’—his central claim is that it is not so much the structure of texts or curricula that determine effective learning as the activities and attitude of the learner. That is, the use of inserted questions was designed to encourage readers to engage in the learning task with a questioning mind; Rothkopf was able to show the use of questions improved the learning of all aspects of the text, not just the topics focused on by questions. The theory is no longer very fashionable, but could be reinterpreted as an attempt to encourage a conversational approach to learning. See also the critical review by Carver (1972) and reply by Rothkopf (1974). Chapter 8 • 271

conventional techniques (Cutts & Maher 1986; Department of Health & Social Security 1983; Waller 1984a). But whereas textbooks and administrative forms employ explicit questioning techniques, some have suggested that all text can be seen in terms of an implicit dialogue between writer and reader. Coulthard (1985) concludes his book on spoken discourse with an invitation to consider the extent to which techniques for conversational analysis might apply to written text: ‘As you close this book you might like to speculate on the function of full stops. Are they perhaps interaction points, places where the writer thinks the reader needs to stop and ask questions about the previous sentence, questions whose range I initially restrict by the structuring of my argument and which I subsequently answer in the next or later sentences.’ (Coulthard 1985: 192) This is exactly the approach taken, independently, by Winter (1977) 190 and Gray (1977). 191 Gray suggests that whereas dialogue consists of explicit questions and answers, monologue consists of answers that ‘contain’ (or imply) their questions: ‘Composition is “composition” by virtue of the fact that it “puts together” in subject-attribute assertions what in conversation is separated by the speakers—the raising of the questions and the rendering of the answers to them.’ (Gray 1977: 4) A simple demonstration text used frequently by Winter and his colleagues may serve as an example: ‘I was on sentry duty. I saw the enemy approaching. I opened fire. I beat off the attack’. Hoey (1983) imputes the following questions to the imagined reader: 190 An accessible account of Winter’s work has been published by Hoey (1983). It is possible that Hoey, a colleague of Coulthard at the University of Birmingham and warmly acknowledged in his preface, inspired the remarks just quoted. 191 Widdowson (1979: Chapter 13; 1980; 1984: Section 3) also takes the same view and uses the same technique of imputing questions to an imagined reader to explain relationships between assertions. His argument is not pursued as far as those of Winter and Gray, who construct quite elaborate grammars, but it is more completely integrated into the wider literature of pragmatics and cognitive psychology. Chapter 8 • 272

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