Pomp and Circumstances: From Research, in Practice, for Students
Keywords:academic discourse, circumstances, EAP, circumstantiation, SFL
Circumstances are powerful grammatical tools for representing precision and specificity in the clause, and they add contextual factors necessary for nuanced disciplinary discourse. This type of detail expressed through circumstances is significant in academic discourse, yet it is often neglected in favor of attention to participants and processes. Drawing on our experiences teaching embedded, discipline-specific EAP to multilingual students at Vantage College at the University of British Columbia, we demonstrate how circumstances, and more broadly circumstantiation, generate crucial insights for both comprehension of complex academic materials and generation of student texts. We also show how circumstances are useful grammatical concepts for working across the metafunctions and ranks in multiple ways: transitivity analyses of circumstance types within disciplinary texts, for example, highlight the relationship between their deployment and genre and stage variations. Probe questions provide a pedagogical lens to see detail and context in critical reading and writing. Circumstances support organization by building Theme patterns through the strategic use of marked topical Themes, and convey interpersonal evaluation in academically appropriate ways. Finally, connecting circumstances to broader circumstantial meanings provides a powerful mechanism for paraphrasing with grammatical metaphor. All through our analyses and materials, we illustrate how explicit instruction in circumstances adds to students’ linguistic and analytical repertoires and facilitates powerful insight for how circumstantial information contributes to academic discourse and knowledge-building.
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