Coherence and cohesion


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Coherence and cohesion

  1. 1. Discourse analysis Cohesion, coherence, text types, conversation analysis Overview of the lecture 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Areas of study 1. Definitions and scope • • • Discourse analysis is an umbrella term for all those studies within applied linguistics which focus on units/stretches of language beyond the sentence level. In discourse analysis the highest unit of language is the text, and language is studied in its context. Discourse analysis considers language in its full textual, social, and psychological context. Discourse analysis is relevant to language teaching since learners have to learn how to produce and comprehend texts not only sentences (discourse competence). • • • • • • • What is a text? A text is "a communicative occurrence which meets […] the standards of textuality" (de Beaugrande & Dressler, 1983, p. 3). Standards of textuality: 1. Cohesion "[...] concerns the ways in which the components of the surface text, i.e. the actual words we hear or see, are mutually connected within a sequence. 2. Coherence "[...] concerns the ways in which the components of the textual world, i.e. the configuration of concepts and relations which underlie the surface text, are mutually accessible and relevant". Coherence is the outcome of cognitive processes among text users (see below). 3. Intentionality "[...] the text producer’s attitude that the set of occurrences should constitute a cohesive and coherent text instrumental in fulfilling the producer’s intentions, e.g., to distribute knowledge or to attain a goal specified in a plan" What is a text? Cohesion and coherence Background knowledge Spoken vs. written style Genre analysis Conversation analysis Gricean maxims of communication Forms and functions Cohesion and coherence Theme and rheme Speech acts Conversation analysis Genre analysis Spoken vs. written language Cohesion and coherence • • • • Halliday and Hasan (1976) Cohesion is linguistically explicit and signals underlying semantic relationships between text elements. Coherence: underlying organiser which makes the words and sentences into a unified discourse that conforms to a consistent world picture. A coherent text is meaningful, unified, and gives the impression of "hanging together". 1
  2. 2. Categories of discourse cohesion Reference Reference Arthur's very proud of his Chihuahuas. I don't like them. Grammatical • Substitution Tell a story. – I don't know one. Ellipsis • How did you enjoy the paintings? – A lot (of the paintings) were very good but not all (the paintings). Lexicogrammatical Lexical Conjunction Anaphoric reference: referring backwards E.g. I can see a bird. It is singing. (It refers backwards to bird.) Cataphoric reference: referring forward. E.g. When they arrived at the house, all the participants were very tired. (They refers forward to participants). They thought he didn't believe them. And this was true. Lexical cohesion He met an old lady. The lady was looking at him for a while... Relationship between cohesion and coherence Cohesion and coherence are related notions, but they are clearly distinct. There are two types of views concerning their relationship. A) Cohesion is neither necessary nor sufficient to account for coherence. A: That's the telephone. B: I'm in the bath. A: O.K. (Widdowson, 1978, p. 12) Background knowledge (schemata) • • B) Cohesion is necessary, though not sufficient in the creation of coherent texts. In other words, cohesion is a crucial though not exclusive factor contributing to coherence, since it facilitates the comprehension of underlying semantic relations. Some areas of investigation • • • • • • • • • • How does cohesion contribute to coherence in native speech/writing? How does cohesion contribute to coherence in non-native speech/writing? Comparison of cohesion in native and non-native speech/writing; Comparing cohesion in different genres (newspaper articles, novels, informal letters, informal dialogues, etc.); Cohesion in child language and adult language; Cohesion at the different levels of language proficiency; Cohesion in different languages; Cohesion in disordered vs. normal talk; Cohesion in translations; Teaching cohesion to non-native speakers. • • • • Frames: data structures that represent stereotypical situations. Scripts: contain information on event sequences. Scripts may include scenes, roles and props. Scripts help explain that expectations play an important role in understanding discourse. When we hear a situation being described, we expect that certain events take place. Schema/schemata: high-level complex knowledge structures (van Dijk, 1977) that help the organisation and interpretation of one's experience. "Schemata lead us to expect or predict aspects in our interpretation of discourse" (Brown & Yule, 1983, p. 248). Schemata help explain why a text is understood easier and faster if a title is provided. Schemata can also be culture-specific; for example the schema of a wedding ceremony varies culture by culture. Text types: Comparing written and spoken texts 1. Written language Functions of written language: • action: e.g. public signs, product labels and instructions, recipes, maps, TV-guides, bills, menus, telephone directories.; • social contact: e.g. letters, postcards, greeting cards; • information: e.g. newspapers, magazines, non-fiction books, textbooks, advertisements, reports, guidebooks; • entertainment: e.g. light magazines, fiction books, poetry, drama, film subtitles, games. 2
