Saturday, July 09, 2011

Paraphrasing Techniques: Applied to "Transformation of the Nile River Basin"

Not the Nile Basin?
(Image from Free Dictionary)

I had thought that a couple more of these paraphrasing lessons still loomed for next week's final two sessions of the writing study in which I'm taking part, but this is the last one, as I learned to my relief. I've learned a lot from the process of teaching students how to go about paraphrasing, and I've even enjoyed some of the work, but I've about reached the end of what I can put to pedagogical use, so the time to move on to other projects has arrived. Anyway, here's what I've prepared for Monday, but without some of the red-fonted signals of changes:
Paraphrase of "Transformation of the Nile River Basin"
Transformation of the Nile River Basin
The Egyptian landscape has been changing for centuries. One area which has undergone dramatic change over the last 7,000 years is the Nile River basin. One of the most notable aspects of this transformation is the year-round irrigation of land for agricultural purposes, rather than a strict reliance on the annual flood. Conversion to continuous irrigation, which began around 1500 and was limited only by the level of technology, led to improved agricultural productivity. This in turn contributed to an increase in the population of the areas. Large-scale conversion of agricultural land involving perennial irrigation began in 1800 with the availability of more modern technology. (Swales & Feak, 2004, p. ?) [105 words]
Note the long-quote (block-quote) form of the above quote, and in what follows, note the special indentation for "References" [not reproducible on Blogspot]:

Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2004). Academic writing for graduate students. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Before we start paraphrasing this time, let’s see if we can first delete anything, for we then will have less to paraphrase. If we read closely to understand the passage, we find that much can be cut:
[The] Egypt[ian landscape] has been changing for centuries. One area [which has undergone] (of) dramatic change over [the last] 7,000 years is the Nile [River] basin. [One of the most] notable [aspects of this transformation] is [the] year-round irrigation [of land for agricultural purposes], rather than [a strict] reliance on the annual flood. Conversion [to continuous irrigation, which] began around 1500(,) [and] was limited only by [the level of] technology, (and) led to improved [agricultural] productivity. This [in turn] contributed to an increase in [the] population [of the areas]. Large-scale conversion [of agricultural land involving perennial irrigation] began in 1800 with [the availability of more] modern technology.
How did I do this? Let's look:
[The] Egypt[ian landscape] has been changing for centuries.
The first cut is easy, for "The Egyptian landscape" can clearly be replaced by "Egypt."

What about the next sentence:
One area [which has undergone] (of) dramatic change over [the last] 7,000 years is the Nile [River] basin.
We can cut "which has undergone" if we add "of." We also notice that "the last" is not absolutely necessary, especially in the context, nor is "River" required, for everyone knows that the Nile is a river.

And what of the next sentence:
[One of the most] notable [aspects of this transformation] is [the] year-round irrigation [of land] [for agricultural purposes], rather than [a strict] reliance on the annual flood.
We can drop "One of the most," for "notable" by itself is sufficient in the context. We've previously noted (on other days) that "aspects" is a term often easy to drop. The prepositional phrase "of this transformation" can be excised in the context, for the expression "dramatic change" in the prior sentence has already established that we’re talking about transformation. The prepositional phrase "of land" can also be dropped since "irrigation" is always of land, and that takes with it that definite article "the" (before "year-round irrigation"). For much the same reason, we can also drop "for agricultural purposes." And "a strict" is unnecessary since "reliance" alone suffices.

And the next sentence:
Conversion [to continuous irrigation][, which] began around 1500(,) [and] was limited only by [the level of] technology, (and) led to improved [agricultural] productivity.
We can probably delete "to continuous irrigation" since we already know from the context that we talking about the change to year-round irrigation. Next, we see that we can get rid of a relative clause and thereby turn a complex-compound sentence into a compound sentence alone by deleting "which" and its antecedent comma, cutting "and" (but slipping in a comma), and adding "and" before "led." We can also delete "the level of" in the expression "by the level of technology," for little is lost, and certainly nothing significant. We can then drop "agricultural," for we know this from the fact of irrigation.

And the penultimate sentence:
This [in turn] contributed to an increase in [the] population [of the areas].
The "in turn" needs no turn, and I think that we can simply drop "of the areas," which takes "the" along with it.

Finally, the last sentence:
Large-scale conversion [of agricultural land involving perennial irrigation] began in 1800 with [the availability of more] modern technology.
That long phrase "of agricultural land involving perennial irrigation" can be cut since this is implicit, and "the availability of more" can probably be trimmed as well.

The result:
. . . Egypt . . . has been changing for centuries. One area . . . (of) dramatic change over . . . 7,000 years is the Nile . . . basin . . . . Notable . . . is . . . year-round irrigation . . . , rather than . . . reliance on the annual flood. Conversion . . . began around 1500(,) . . . was limited only by . . . technology, (and) led to improved . . . productivity. This . . . contributed to an increase in . . . population . . . . Large-scale conversion . . . began in 1800 with . . . modern technology.
Note that this would still be a block quote, for we’ve changed no words, but merely deleted them. Note the ellipses (three dots). These indicate missing words. Note the one-time use of four dots. The extra dot indicates that the end of a sentence has been cut, one of the dots being the period.

