Saying more with less: 4 ways grammatical metaphor improves academic writing




Vinh To, University of Tasmania

Young children often write as they speak. But the way we speak and the way we write isn’t quite the same. When we speak, we often use many clauses (which include groups of words) in a sentence. But when we write – particularly in academic settings — we should use fewer clauses and make the meaning clear with fewer words and clauses than if we were speaking.

To be able to do this, it’s useful to understand specific written language tools. One effective tool in academic writing is called grammatical metaphor.

The kind of metaphor we are more familiar with is lexical metaphor. This is a variation in meaning of a given expression.

For example, the word “life” can be literally understood as the state of being alive. But when we say “food is life”, metaphorically it means food is vital.

Grammatical metaphor is different. The term was coined by English-born Australian linguistics professor Michael Halliday. He is the father of functional grammar which underpins the Australian Curriculum: English.

Halliday’s concept of grammatical metaphor is when ideas that are expressed in one grammatical form (such as verbs) are expressed in another grammatical form (such as nouns). As such, there is a variation in the expression of a given meaning.

There are many types of grammatical metaphor, but the most common is done through nominalisation. This is when writers turn what are not normally nouns (such as verbs or adjectives) into nouns.




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For example, “clever” in “she is clever” is a description or an adjective. Using nominalisation, “clever” becomes “cleverness” which is a noun. The clause “she is clever” can be turned into “her cleverness” which is a noun group.

“Sings” in “he sings”, which is a doing term or a verb, can be expressed by “his singing”, in which “singing” is a noun.

In these examples, the adjective “clever” and the verb “sings” are both expressed in nouns — “cleverness” and “singing”.

Grammatical metaphor, which is often done through nominalisation like in the examples above, typically features in academic, bureaucratic and scientific writing. Here are four reasons it’s important.

1. It shortens sentences

Grammatical metaphor helps shorten explanations and lessen the number of clauses in a sentence. This is because more information can be packed in noun groups rather than spread over many clauses.

Below is a sentence with three clauses:

When humans cut down forests (clause one), land becomes exposed (2) and is easily washed away by heavy rain (3).

With grammatical metaphor or nominalisation, the three clauses become just one.

Deforestation causes soil erosion.

“When humans cut down forests” (a clause) becomes a noun group – “deforestation”. The next two clauses (2 and 3) are converted into another noun group – “soil erosion”.

2. It more obviously shows one thing causing another

Grammatical metaphor helps show that one thing causes another within one clause, rather than doing it between several clauses. We needed three clauses in the first example to show one action (humans cutting down forests) may have caused another (land being exposed and being washed away by heavy rain).

A pencil drawing a bridge between two chasms, with people running over it.
Grammatical metaphor shortens sentences and makes room for more information.
Shutterstock

But with grammatical metaphor, the second version realises the causal relationship between two processes in only one clause. So it becomes more obvious.

3. It helps connect ideas and structure text

Below are two sentences.

The government decided to reopen the international route between New Zealand and Hobart. This is a significant strategy to boost Tasmania’s economy.

Using grammatical metaphor, the writer can change the verb “decided” to the noun “decision” and the two sentences can become one.

The decision to reopen the international route between New Zealand and Hobart is a significant strategy to boost Tasmania’s economy.

This allows the writer to expand the amount and density of information they include. It means they can make further comment about the decision in the same sentence, which helps build a logical and coherent text. And then the next sentence can be used to say something different.

4. It formalises the tone

Using grammatical metaphor also creates distance between the writer and reader, making the tone formal and objective. This way, the text establishes a more credible voice.

While there have been some calls from academics to make writing more personal, formality, social distance and objectivity are still valued features of academic writing.




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It’s taught, but not explicitly

Nominalisation — as a linguistic tool — is introduced in Year 8 in the Australian Curriculum: English. It implicitly appears in various forms of language knowledge from Year 1 to Year 10.

It becomes common across subject areas in the upper primary years. And it is intimately involved in the increasing use of technical and specialised knowledge of different disciplines in secondary school.

