Evidence of the role of prosody in argumentative writing

Comma use in texts written by Brazilian students aged 11–14


  • Luciani Ester Tenani State University of São Paulo
  • Geovana Soncin State University of São Paulo




writing text, junior high school, brazilian portuguese, prosody, punctuation


This paper aims to provide a linguistic analysis of prosodic patterns (especially the complex of suprasegmental phonological features which includes intonation, pauses and stress) underlying use of commas in texts written by Brazilian students. The analysed material consists of texts produced in the last year of primary education at a public school in an inner city of São Paulo State, Brazil. The object of analysis is composed of two kinds of comma use which occur in a simple scheme: unconventional uses and conventional uses of commas, both uses being defined from grammatical rules taught at school. The analysis leads to a theoretical discussion about the importance of orality in the way people approach writing and the relationship between orality and writing in text production practices at school. It is argued that accounting for the relationship between orality and literacy may reveal linguistic phenomena and important symbolic processes which are identifiable in the writing of young students who are going through the learning process of writing texts at school.

Author Biographies

Luciani Ester Tenani, State University of São Paulo

Luciani Ester tenani has been a professor at São Paulo State University since 1997, where she teaches courses for undergraduate studies (degree in Literature and degree in Pedagogy) and post-graduation (Program in Language Studies).

Geovana Soncin, State University of São Paulo

Geovana Soncin Santos holds a Phd in Linguistic Studies from São Paulo State University (2014) and holds a degree in Letters from the same university (2009). currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow by the Foundation for research Support of the State of São Paulo (FAPESP).


Anis, J. (1983) Pour une graphématique autonome. [For an independent graphematic] Langue Française 59: 31--44.

Bayraktar, M.; Say, B. and Akman, V. (1998) An analysis of English Punctuation: the special case of comma. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 1.3: 33--57.

Cagliari, L. C. (1989) Marcadores prosódicos na escrita. [Prosodic markers in writing] Estudos linguísticos 28: 195--203.

Castro, J. A. de. (2009) Evolução e desigualdade na educação brasileira. [Evolution and inequality in Brazilian Education] Educação e sociedade 30.108: 673--697.

Catach, N. (1994) La ponctuation.[The punctuation] Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Chacon, L. (1998) Ritmo da escrita: uma organização do heterogêneo da linguagem. [Writing rhythm: an organization of the heterogeneous aspect of language] São Paulo: Martins Fontes.

Chafe, W. (1987) Punctuation and the prosody of written language (Technical Report n. 11). Berkeley: Center for the study of writing.

Chafe, W. and Danielewicz, J. (1987) Properties of spoken and written language. In: R. Horowitz and S. J. Samuels (eds.) Comprehending oral and written language 83--113. San Diego: Academic Press.

Church, F. C. (1967) Stress-terminal patterns: intonation clues to punctuation. The English Journal 56. 3: 426--434.

Corrêa, M. L. G. (2004) O Modo heterogêneo de constituição da escrita. [The heterogeneous mode of writing constitution] São Paulo: Martins Fontes.

Corrêa, M. L. G. (2013) Heterogeneidade da escrita no ensino: das modalidades às relações intergenéricas. [Writing heterogeneity in teaching: from modalities to intergeneric relationships] In: L. A. Pereira; I. Cardoso (eds.). Reflexão sobre a escrita: o ensino de diferentes géneros de textos 67--91. [Reflections about writing: the teaching of different text genres] Aveiro: UA Editora/Universidade de Aveiro.

Dahlet, V. (2006) As (Man)obras da pontuação: usos e significações. [The maneuvers (works) of punctuation: uses and meanings] São Paulo: Associação Editorial Humanitas.

Damourette, J. (1939) Traité Moderne de Ponctuation. [Modern treaty of punctuation] Paris: Larousse.

Fernandes, F. R. (2007) Ordem, Focalização e Preenchimento em Português: Sintaxe e Prosódia. [Order, focus and filling in Portuguese: syntax and prosody] PhD. Dissertation in Linguistics. Campinas: Instituto de Estudos da linguagem, Universidade Estadual de Campinas.

