Adjusting Strength and Focus

Reflections on Language for Interacting With Others (Chapter 4) from Adjusting strength and focus (pp.125-142) by Beverly Derewianka

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This part of chapter 4 evolves around adjusting the strength or focus of meaning and/or feelings. First of, we will look at intensifiers. An intensifier increase or decrease the force of a message by using:

  • Adverbs
    “I’m somewhat hungry”
    “You look extremely tired”
  • Adjectives
    “You are a complete fool.”
  • Nouns
    “What a stink!”
  • Verbs
    “I adore you.”

(p.125)

These words can either change intensity e.g., I am quite angry > I’m very angry > I’m extremely angry. Or change the force of the vocabulary item itself e.g. (From mild>medium>high)  I’m anxious > I’m nervous > I’m petrified. The force of a message can also be made less or more powerful by repeating, listing, quantifying or by changing/adding in terms of extend.

The chapter is also concerned with opening up spaces in the language, this is to avoid bare assertions and straightforward statements when interacting with others. We can do this by engaging the listener or reader in various ways:

  • inviting them to consider other perspectives
  • introducing other voices into the discourse
  • opening up (our closing down) spaces for negotiation
  • entertaining other possibilities

(p.127)

To introduce other perspectives and voices into the discourse, is to explicitly refer to what something else has to say about this topic. This attribution ranges from very vague to very specific:

  • Some say…
  • Derewianka states, that…
  • According to research…
  • The experiment showed…
  • He found that…

 

Modality – Probability

Modal auxiliaries are used to temper statements, as described in Cheat Sheet #1.  However, this function can also be expressed by modal adjuncts rather than the modal auxiliary (p.132): E.g. (High modality > Mid modality > Low modality) “Certainly > in all probability > maybe” or “Undoubtedly > apparently > allegedly”. Additionally, modality can be expressed through other grammatical resources:

  • Nouns
    • Possibility, probability, obligation, necessary, requirement
  • Adjectives
    • Possible, probable, obligatory, necessary, required, determined

(p.133)

Furthermore there are other words, that introduce a sense of indefiniteness, such as: Seems, appears and apparently.

Modality – Usuality

Absolute statements; Always / Never

Tempered: Usually, sometimes, usually

As an English language learner becomes aware of modality’s role, they can work more easily with the tenor of the context, because the use of modality depends on the context, meaning, that the usage of modality resources, can help empathise focus and meaning of the message.

 

Contracting the interaction space

These are some of my favourite and most hated words and phrases, as I am both a lover and I fighter – I guess – I’ve spent a great deal of time on aligning and arguing my statements… And despite the categorisation beneath, the tone of which the phrases are expressed, determines their validity or sarcasm.

Aligning:

  • As you would be aware…
  • We could agree that…
  • Of course…
  • Obviously…
  • Naturally…

Influencing:

  • The facts o the matter are…
  • We can only conclude that
  • It is absolutely clear to me…
  • My firm belief is…

Countering:

  • Contrary to popular opinion…
  • Alternatively, we might consider…

Mounting an argument:

  • While we might agree that…
  • Although there is an argument for…
  • Even though we might concede that…
  • However, it must be recognised that…
  • On the other hand…
  • To no-one’s surprise, he lost the match…
  • Amazingly he got away with it….

 

Literature:

Derewianka, B. (2015): A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers. Reprint. PETAA

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