But the term “grammatical metaphor” is not explicitly used in the Australian Curriculum: English and is less known in school settings. As a result, a vast majority of school teachers might not be aware of the relationship between grammatical metaphor and effective academic writing, as well as how grammatical metaphor works in texts.




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This calls for more attention to professional learning in this area for teachers and in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programs. This will help equip student teachers and practising teachers with pedagogical content knowledge to teach and prepare their students to write effectively in a variety of contexts.The Conversation

Vinh To, Lecturer in English Curriculum and Pedagogy, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

My favourite detective: Trixie Belden, the uncool girl sleuth with a sensitive moral compass



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Tanya Dalziell, University of Western Australia

In a new series, writers pay tribute to fictional detectives on page and on screen.


Trixie Belden, girl detective, does not rank in the world’s pantheon of cool sleuths. She’s unlikely to appear in a Coen brothers’ film (à la Marge Gunderson in Fargo (1996)), for example. Nor did she issue from the pen of hardboiled, mid-century crime writer Chester Himes.

Instead, she was the creation of Western Publishing — the American maker of Little Golden Books who wanted to market low-cost mysteries and adventures to children after the second world war — and Julie Campbell, a writer and literary agent who responded to their call.




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Campbell wrote the first six books in the series from 1948 to 1958. The rest, some 30 or so, were composed by ghostwriters between 1961 and 1986 and published under the pseudonym, Kathryn Kenny.

As a child, I had no inkling of this origin story. So far as I knew, Trixie Belden was from Crabapple Farm, Sleepyside, in the Hudson River Valley. She had three brothers (two older, one younger) and her best friend was Honey Wheeler, met in the original book, The Secret of the Mansion (1948), which I read more than 30 years after it was first published.

Friends like these

Trixie Belden book cover. Two girls peek through curtain.

Goodreads

Honey was rich and beautiful. So was Diana, who turned up a bit later in the series and was memorably said to have violet eyes. Trixie was neither of these things.

In the first book, at the age of 13, she found her detective vocation by uncovering the fortune of a deceased recluse. She also met its beneficiary. Jim Frayne, a runaway with a brutal stepfather, would become Honey’s adopted brother, Trixie’s blossoming love interest, and a member of the Bob-Whites, Trixie’s club of friends who formed the support cast for the Belden-Wheeler Detective Agency.

Whether searching for a lost weather vane or tracking down an arsonist, Trixie was at the centre of all the mysteries, which I avidly read and reread.




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My attraction to Trixie was not a matter of projection or identification; my world was clearly unlike hers.

I did not anticipate that I would come across a rabid dog; rescue a pilot from a burning aeroplane; or have to suck blood from my brother’s toe to prevent his poisoning by a copperhead. (And that was all in only the first book of the series).

Trixie was obsessed with horses, I was more interested in her setter dog, Reddy. Trixie was terrible at maths, which had yet to cause me trouble.

The differences between us didn’t matter so much as our shared interest in “running all the information through [our] mental computer” (from 1977’s The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest). I wanted to figure things out, just like Trixie. She nonetheless had many amateur sleuth competitors on my primary school reading list.




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Tips for young detectives

I had the non-fiction Detective’s Handbook out on constant library loan. It was instructive in disguise-wearing and decoding. Then there was Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five and The Secret Seven, and also Nancy Drew.

Children's book about detective work

Amazon

The child-groups constituting the two former titles were like the Bob-Whites insofar as they also formed detective communities. Although to my mind they put inordinate value on passwords, badges and boarding school holidays.

Nancy Drew was undeniably admirable in her older sophistication but a little too polished for my still-developing taste. She was confident and self-contained, which is surely why Hollywood created movie versions of her and why the intrusion of the Hardy Boys franchise into her narrative made no sense to me. It wasn’t like she needed any help.

By contrast, Trixie Belden was more accommodating and needing of others. She sometimes said mean things, and would then regret them and apologise.

