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Cohesion: A Discourse Perspective

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Thomas Christiansen

This book represents a fresh look at cohesion, the point of departure being Halliday and Hasan’s seminal Cohesion in English, which is examined in depth as are other notable approaches to cohesion such as Hoey’s Patterns of Lexis in Text. It also compares different studies of relevance to cohesion from other areas of linguistics, such as: generative grammar, Functional Sentence Perspective (FSP), and corpus linguistics. In this way, this work extends discussion of cohesion beyond the realms of systemic linguistics to include a broader spectrum of approaches including research into languages other than English. The main focus, however, is on varieties of English and on general and specialised discourse types.
Rather than limiting itself to the text as product, the manifestation of a discourse, this book looks at cohesion from the wider perspective of discourse, seen as an interactive process. Consequently, different sociolinguistic and cultural factors are also taken into consideration: How far is cohesion a constitutive feature of text? What is the precise link between cohesion and coherence? What specific role does discourse have in phenomena such as anaphora? Do such things as cohesive universals exist across languages? How far do socio-cultural, or discourse-specific, conventions contribute to the type and degree of cohesion present in a text?

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Chapter 6. Lexical Cohesion

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6. Lexical Cohesion 6.1 Introduction: the multifarious text-forming properties of lexis Whereas the other forms of cohesion discussed so far have operated largely at either the semantic or grammatical level and been expressed by items from specific classes of function words (e.g. pronouns, pro- verbs, coordinators), lexical cohesion regards the denotation and, to an extent, the form of items or groups of similar or related items. Dis- cussion of conjunctions in the last chapter (5) gave a foretaste of some of the issues associated with lexical cohesion which involves a vast range of individual items that constitute the lexis of a discourse and the complex relations both explicit (textual) and implicit (discoursal) that may exist between them. One of the distinctions that Halliday (1985b) identifies between spoken and written language (two means of expressions that he sees as essentially separate) is that the former tends to rely more on gram- matical devices (such as substitution and ellipsis) and is thus gram- matically more complex than the latter. Written discourse, by contrast he sees as more “lexically dense”. i.e. it avails itself of a wider range of lexical resources. Lexical cohesion then will be more prevalent in written texts but not of course totally absent form spoken discourse. Halliday and Hasan (1976: 274) describe lexical cohesion sim- ply as “the cohesive effect achieved by the selection of vocabulary”, a definition which however is deceptive in its apparent simplicity. In re- ality, the area of vocabulary is vast and the factors affecting...

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