Article published in:Schrijven in moedertaal en vreemde taal
[Toegepaste Taalwetenschap in Artikelen 40] 1991
► pp. 35–46
Tekststructuur in teksten van onervaren schrijvers; van tekstanalyse naar een criterium voor tekstkwaliteit
What is it that makes a text a good text? The answer to this question is of vital concern to education in writing. Evaluation of children's texts requires explicit and well-founded criteria for text quality. In this article it is argued that text structure should be considered as an important criterion for the evaluation of expository texts. Therefore, a model for the analysis of text structure is proposed. This model is based on and applied to explanations written spontaneously by 11 and 12 year old children, who were asked to explain something (e.g.: "who or what is Santa Claus?") to someone who does not know anything about the subject. The analyis results in a hierarchichal text representation in which the links between text segments (clauses) are made explicit. This is done in terms of the hierarchical position in the text (coordinating or subordinating links) and in terms of the coherence relation that holds between the clauses (e.g. Cause-Consequence, Claim-Argument). To provide problems of subjective interpretation it is proposed to make the analysis explicit by means of an algorithmic procedure that is to be developed . The heart of this analytic procedure is that there are two grounds to connect text segments: referential continuity and a line of events. On the basis of the analysis three types of text structure problems can be identified in children's texts: Discontinuity, incompleteness and ambiguity. All three can also be revised on the basis of the analysis. In the case of discontinuity, the information must be reorganized, in the case of incompleteness information must be added and in the case of ambiguity the relation between segments must be made explicit. The analysis of text structure provides the basis for a criterion for text quality assessment. After all, the major goal of a writer trying to explain something to a reader is that the reader understands what the writer means. Understanding a text means constructing a coherent representation of that text. If readers have trouble in constructing such a representation, the text should be evaluated negatively. This is exactly what the analysis predicts: It is difficult to construct a coherent representation at the points in the text structure where discontinuity, incompleteness and ambiguity occur.
Published online: 24 March 2014