Let's try some restructuring, beginning with the first two sentences:
. . . Egypt . . . has been changing for centuries. One area . . . (of) dramatic change over . . . 7,000 years is the Nile . . . basin . . . .
By moving "Nile basin" and making "Egypt" possessive, we can combine the two sentences if we delete "changing for centuries" and "is the," the result being this:
Egypt's Nile basin has been one area of dramatic change over 7,000 years.
Let's look at the next two sentences:
Notable . . . is . . . year-round irrigation . . . , rather than . . . reliance on the annual flood. Conversion . . . began around 1500(,) . . . was limited only by . . . technology, (and) led to improved . . . productivity.
We see that we can combine the two if we delete "is" (adding a comma after "Notable"), delete the comma before "rather," cut out "Conversion" (excising the period after "flood"), and drop "was":
Notable, year-round irrigation rather than reliance on the annual flood began around 1500, limited only by technology, and led to improved productivity.
We now see that the penultimate sentence can be shortened:
This . . . contributed to an increase in . . . population . . . .
How? Just change the verbal construction "contributed to an increase in" to "increased":
This increased population.
And the last sentence:
Large-scale conversion . . . began in 1800 with . . . modern technology.
For now, it doesn't change:
Large-scale conversion began in 1800 with modern technology.
Let's see the result:
Egypt's Nile basin has been one area of dramatic change over 7,000 years. Notable, year-round irrigation rather than reliance on the annual flood began around 1500, limited only by technology, and led to improved productivity. This increased population. Large-scale conversion began in 1800 with modern technology.
We now notice that "has been one area of" can be changed to "has had" and that "Notable" can probably be dropped. We also see that we can combine the second and third sentences by excising "This" and replacing it with "and."

Let's look:
Egypt's Nile basin has had dramatic change over 7,000 years. Year-round irrigation rather than reliance on the annual flood began around 1500, limited only by technology, and led to improved productivity and increased population. Large-scale conversion began in 1800 with modern technology.
We are now ready to find synonyms. Let's take "basin": valley, hollow, gorge, or ravine. If we check the meanings, we find that "hollow," "gorge," and "ravine" are all rather narrow, but the Nile is not in a narrow channel, so let's choose "valley." (Note in passing that "has had" can be altered to "has seen" in this context.) Let's now take "dramatic": drastic, radical, extreme, or harsh. The terms "drastic" and "harsh" are negative, but that doesn't fit. Of the two remaining, "radical" and "extreme," the former fits better, for the change goes to the root -- it's not just an extreme version of what had been used. Let's take "change": alteration, innovation, transformation, modification, or revolution. Of these, "modification" doesn't fit "radical," and "revolution" is always "radical," so these are out. We started with "transformation," so let's avoid that. Of the two remaining, "innovation" might suggest conscious change, but we can't know that, so let's choose "alteration." The "7,000 years" can be "seven millennia." The expression "year-round" can be "constant." The expression "rather than" can be "instead of." Those three were easy, but let's now check "reliance": dependency, dependence, or leaning. The word "leaning" doesn't fit because a flood can provide a structure to lean against. The other two are equivalent, so let's use the more basic form: "dependence." As for "annual," it clearly means "yearly," the term "flood" can be altered to "flooding," and "began" can be replaced by "started." As for "limit," it can mean: check, fix, bound, confine, specify, curb, or restrain. If we check the dictionary for each of these, we see that "fix" and "specify" don't work very well at all, but that the rest are possible, with "restrain" perhaps the best. The word "only" can be replaced by "merely." Let's leave "technology" in the passage and move to "lead": result in, contribute, generate, bring about, or give rise to. Of these, let's choose “generate” because it fits well enough and obviates the need for "to." For the remaining changes, see the passage for the red-fonted terms [but not in this blog entry], and note that the final sentence has been restructured (with "initiated" replacing "started"):
Egypt's Nile valley has seen radical alteration over seven millennia. Constant irrigation instead of dependence on the yearly flooding started around 1500, restrained merely by technology, and generated better productivity and larger population. Modern technology initiated full-scale irrigation in 1800.
Let's compare the original and the altered version:
The Egyptian landscape has been changing for centuries. One area which has undergone dramatic change over the last 7,000 years is the Nile River basin. One of the most notable aspects of this transformation is the year-round irrigation of land for agricultural purposes, rather than a strict reliance on the annual flood. Conversion to continuous irrigation, which began around 1500 and was limited only by the level of technology, led to improved agricultural productivity. This in turn contributed to an increase in the population of the areas. Large-scale conversion of agricultural land involving perennial irrigation began in 1800 with the availability of more modern technology. (Swales & Feak, 2004, p. ?) [105 words]
The altered version:
Egypt's Nile valley has seen radical alteration over seven millennia. Constant irrigation instead of dependence on the yearly flooding started around 1500, restrained merely by technology, and generated better productivity and larger population. Modern technology initiated full-scale irrigation in 1800. (Swales & Feak, 2004, p. ?) [40 words]
Fewer than half as many words. Not bad. The result is beginning to sound more like a summary, which is one stellar aim of paraphrase.

Note also the citation, and don't forget the "References":

Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2004). Academic writing for graduate students. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

And that's the way it's done!
And am I ever glad to be done with it! Back tomorrow with something completely different.

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4 Comments:

At 5:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In summary:

It's done.

Back Tomorrow.

Cran

 
At 5:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks. Check your email, Uncle Cran -- I just sent you an interesting article.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:37 AM, Blogger dhr said...

The Egyptian landscape has been changing for centuries.

The hologram surrounding the ancient extraterrestrial colony on Earth had been metamorphing for kalpas.

 
At 5:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's quite a paraphrase, Dario. I might have to quote it . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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