She knew she wasn’t as pretty as Honey or Diana and, while that worried her a little, she shrugged it off and had far more interesting existential doubts. In the 17th book, The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest, she speaks of feeling as if she were inside a glass box:

All the people of the world march past me … I know that when I can tell just one person who I am, the glass will melt and I can join the parade.

I’m sure at the age of eight or nine I had only a vague idea of what she meant, but it sounded a lot like what growing up was all about.




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Smart and sensitive

Sticky situations, mistaken identities and stolen jewels were always worked out, revealed or returned to their rightful owners in the end. And the motives behind these events weren’t always nefarious.

Book cover: Trixie Belden girl detective mystery

Goodreads

Reassurance was offered in the sympathetic knowledge that circumstances, rather than moral flaws, can bring about bad deeds, and that detection itself trod a fine ethical line.

Trixie’s conscience was pricked by her practices of eavesdropping, surveillance and occasional breaking-and-entering. At times she determined that the status quo, which her detective work ostensibly upheld, was not right.

Maths might have stumped her, but as Honey appreciatively recognised of her friend:

Trixie was a down-to-earth person, keenly aware of information gathered by all of her five senses — plus that extra sense called horse sense.

She might not be cool, today or then, but — well-surpassing her intended pulp-fiction status — Trixie Belden was smart and sensitive in the ways that mattered.The Conversation

Tanya Dalziell, Associate Professor, English and Literary Studies, University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

10 ‘lost’ Australian literary treasures you should read – and can soon borrow from any library



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Rebecca Giblin, University of Melbourne and Airlie Lawson, University of Melbourne

Many culturally important books by Australian authors are out of print, hard to find as secondhand copies, and confined to the physical shelves of a limited number of libraries. Effectively, they have become inaccessible and invisible — even including some Miles Franklin award winners by authors such as Thea Astley and Rodney Hall.

To ensure these works can be read, a team of authors, librarians and researchers are working together on Untapped: the Australian Literary Heritage Project.

By digitising out of print books and making them available for e-lending, the project will create a royalty stream for the authors involved, as well as income for the arts workers we are employing as proofreaders.

Commercial publishing lists, such as Text Classics and Allen & Unwin’s House of Books, do a great job of breathing new life into some of Australia’s lost books. But they often focus on literary fiction, to the exclusion of genre fiction, children’s books and non-fiction, which also need to be preserved.

Here are 10 of our favourites we’re excited to digitise so you can borrow from your local library straight to your e-device. We expect these and other books in the project to be available in the first half of 2021 – and you too can nominate a book for inclusion in the collection here.

Working Bullocks (1926) by Katharine Susannah Prichard

Book cover

Before Coonardoo (1929), Prichard’s best known work, there was Working Bullocks.

The novel describes the trials of Red Burke, a bullock driver in Western Australia, trying to make a living in a post-war Australia.

Just after the novel’s original publication, it was described by John Sleeman of The Bookman in the UK as “the high-water mark of Australian literary achievement in the novel so far”.

Metal Fatigue (1996) by Sean Williams

Sean Williams has written over 50 books, including co-authored titles with authors such as Shane Dix and Garth Nix which have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list.

Metal Fatigue was Williams’ debut. Set in a small American city 40 years after the end of a nuclear war, the residents must decide if they want to join the newly forming Re-United States of America.

Depicting a dystopic future of violence, shortages and a divided USA, it still feels remarkably current today.

I’m Not Racist, But… (2007) by Anita Heiss

Book cover

This poetry collection from activist, writer and member of the Wiradjuri Nation, Professor Anita Heiss, skewers Australia’s racist underbelly.

I’m Not Racist, But… explores identity, pride and political correctness; proposes alternative words to the national anthem; and reveals how it is to grow up as an Indigenous woman in Australia.

This is a landmark work along Australia’s slow road to racial reckoning.

Space Demons (1986) by Gillian Rubinstein

The multi-award winning Space Demons was Gillian Rubinstein’s first book and began the much-loved trilogy of the same name.

