THE USE OF PRONOUNS IN RUSSIAN CLASSROOM TEXTBOOKS: A QUNTITATIVE STUDY
Marina Solnyshkina1, Maria Kazachkova2, Elena Varlamova3*, Liliya Ilyasova4
1Doctor in Philology, Professor, Kazan Federal University, Russia, firstname.lastname@example.org,
2Ph. D. in Philology, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Russia, email@example.com,
3Ph. D. in Philology, Kazan Federal University, Russia, firstname.lastname@example.org,
4Ph. D. in Philology, Kazan Federal University, Russia, email@example.com
Background: For decades scholars have been conducting research on English text complexity and influence of text metrics on its difficulty for different categories of readers. Recently, considerable steps have been taken towards better understanding of variations in metrics of Russian text of different genres. The current study is a pilot corpus-based analysis focused on differences in Russian texts on science and social studies as exemplified in two classroom textbooks for the 8th grade students of Russian secondary schools: (1) Social Studies by Nikitin A.F., Nikitina T.I. (hereinafter referred to as NIK); (2) Human anatomy, physiology, hygiene by A. M. Tsuzmer, O L. Petrishina, edited by V.V. Parin (hereinafter referred to as PAR). The present study extends the work in the area by analyzing differences in the use of pronouns in academic texts on Social studies and Science and their correlation with text complexity. This is the first study based on the sub-corpora of Russian Academic discourse Corpus (RAC) compiled by researchers of Kazan Federal University (see Solovyev et al 2018). Based on the intermediate results received in this study we plan to verify them on RAC the size of which has reached 1.75 mln. tokens.
Literature Review: Personal pronouns in writing have been viewed as related to the author’s voice and position which many textbooks lack, thus demonstrating that textbook writers address readers ‘impersonally’ and express some general views on the existing paradigm in the area. Based on the analysis of research articles from a wide variety of disciplines, Hyland (2001) comes to the conclusion that modern writers add ‘the dialogic nature of persuasion in research writing’ while addressing readers with personal pronouns. The idea was also mentioned by Cherry (1998) in his analysis of academic writing where the author points to the importance of writer’s voice. Kuo (1999) suggests that personal pronouns allow authors to share their contributions and expect ‘solidarity with readers’. Reporting on a high proportion of personal pronouns in the social sciences discourse Hyland (2001) defines it ‘a valuable rhetorical strategy’ used by writers to establish academic credibility.
Regardless of the research on the number and range of pronouns used in the English academic discourse, no studies, to the best of our knowledge, have been conducted on the differences of the number and range of pronouns used in Russian classroom texts, which suggests that there is a need to have more studies to compare textbooks on Science and Social studies, thus contributing to solving the problem of defining text metrics correlating with text complexity.
Research Question: The research question that guides this study is as follows:
Are there significant differences in the number of personal, reflexive and possessive pronouns used in Russian classroom books on Science and Social studies?
Research Methodology: To address the research questions, we compiled RAC sub-corpus with the total number of tokens 100270: 41383 tokens in NIK and 58887 in PAR. Then the two above mentioned books by NIK and PAR were analyzed with regard to the number and range of pronouns used. Specifically, we use the following indices: (a) the range of personal, reflexive and possessive pronouns used in both books; (b) the number of each of the pronouns under study in both books (absolute frequency); (c) normalized to 1000 frequency of pronouns (relative frequency).
Results: The results received are as follows:
(a) the range of personal, reflexive and possessive pronouns used in both books is different: NIK (Social studies) uses 26 types of pronouns while PAR (Science) uses only 17 types;
(b) the number of each of the pronouns under study is higher in NIK with three exceptions: in PAR ‘ono’ (it) is used in 56 cases, ‘oni’ (they) is used in 147 cases, there are 47 occurrences of ‘nash’ (our) (sing, masc), while in NIK they are 36, 86 and 11 times correspondingly.
(c) Thus, RF of ‘ono’ (it) in PAR is 0,95 while in NIK it is only 0, 87, RF of ‘oni’ (they) in higher in PAR than in NIK: 7,047 vs 6,25 correspondingly, RF of ‘nash’ (our) (sing, masc) in PAR is 0,79 and in NIK it is 0, 26.
The average l RF in NIK is nearly 3 times higher than the corresponding metric in PAR: 9,2 vs 3,1.
All the above mentioned demonstrates a high tendency to impersonality in the Science textbooks (PAR) under study. This indicates that the authors of the textbook on Science (PAR) favour strategies of depersonalisation: they use agentless passive and impersonal constructions, which definitely decreases texts narrativity and hamper students’ comprehension of the texts.
Discussion: The findings of the research provide strong support that the existing differences in distribution of personal, reflexive and possessive pronouns in science and social studies classroom books samples are related to text complexity. These findings have also important implications for understanding subject differences and corresponding metrics. First, they confirm that the language used by writers of different subjects is different in linguistic terms. Second, the differences in the number and relative frequencies of pronouns are large and consistent to suggest that each of the subjects may have a unique linguistic profile of features.
Conclusions: Further studies using Russian Academic Corpus are suggested to address limitations in the size and range of text used for the current research.
Acknowledgements: The research presented in Parts Related Work, Methods, Analysis was supported by the subsidy of the Russian Government to support the Program of Competitive Growth of Kazan Federal University.
Keywords: corpus, disciplinary differences, pronouns, Russian academic discourse, text complexity
The research presented in Parts Discussion and Conclusion of the article was financially supported by the Russian Science Foundation, grant № 18-18-00436.
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