Andrew Chesterman


1998b. Contrastive Functional Analysis. Amsterdam: Benjamins.






This book discusses and illustrates one general approach to Contrastive Analysis. It is an approach designated as "functional", in the sense that it is based on meaning and mirrors the process of semiosis: it looks at the ways meanings are expressed. The focus is therefore from meaning to form. More particularly, it starts from perceived similarities of meaning across two or more languages, and seeks to determine the various means by which these similar or shared meanings are expressed in different languages. Additionally, it aims to specify the conditions (syntactic, semantic, pragmatic etc.) which govern the use of the different variants, and ultimately to state which variant is preferred under which conditions. The approach is thus a paradigmatic one, with a Hallidayan-type focus on the options that speakers have in expressing meanings. It is in fact a kind of cross-linguistic variation analysis.

         The work should be of interest to general linguists as well as contrastivists, and may also be appropriate as an advanced textbook for students or graduates writing dissertations or doing research in Contrastive Analysis.

         Chapter 1 goes into some general issues of contrastive methodology in some detail. We start with the concept of similarity, how it can be defined, analysed and assessed. This leads to a comparison of the ways in which the crucial concept of equivalence has been understood and analysed in the two related disciplines of Translation Theory and Contrastive Analysis. The contrastive functional approach advocated in the book is closely related to issues of translation. It also links up with the psycholinguistic concept of interference: the general issue of psychological realism in Contrastive Analysis is discussed, and related to a recent proposal in neurology. The first chapter concludes with an outline of a falsificationist methodology built around the idea that contrastive studies should produce hypotheses than can be empirically tested.

         Chapter 2 specifies what is meant by "functional" in this approach. It provides a brief preliminary outline of a semantic framework forming the basis of a functional syntax, and indicates its main affinities with other functional and contrastive theories. Some practical justifications are offered for adopting a contrastive model based on such an approach.

         Chapter 3 presents the semantic framework in more detail, but non-contrastively. It illustrates the basic concepts, shows the flexibility of the model, and hints at how paradigms of expression can be established intralinguistically, within a constraint of relevant similarity.

         Chapter 4 offers four sample contrastive mini-studies using this approach, at the clause level or below. The samples have been selected to illustrate different aspects of the model; the languages concerned are English, Finnish, German, Swedish and French.

         Chapter 5 then suggests ways in which Contrastive Functional Analysis can be extended beyond clause-level phenomena. The contrastive analysis of textual meaning needs a model of contrastive functional rhetoric. This in turn can be further extended to account for interactional phenomena of contrastive discourse.

         Chapter 6 is a brief conclusion, reviewing the main points of the book by way of a passage from Alice in Wonderland.




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