Contrastive rhetoric

Topics: Linguistics, Language acquisition, Rhetoric Pages: 2 (437 words) Published: September 22, 2013
Contrastive rhetoric

Contrastive rhetoric examines the influence of differences and similarities across cultures on students L2 writing. It is mainly concerned with the influence of the ESL learners’ culture and L1 language on their writing in target language. The concept of contrastive rhetoric was first investigated by Robert Kaplan (1966). In his article entitled “Cultural thought patterns in inter-cultural education”, Kaplan argues that the humans are influenced by the diversity of their linguistic and cultural backgrounds. It affects their perceptions and thoughts about the world, or what Kaplan refers to as “logic”, which is the basis of rhetoric. This logic is believed to be a dynamic and cultural specific phenomenon varying from one culture to another and from time to time within a given culture. Consequently, the variations in linguistic and culture will lead ESL students to unconsciously compose rhetoric and patterns that violate the expectation of the native readers.

In this spirit, Kaplan (1966) analyzed the paragraph organization for nearly 600 ESL students representing three basic language groups. He identifies five types of paragraph orders (Anglo-European, Sematic, Oriental, Romans and Russian languages) each reflecting a distinct rhetorical style from English.

These distinct patterns writing are believed to have an influence on the paragraph organization in ESL students essay writing. ESL students may negatively transfer their native language patterns of rhetorical organization to the target language i.e. English language composition though the original patterns of writing may not commensurate with the new writing style. Kaplan, hence, proposed contrastive rhetoric as a possible pedagogical answer to overcome the cultural and the linguistic barrier in L2 writing stating that “ These patterns need to be discovered or uncovered and compared with the patterns of English in order to arrive at a particular means for teaching of...
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