Using systemic functional linguistics in academic writing development: an example from film studies

Donohue, James P. (2012). Using systemic functional linguistics in academic writing development: an example from film studies. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 11(1) pp. 4–16.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2011.11.003

Abstract

On film studies courses, students are asked to treat as objects of study the same films which they may more commonly experience as entertainment. To explore the role of academic writing in this, an action research project was carried out on a university film studies course using a systemic functional linguistics approach. This paper presents a key assessment essay genre, referred to as a taxonomic film analysis. This genre was analysed drawing on the work of Halliday and Mathiessen (2004), Martin (1992) and Lemke (1993), focusing on three aspects: the genre acts performed in the process of analysing film; the conceptual frameworks of film studies knowledge, or ‘thematic formations’ (Lemke, 1993) drawn on and re-constituted in the assignment; the particular ways that language is used to perform these acts and build these thematic formations. For EAP to be relevant to film students, it is proposed that EAP specialists need to engage with these three aspects of film study. This application of SFL in film studies EAP is intended as an illustration of how SFL tools can be used for relevant EAP provision across the HE curriculum.

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