Getting It Together

A Genre Analysis of the Rhetorical
Structure of Open University Television
Programmes in Science & Technology

By Rowena Jansson
December 2001
Department of English, Lund University
ISBN: 91-974023-1-1
212 pages, 6" x 8 3/4"
$57.50 Paper Original

Open University television programs in scientific and technical subjects are organized linguistically. Analyzing the programs from a genre perspective has shown that there is an underlying episodic structure of which two basic patterns of discourse - one, a situation-problem-solution-evaluation pattern, and the other a demonstration-explanation-summary pattern - form the episodes.

The parts of the over-all patterns are called Sections and while these follow the same sequential order within an Episode, they also operate in a complex system of subordination. An interesting feature which the analysis revealed was that metadiscourse can play an important role in linking some of the larger rhetorical units. These linking devices are called Transitions and they are found to have a number of functions, both pedagogical and organizational.

As might be expected using television as a medium of instruction, visual signals have a large part to play in the identification of these rhetorical units. Linguistic signals are important in their analysis also - particularly prosodic features. The programs were transcribed orthographically into pause-defined groups. It became apparent that longer pauses together falling intonation consistently indicated boundaries in the rhetorical structure.

In fact, the rather casual advice, "After you say something significant, pause!", which the BBC producers give the OU academic presenters of the programs, serves two vital functions: it indicates a significant piece of information to the listerner - the point of the program, and it also indicates stages in the rhetorical organization. These are the pieces from which the programs 'got together', making the unique structure of this fascinating genre.

Language Studies
Lund Studies in English No. 102

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