Ferrari, A. and Lala, L. (2011) Les emplois de la virgule em italien contemporaine: de la perspectiva phono-syntaxique à la perspective textuelle. [The uses of comma in contemporary Italian: from a phono-syntactic perspective to a textual perspective] Langue Française 172: 53--68.

Halliday, M.A.K. (1985). Spoken and Written Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Horowitz, R. (ed.) (2000) Talking Texts: How Speech and Writing Interact in School Learning. New York: Rouledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Horowitz, R. Oral Language: The Genesis and Development of Literacy for Schooling and Everyday Life. In: P. D. Pearson and E. H. Hiebert (eds.). Research-Based Practices for Teaching Common Core Literacy 57—75. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.

Ladd, R. (1996) Intonational phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nespor, M. and Vogel, I. (1986) Prosodic Phonology. Dordrecht: Foris Publications.

Nespor, M. and Vogel, I. (2007) Prosodic Phonology, with a new foreword. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Pacheco, V. (2003) Investigação Fonético-Acústico-Perceptual dos Sinais de Pontuação Enquanto Marcadores Prosódicos. [Phonetic-acoustic-perceptual research of punctuation marks as prosodic markers] Ms. Dissertation in Linguistics. Campinas: Instituto de Estudos da Linguagem, Universidade Estadual de Campinas.

Primus, B. (2007) The typological and historical variation of punctuation systems. Written Language & Literacy 2. 10: 103--128.

Schreiber, P. A. (1987) Prosody and structure in children’s syntactic processing. In: R. Horowitz and S. J. Samuels (eds.) Comprehending oral and written language 243--270. San Diego: Academic Press.

Selkirk, E. (1984) Phonology and syntax: the relation between sound and structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Serra, C. R. (2009) Realização e Percepção de Fronteiras Prosódicas no Português do Brasil: Fala Espontânea e Leitura. [Realization and perception of prosodic boundaries in Brazilian Portuguese: spontaneous speech and reading] PhD. Dissertation in Linguistics. Rio de Janeiro: Faculdade de Letras, Universidade Federal do Rio Janeiro.

Simard, M. (1993) Étude de la distribution de la virgule dans les phrases de textes argumentatifs d’expression française. [Study about the comma distribution in argumentative texts sentences of French expression] Québec: Mémoire (Master). Université Laval, Quebec.

Soncin, G. C. N. (2014) Língua, discurso e prosódia: investigar o uso da vírgula é restrito? Vírgula!. [Language, discourse and prosody: is investigating comma usage restricted? Comma!] PhD. Dissertation in Linguistics. São José do Rio Preto: Instituto de Biociências, Letras e Ciências Exatas, Universidade Estadual Paulista.

Soncin, G. C. N. (2009a) O gênero textual e o emprego de vírgulas. [The textual genre and comma usage] In: I Simpósio Mundial de Estudos de Língua Portuguesa – SIMELP. A Língua Portuguesa no mundo. [Portuguese in the world] São Paulo: FFLCH-USP, v. 1.

Soncin, G. C. N. (2009b) Relatório de Pesquisa. [Research Report] São Paulo: Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo.

Tenani, L. E. (2002) Domínios prosódicos no Português do Brasil: implicações para a prosódia e para a aplicação de processos fonológicos. [Prosodic domains in Brazilian Portuguese: implications for prosody and for phonological processes application] PhD. Dissertation in Linguistics. Campinas: Instituto de Estudos da linguagem, Universidade Estadual de Campinas.



How to Cite

Tenani, L. E., & Soncin, G. (2017). Evidence of the role of prosody in argumentative writing: Comma use in texts written by Brazilian students aged 11–14. Writing & Pedagogy, 9(1), 77–101. https://doi.org/10.1558/wap.26498



Research Matters

Most read articles by the same author(s)