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The Functions of ‹General Nouns›

Theory and Corpus Analysis


Vera Benninghoven

The author critically discusses the concept of ‹general nouns›, which Halliday/Hasan introduced in their approach to lexical cohesion (1976), and she provides a comprehensive overview of these nouns from a micro- and a macro-linguistic perspective. For the empirical analysis, the author compiled a corpus, which allows statements about a medium- and genre-specific use of ‹general nouns›. For this purpose, she developed an analytical tool, which takes into account formal and semantic features. The major outcome of the corpus analysis is that ‹general nouns› are much more flexible in form and function than Halliday/Hasan assumed and, most importantly, that they fulfil genre-specific functions some of which have not systematically been associated with lexical cohesion.

Critical evaluation of Halliday/Hasan’s concept of ‹general nouns› – Holistic description of these items from a micro- and a macro-linguistic perspective – Development of analytical tool based on the parameters modification and linkage – Corpus of over 300,000 words – Written and spoken genres – Quantitative and qualitative corpus analysis