Speaking in Academic Contexts

Rhetorical Functions in Academic Speaking: Describing

Examples

Read the following descriptions:

Example 1

If you look at an octopus, it seems to be just a huge head with eight long, fearful arms. Its head is soft and rubberlike. Its eyes stick out on stalks so that it can see in all directions. Its mouth is on the underside of its body and has powerful jaws which are shaped like a beak. The long arms, or tentacles, have double rows of suckers. These can fasten onto objects with such suction that they cannot be pulled off.

Example 2

The liver is the largest organ in the body. It weighs a little more than three pounds in an adult. It is shaped like a wedge and it is situated under the diaphragm, mostly on the left side of the body. There it is protected by the lower ribs. The liver is a little like an intricate chemical factory. It takes the particles of glucose - which come from digested starches and sugars - and changes them into another kind of carbohydrate called glycogen. It then stores the glycogen. When you need sugar in your body, the liver turns the glycogen into glucose again and sends it to the body tissues through the bloodstream.

Example 3

The Leclanché cell consists of a leakproof jacket which contains a porous pot. In the pot there is a paste of manganese dioxide and carbon granules and this paste surrounds a carbon rod. The top can be sealed with pitch. There is a zinc rod standing in a solution of ammonium chloride, and this is connected to the carbon rod via a circuit and a light bulb . The zinc dissolves in the solution, and this sets up an electromotive force. The ammonium ions migrate to the carbon anode and form ammonia - which dissolves in the water - and hydrogen ions. We use wet paste cells of the Leclanché type in dry batteries for torches.

Example 4

A 12-volt car battery has six two-volt cells and these are connected in series. The cells have anodes of brown lead oxide and cathodes of porous grey lead and these are immersed in sulphuric acid. If the electrodes are connected through a conductor, then an electric current flows. When the battery supplies current, the sulphuric acid converts the anode to lead sulphate, and this reduces the strength of the acid. When you are recharging, this process is reversed. Each cell of the battery is made of several anodes and cathodes and these are separated by porous insulators. The cells are housed in a hard rubber case and the various cells are interconnected with lead bars.

Example 5

This is my Sony ICD MX 20 Digital Voice Recorder.ICD MX 20

As you can see it's small and rectangular in shape. Actually it is 37 mm wide, 100mm high and 24 mm deep. It is made of aluminium, which is very strong and light. It weighs just 96g, that's including the batteries. On the front, you can see,  it has an LCD display - the display is about 25 mm square and it has a light - backlight - so that you can see it in the dark. On the front, there are also the controls and a small .28mm diameter loudspeaker. At the top it has a stereo microphone with a switch to make it more directional and long distant. On the left-hand side here it has earphone and microphone jack sockets. On the right hand side it has a Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo slot and a USB connector to allow you to transfer your recording to and from a PC. This means that I can change the memory card if I need to so, as I said, the amount I can record is unlimited. It uses a Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo card and at the moment, I have a 2GByte card in now. With the 2GByte card I can record up to 750 hours or, if I set it to best quality, as I usually do, 92 hours. That's perfect;ly enough for what I need. You can see also that it has a volume control on the right hand side. At the bottom of the recorder, there is a battery container and a socket for an external power supply. It uses 2 standard type AAA batteries, and they last for 17 hours playing or 8 hours recording.

Example 6

NEWCOMEN'S STEAM - ATMOSPHERIC PUMP

Necomen's EngineI think you've all heard of James Watt, who is normally considered to be the person who invented the first modern steam engine. But actually, he got the idea for his steam engine from a primitive steam pump, which had been built by Thomas Newcomen in 1712.

In 1712, he'd built a pump, a steam-driven pump for pumping water out of the tin mines in south west England. Newcomen's pump, as you can see, had two main parts, and these were positioned on either side of a wall. There was a pump mechanism on one side of the wall and a simple engine on the other side of the wall. These two parts were connected by a large pivoted beam. Attached to each end of the beam was a piston on a chain. The pump piston hung down inside a mine shaft, while the engine piston sat inside a cylinder, and this was mounted on top of a boiler. Above the cylinder was a tank containing cold water.

 

Language

Position, weight, structure, colour, composition, size, shape, function

Position

A is

adjacent to
alongside
below
beyond
facing (diagonally)
parallel to
underneath
opposite
in the middle of
on the right of
on the left of
near
close to
touching
behind
in front of
under
on top of
above
below
level with
diagonally above
vertically below

B

between
equidistant from

B and C.

Structure

X

is

nailed
screwed
fixed
fastened
linked
welded
tied
connected
attached

to

Y

by

Z

consists

of

Y and Z

contains
includes

is

held in place
secured
supported
suspended

by

Y

joined

to

mounted
placed
pivoted

on

Colour

X

is

dark
light
pale
bright
dull

green.
blue.
red.
yellow.

Composition

X

is

made of

metal.
steel.
alluminium.
an alloy of A and B.
cloth.
silk.
china.
wood.
plastic.
glass.

Size and weight

X

is

6 cm

long
high
wide

 

X

is

 

6 cm

in

 

length
height
width
diameter

6 Kg

weight

 

The

length
height
width
diameter

of

X

is

6 cm

weight

6 Kg.

 

X

has

a

length
width
height
diameter

of

6 cm.

weight

6 Kg.

 

X

weighs

10 Kg

Shape

X

is

square
round
rectangular
triangular
semi-circular
conical
spherical
hexagonal
octagonal
oval
circular
irregular

in shape

 

X

is

is shaped like a

square
circle
rectangle
triangle
semi-circle
hexagon
octagon

 

X

is

cubical
cylindrical
pyramidal
spherical
tubular
spiral
hemispherical
conical

in shape

 

X

is

bulbous
tapering
concave
convex

in shape.

diamond-shaped
kidney-shaped
U-shaped
star-shaped
bell-shaped
dome-shaped
mushroom-shaped
X-shaped
crescent-shaped
egg-shaped
pear-shaped
Y-shaped

.

Function

The

function
purpose
aim
objective

of the

thermometer
tripod

is to

measure the temperature.
hold the beaker.

 

The

thermometer
tripod

is used for

measuring the temperature.
holding the beaker,

Properties

X is

light

tough

soft

elastic

malleable

flexible

soluble

a good conductor of electricity/heat

corrosion resistant

combustible

transparent

smooth

heavy

brittle

hard

plastic

ductile

rigid

insoluble

a bad conductor of electricity/heat

not corrosion resistant

non-combustible

opaque

rough