Statement, question, command and exclamation: discourse functions

In this starter activity we will look at text examples drawn from our corpus and think about how the clause types statement, question, command, and exclamation function within authentic discourse.

Click on the interactive whiteboard icon (top right) and work through the following slides with students. Read each extract and analyse it by answering the accompanying questions. After each extract, there are some suggestions and pointers.

Extract 1

The extract below is taken from the Autodata Car Manual. Identify the clause type of each clause. Why have these clause types been used?

The plate is held at the bottom by a plastic pin which need not be undone as the plate can be flexed out of the way. On both engine types, slacken the alternator mounting bolts. Pull or lever the alternator away from the engine, applying any force to the drive end bracket only, until the correct tension is obtained. Note that some OHC engines have a tension adjuster screw and this can be used instead of levering the alternator. Tighten the alternator adjuster slide bolt before tightening the mounting bolts. Recheck the tension and readjust as necessary. Refit the access plate on OHV models.

What did you find?

  • The purpose of the text is clearly to instruct.
  • So, it’s no surprise that there will be commands (imperatives) telling the reader of the manual what to do as clearly as possible. 
  • Statements (declaratives) are used alongside commands to explain a particular feature before telling the reader what to do with it.

Extract 2

The extract below is from a newspaper editorial from 1991. Identify the clause type of each clause. Why have these clause types been used?

If he fails to concede and withdraw, the blood of countless thousands on both sides will be on his hands, though the high price in human lives is a consideration to which one such as he can scarcely be expected to devote much thought. If the Iraqis fight, they will ultimately be overthrown. What form of government will then replace Saddam Hussein's dictatorship? If the United States and Britain have any say in the matter, a proper democracy - the first in the Arab world - should be put in place in Iraq. Once democracy is firmly planted in Baghdad, the seeds of freedom may well be carried to neighbouring countries, not excluding Kuwait, which have for too long been dominated either by exceedingly rich families accountable to no one but themselves or, as in Iran and in too many Arab countries, by crazed terrorists whose brutal treatment of their populations has long extinguished what little popularity they may once have enjoyed.

What did you find?

  • This text has been taken from a newspaper article called an editorial, which is written to represent the newspaper's position on an issue of the time. The purpose of an editorial is usually both to state strongly the newspaper's point of view and persuade their readers of it being the right point of view to believe in.
  • This means that there will be statements and perhaps some use of rhetorical questions, which might be designed to make the readers consider what the answer to the question might be.


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