Home > General Overview of the Competency Model > Modes of Cognitive Representation > The Discourse Mode > Literature Note - Discourse Processes

Discourse modeling comprises the ability to model the propositional content of a text within a rhetorical frame. As such it is concerned with the relationship between text structures and rhetorical purposes, whether from an author’s or a reader’s perspective.

There is a close connection between discourse modeling skills and genre, if we view genres as macrostructure text classes (rather than focusing on their social purpose and function). Genres are socially-defined tools within an activity system: conventionalized methods that define characteristic rhetorical moves for achieving standard communicative purposes (Swales, 1990). Genres display characteristic organizational patterns (Donovan & Smolkin, 2002; Kamberelis & Bovino, 1999; Martin & Rose, 2006; Rose, 2006), conform to characteristic styles, and fall within conventional registers and patterns of word choice (Biber, 1988, 1995; Biber & Conrad, 2001; Biber et al., 2004; Biber & Finegan, 1994). The structural elements of genre indicate rhetorical structure (Halladay & Hassan, 1985; Mann & Thompson, 1988), serve as markers of macrostructure for the reader, and provide organizational patterns for the writer. As one might expect, there is evidence that skilled readers, who evince an ability to interpret textual cues effectively, are also better writers (Franzke, Kintsch, & Caccamise, 2005; Moore, 1995).

Not all discourse structure is explicitly cued. Much is inferred while building up a situation model or representation of text content (Kintsch, 1988; van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983). Inference types include predictive inferences, elaborative inferences, and bridging inferences (Clark & Haviland, 1974; Singer, 1994) that establish textual coherence (Kintsch, 1998). Inferences may be founded on social modeling or conceptual reasoning, but not all such inferences belong to the discourse mode, only those that occur automatically for most readers (Long & Golding 1993; Magliano, 1999; McKoon & Ratliffe, 1992; Trabasso, 2005). Experienced writers writing in a familiar genre may be able to write fluently and produce structured, coherent text without advance preparation or revision. The evidence suggests, however, that a key difference between novice and expert writers is that expert writers have a metacognitive understanding of the writing process and consciously control strategies for planning and revision (Harris, Santangelo, & Graham, 2010; Lin, Monroe, & Troia, 2007; Sadler & Graham, 2007; Troia, 2007).

In reading research, what we are terming the discourse mode is usually referred to as the text-base. We avoid this term primarily because it also includes the verbal mode, which we wish to distinguish. The discourse mode is also what is usually viewed as the discourse structure or rhetorical structure in linguistic theory, as in rhetorical structure theory (Mann & Thompson, 1988; Thompson, 2001).

Biber, D. (1988). Variation across speech and writing. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Biber, D. (1995). Dimensions of register variation: A cross-linguistic comparison. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Biber, D., & Conrad, S. (2001). Register variation: A corpus approach. In D. Schiffren, D. Tannen, & H. E. Hamilton (Eds.), Handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 175-196). Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishing.

Biber, D., Conrad, S., Reppen, R., Byrd, P., Helt, M., Clark, V.,…Urzua, A (2004). Representing language use in the university: Analysis of the TOEFL 2000 spoken and written academic language corpus (TOEFL Monograph Series No. MS-25). Princeton, NJ: ETS.

Biber, D., & Finegan, E. (1994). Sociolinguistic perspectives on register. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Clark, H. H ., & Haviland, S. E.. (1974). Comprehension and the given-new contract. In R.O. Freedle (Ed.), Discourse production and comprehension (pp. 1-40). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Donovan, C. A., & Smolkin, L. B. (2002). Children's genre knowledge: An examination of K-5 students' performance on multiple tasks providing differing levels of scaffolding. Reading Research Quarterly, 37, 428-465.

Franzke, M., Kintsch, E., & Caccamise, D. (2005). Summary Street®: Computer support for comprehension and writing. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 33, 53-80.

Halliday, M. A. K., & Hasan, R. (1985). Cohesion in English. London, England: Longman.

Harris, K. R., Santangelo, T. & Graham, S. (2010). Metacognition and strategies instruction in writing. In H.S. Waters & W. Schneider (Eds.), Metacognition, strategy use, and instruction (pp. 226-256). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Kamberelis, G., & Bovino, T. D. (1999). Cultural artifacts as scaffolds for genre development. Reading Research Quarterly, 34(2), 138-170.

Kintsch, W. (1988). The role of knowledge in discourse comprehension: A construction-integration model. Psychological Review, 95(2), 163-182.
Kintsch, W. (1998). Comprehension: A paradigm for cognition. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Lin, S. C., Monroe, B. W. & Troia, G. A. (2007). Development of writing knowledge in grades 2-8: A comparison of typically developing writers and their struggling peers. Reading and Writing Quarterly 23(3), 207-230.

Long, D. L., & Golding, J. M. (1993). Superordinate goal inferences: Are they automatically generated during comprehension? Discourse Processes, 16, 55-73.

Magliano, J. P. (1999). Revealing inference processes during text comprehension. In S. R. Goldman & A. C. Graesser (Eds.), Narrative comprehension, causality and coherence: Essays in honor of Tom Trabasso (pp. 55-76). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Mann, W. C., & Thompson, S. (1987). Relational propositions in discourse. Discourse Processes, 9, 57-90.

Martin, J. R., & Rose, D. (2006). Genre relations: Mapping culture. London, England: Equinox.

McKoon, G., & Ratcliff, R. (1992). Inference during reading. Psychological Review, 99, 440-466.

Moore, S. R. (1995). Focus on research questions for research into reading-writing relationships and text structure knowledge. Language Arts, 72, 598-606.

Rose, D. (2006). Reading genre: A new wave of analaysis. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 2(1), 2006.

Sadler, B., & Graham, S. (2005). The effects of peer-assisted sentence-combining instruction on the writing performance of more and less skilled young writers. Journal of Educational Psychology 87(1), 43-54.

Singer, M. (1994). Discourse inference processes. In M. A. Gernsbacher (Ed.), Handbook of psycholinguistics (pp. 479-515). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, G. (2001). Interaction in academic writing: Learning to argue with the reader. Applied Linguistics, 22(1), 58-78.

Trabasso, T. (2005). The role of causal reasoning in understanding narratives. In R. L. Venezky, T. Trabasso, & D.W. Massaro (Eds.),From orthography to pedagogy: Essays in honor of Richard L. Venezky (pp. 81-106). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Troia, G. A. (2007). Research in writing instruction: What we know and what we need to know. In M. A. Pressley & A.K. Billman (Eds.), Shaping literacy achievement: Research we have, research we need (pp. 129-156). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

van Dijk, T. A., & Kintsch, W. (1983). Strategies of discourse comprehension. New York, NY: Academic Press.

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