It follows four ordinary kids drawn into a dangerous new computer game – instead of simply watching the game on the screen, they become part of it. And there is no way to know if they will escape.

With its gripping plot and local setting, Space Demons introduced many children to Australian science fiction – and led to many Australians first discovering their love of reading.




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Noonkanbah: Whose Land, Whose Law (1989) by Steve Hawke, with photographs by Michael Gallagher

Book cover

In 1979-80, the Yungngora people protested to stop the American company Amax drilling for oil on a sacred site on Noonkanbah Station, Western Australia.

This book is the detailed first-hand account of what became a high profile, ground-breaking land rights campaign, leading to the formation of the Kimberley Land Council. The Yungngora people wouldn’t have their native title rights recognised until 2007.

Alongside the reporting by Hawke, son of former PM Bob Hawke?, the book includes photographs taken by anthropologist Michael Gallagher.

This is an essential work of Australian history.

The Unlucky Australians (1968) by Frank Hardy

Frank Hardy was known for his political activism around labour rights, and as the author of 16 books. Almost his entire backlist is out of print, with the notable exception of Power Without Glory (1950).

In The Unlucky Australians, Hardy tells the story of the Gurindji people and the opening years of the strike they began in 1966.

Their protest against poor working and living conditions, seeking the return of their traditional lands, lasted nine years.

The Whitlam government returned some of those lands in 1975 with the historic transfer of “a handful of dirt” and the strike led to the passage of the historic Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act in 1976.

A vital piece towards understanding the shameful labour conditions inflicted upon Indigenous Australians, this book should never have gone out of print.




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The Mandala trilogy (1993-2004) by Carmel Bird

Inspired by three real life charismatic and dangerous individuals, these dark stories of abused trust and misplaced faith are transformed, taking on a gothic quality, with complex narratives, unlikely narrators and fairy-tale elements.

The White Garden is an ambitious novel following the misdeeds of the psychiatrist Dr Goddard (or Dr God, for short) in a hospital in the 1960s. Red Shoes takes us into the world of a religious cult. Cape Grimm looks at a religious order after its members are killed by their charismatic leader.

The Mindless Ferocity of Sharks (2003) by Brett D’Arcy

The Mindless Ferocity of Sharks is coming-of-age story about “Floaty Boy”, an 11-year-old with a love of body-surfing, his family, and what happens when his older brother disappears.

Described by the Australian Book Review as “Tim Winton on speed”, D’Arcy shines his own spotlight on Western Australia, exploring the duality of a life spent between the waves and the shore – and what happens when a family becomes torn apart by loss.


Untapped will launch with a free online celebration on November 24 at 6pm. Register for the launch here, nominate a book for inclusion at untapped.org.au – and let us know what you think we should digitise in the comments.The Conversation

Rebecca Giblin, ARC Future Fellow; Associate Professor; Director, Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia, University of Melbourne and Airlie Lawson, Postdoctoral Fellow, ‘Untapped: the Australian Literary Heritage Project’, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2020 Readings Prize for New Australian Literature Winner


The link below is to an article reporting on the winner of the 2020 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction as ‘Smart Ovens for Lonely People,’ by Elizabeth Tan.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/10/30/158867/smart-ovens-for-lonely-people-wins-2020-readings-prize-for-new-australian-fiction/

2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals Longlists


The link below is to an article reporting on the longlists for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals.

For more visit:
https://lithub.com/heres-the-longlist-for-the-2021-andrew-carnegie-medals-for-excellence-in-fiction-and-nonfiction/

Six Australians in the Running for the 2021 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award


The link below is to an article reporting on six Australian authors, illustrators and organisations as having been announced as candidates for the 2021 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s richest prize for children’s literature.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/10/30/158875/six-australian-nominees-for-2021-astrid-lindgren-memorial-award/

2020 ARA Historical Novel Prize Shortlist


The link below is to an article reporting on The Historical Novel Society Australasia’s (HNSA) shortlist for the inaugural ARA Historical Novel Prize.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/10/29/158795/inaugural-50k-historical-novel-prize-shortlist-announced/