Exploring transition markers in class

Milada Walková


Transition markers, e.g., furthermore and however, are important linguistic devices which enable the reader to process the text more easily. More specifically, they are interactive metadiscourse resources which ‘[help] the reader interpret links between ideas’ (Hyland, 2005, p. 50). These links might represent semantic relations of addition, e.g., moreover; comparison and contrast, e.g., likewise and consequence, e.g., thus (e.g., Hyland, 2004; Hyland, 2005; Hyland & Tse, 2004). Research indicates that learners of English tend to overuse transition markers and misuse them both semantically and stylistically (Chen, 2006; Gardner & Han, 2018; Granger & Tyson, 1996; Lei, 2012; Narita et al., 2004; Sultan, 2011; Tapper, 2005). This paper highlights these learner issues and illustrates them with examples from a learner corpus. It then proposes ingredients of good practice in teaching transition markers. Namely, it argues that, first, in order to avoid overuse, authentic texts should be used to model the use of transition markers; second, longer stretches of text rather than short excerpts should be used to provide controlled practice as another means of avoiding overuse; third, semantic relations in texts should be considered in order to identify a suitable transition marker and to avoid semantic misuse; and lastly, in order to avoid stylistic misuse, awareness should be raised as to the stylistic appropriateness of sentence-initial position of some transition markers. The paper applies the proposed ingredients of good practice in four suggested teaching activities.