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Dialectics versus polemics in Chinese rhetoric: A study of indirection in Chinese and Chinese ESL argumentative writing as compared with English argumentative writing

Lorrita Yeung

Abstract

This study investigates Chinese indirection in argumentative writing. It examines whether there is a fundamental difference between Chinese and English rhetoric in their preferred method of argument, as suggested by instructional materials on how to argue effectively (Liu, Lu. 2005. Rhetorical education through writing instruction across cultures: A comparative analysis of select online instructional materials on argumentative writing. Journal of Second Language Writing 14. 1–18). A comparative analysis of 90 argumentative essays respectively written by expert Chinese and English writers, and advanced Chinese ESL learners reveals that while the English essays tend to adopt a polemical style that persuades by defeating opposing arguments, a significant proportion of the Chinese essays show a dialectical style which examines opposing positions without taking sides and yet rising above them to resolve conflicting issues. A significant number of Chinese ESL writing follow a similar dialectical pattern although not as frequently as their expert writers. A cultural explanation is attempted to account for the phenomenon. It is also argued that the dialectical model, while subsuming earlier rhetorical models adopted for analyzing Chinese writing, may hold the key to studying Chinese differences from the English in written arguments.

摘要:

本文研究中文議論文的迂迴寫法,分析是否正如英语及中文世界裡教授寫作的指南所顯示出來的中英文有基本不同的傾向或偏好。本文分析了90篇文章,平均取自中英學術期刊及中文毌语的大學生英文寫作。研究結果顯示英语議論文傾向採取一個殲滅对手的方式去说服讀者,相反有顯著數目的中文文章卻用辨证法,不採取正反立場而從兩者中找尋出超越正反相方的答案。學生文章中亦有顯著數目用近乎中文學者的辦证寫法。本文提出文化理論去试圖解釋這個現象,同時亦提出運用辨证模式去分析差異,不但可以涵攝早前文獻沿用的分析模式,還可以更精準地掌握中英議論文行文的不同之處。

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Published Online: 2019-04-30
Published in Print: 2019-04-24

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