Speaking in Academic Contexts 

Rhetorical Functions in Academic Speaking: Generalising

A common organisational principle in academic speaking is the general-specific pattern. This patterns involves a general statement supported by specific examples or details.

Example

Look at the following examples of generalisations. In some cases the generalisations are supported by details or examples.:

It believed that the USA wanted a round-the-world air route with access to all countries including the Soviet Union, China, the Middle East, and Africa, as well as the British Commonwealth and Empire.

 

Marx and Engels followed their contemporaries in believing that the history of mankind usually went through the same sequence of technological improvement. The sequence, by and large, went like this: first gathering of plants and small animals, second fishing, third hunting, fourth pottery, fifth pastoralism, sixth agriculture, seventh metalworking.

Throughout most of known human existence the processes, materials and tools of production were available to individuals who were involved in both utilitarian and expressive work. But, since the Renaissance the exponential growth and sophistication of technology has made it impossible for the majority of artists to gain access to many potential tools for expression.

Language

Percentage

Quantity

Frequency

Certainty

Verbs
100%

all/every/each
most
a majority (of)
many/much



some
a number (of)
several

a minority (of)
a few/a little

always


usual(ly)
normal(ly)
general(ly)
as a rule
on the whole

often
frequent(ly)
sometimes
occasional(ly)

certain(ly)
definite(ly)
undoubtedly
clearly
presumably
probably/probable
likely


conceivably
possibly/possible
perhaps
maybe

will
is/are
must
have to

should
ought to


can
could
may
might


0%

few/little




no/none/not any

rare(ly)
seldom
hardly ever
scarcely ever

never

uncertain
unlikely

could not
will not
cannot
is/are not

Some of the probability qualifications can he further qualified, e.g.

It is

fairly

certain
likely

that .

very
quite

probable
possible
likely
unlikely

rather

unlikely

almost
quite

certain

Sometimes generalisations may be introduced or qualified in the following way:

In

the (vast) majority
a large number

of

cases, .

most
some
a few
(+ other "quantity" words)