  3. 3. Spoken language • Intonation expresses grammatical, attitudinal, and discourse meaning. • Tone (melody): fall, rise-fall, rise, fall-rise, level • Prominence • It was INteresting. • It WAS interesting. • Functions of spoken language: • action: guidelines or directions given, teacher instructions; • social contact: telephone conversations, chats; • information: lecture, presentation, political speech; • entertainment: jokes, radio programs Genre analysis All text-types have their own system of linguistic, rhetorical and organisational characteristics. Therefore, genre analysts set out to investigate what makes a letter a letter, or what makes a radio announcement a radio announcement. "A genre comprises a class of communicative events the members of which share some set of communicative purposes. These purposes are recognized by the expert members of the parent discourse community, and thereby constitute the rationale for the genre. This rationale shapes the schematic structure of the discourse and influences and constrains choice of content and style. … Exemplars of a genre exhibit various patterns of similarity in terms of structure, style, content and intended audience. If all high probability expectations are realized, the exemplar will be viewed as prototypical by the parent discourse community" (Swales, 1990, p. 58). Spoken language Written language Shared situation No shared situation On-line interaction (two-way) Verbal and non-verbal means No careful editing Delayed interaction (one-way) Time pressure Verbal means Revising, editing possible No time pressure Linguistic analyses of various genres Linguistic phenomenon Frequency lexical density: ratio of grammatical (function) words and lexical (content) words nominalization: number of nouns type/token ratio: number of newly introduced lexical items repetition: number of repeated lexical items personal pronouns (1st and 2nd person) Formal (informational genres) informal genres Formal (informational genres) informal genres Formal (informational genres) informal genres Formal (informational genres) informal genres Formal (informational genres) informal genres Conversation analysis Conversational rules and structure Conversation has been considered as the most fundamental means of conducting human affairs since this is the prototypical kind of language usage. Purposes of conversation: • Exchange of information • Creating and maintaining social relationships (e.g. friendships) • Negotiation of status and social roles • Deciding on and carrying out joint actions (co-operation) The primary and overriding function of conversation is clearly the social function, i.e. the maintenance of social relationships. • Openings: There are conventional routines for openings. E.g.: greetings, introduction, opening questions. • Closings: Intentions to close a conversation are usually expressed with closing signals such as 'well', 'so', 'okay' used with falling intonation. • Turn-taking mechanisms: intention to let the conversational partner speak is signalled with low voice, slowing down, putting a question, body movement. In smooth communication less than five per cent is delivered in overlap. • Adjacency pairs: utterances which require an immediate response or reaction from the partner (greeting-greeting, offer-accept, compliment-thank, question-answer); there are always preferred and non-preferred answers, and it is difficult for learners to distinguish between them • Back-channelling: signals that show the speaker that his/her message is understood and listened to. Examples: Uhhuh, yeah, right. 3
  4. 4. Gricean maxims of communication Non-observance of maxims Grice (1975) proposed four criteria for co-operative communication: A) Maxim of relevance: In communication, each person's contribution has to be relevant to the topic. For example in the following exchange this maxim is not observed: A: Would you like some coffee? B: I disagree with this solution. B) Maxim of truthfulness: Contributions in conversations should be truthful (exceptions are jokes, deliberate lies). c) Maxim of quantity: In conversations, talking time should be fairly divided between interlocutors, and one should strive for brevity (this maxim is often not observed). D) Maxim of clarity: Messages conveyed should not be obscure or ambiguous. Flouting a maxim: the speaker blatantly fails to observe the maxim, because he wants to the hearer to find additional meaning to the one expressed. This is called conversational implicature. For example: • How are you getting there? • We are getting there by car (meaning you are not coming with us – maxim of quantity flouted because it would have been enough to say by car). Violating a maxim – speaker wants to mislead the listener intentionally. Infringing a maxim – not observing the maxim because of lack of linguistic knowledge (e.g. L2 learners). Opting out of a maxim – the speaker is unwilling to abide by the maxims (e.g. withholding information). Suspending a maxim – in certain situations it is not necessary to observe the maxims (e.g. poetry). Overview • • • • • • • • • • • What is cohesion and what is coherence? What is the relationship between cohesion and coherence? What are the categories of discourse cohesion in English? Illustrate each category with an example. How do frames, scripts and schemata help understand discourse?What are the differences between spoken and written language? List examples for the functions of spoken and written language. List some aspects of comparison in genre analysis. How do formal genres differ from informal genres? List the four main purposes of conversation. What characterises conversations? List some elements of conversation and give an example for each. List and explain Grice's (1975) four maxims. 4