Cohesion and Coherence
 Text:
 the record of some speaker’s or writer’s discourse, uttered
or written in some context and for some purpose.
 And context:
 No texts are constructed in isolation. Language is a social
And …Meaning is dependent
on context:
 the events and situational factors in which acts of
communication are embedded, i.e.
 the subject, the purpose the circumstances, the physical
context, the relationship between addresser and
addressee, their previous contact with each other, and the
And also
 Language has varieties: there are regional and social
varieties or registers.
 Register can be divided into field of discourse (subject
matter: chemistry, linguistics, music) tenor of discourse
(sometimes referred to as style, e.g formal, informal,
intimate) and mode of discourse (medium of the language
activity, spoken, written, twitter).
Language is used in a variety of
 (public, personal, occupational, educational). The
interplay of contexts and domains has brought about the
development of recognisable text types , e.g.( recipes,
news reports, essays, novels, poems, contracts,
prescriptions etc)
 There are regular variations of form according to
register and genres develop from register used for a
particular purpose.
Encounters lead to expectations
 We learn to recognise genres by being exposed to them,
the texts we have encountered and have expectations.
 The way we read a text depends on how many similar
texts we have read before and the expectations we have
about such texts.
 NB. When learning a language you should try to be
exposed to as many texts and different text types as
Text as interaction
 Most texts have distinctive features which are typical of
and act as signals of the language variety or genre they
belong to.
 We interact with the text using these signals to
construct meaning from it.
 NB. You need to actively ask yourself what a text is and
what features you can identify and make hypotheses about
your expectations. You cannot understand a text by being
Spoken vs written mode
 Some features of spoken language
 Fillers: um, er
 Repetition: ‘a friend of mine like he er suddenly turned up
er in the airport my best friend’
 Discourse structure: e.g. the opening
 Double subject (my friend, he)
 Repetition (a friend, my best friend)
 hesitations
Language variation: register
 Task 2. Mode
Monday 5 October
Dear Dan,
I'm writing you a quick note as I missed you this
afternoon. Would it be possible for you to take
my first-year stylistics seminar for me next
Thursday at 3pm? Because Frank is ill the
department needs someone senior to take his
place at the University's Admissions Committee
meeting, and our beloved leader says I'm the only
person who knows all the relevant background
details. The meeting clashes with my class, I'm
afraid, which will be very difficult to reschedule,
and as far as I can see, you are the best person to
take it over. I hope you can you help me out. I'd
be grateful if you could let me know tomorrow
(Tuesday) at the latest.
Best wishes,
2. A. got a minute dan? sorry to um barge in like
this but I need a f-favour - suddenly I can't teach
my thursday at 3 class - frank's gone down with
some bug and er I've got got to reprerepresent the
department at the er the university admissions
committee starts at 2 - can you run it for me?
B. yeah no problem
A. you're a mate I owe you one
B. no big deal I've already prepared the stuff for
my class
3. From: Short, Mick
Sent: 05 October 2002
To: McIntyre, Dan
Subject: can you do me a favour
Hi DanI need a quick favour. Can you tyeach my
class Tyhursday @3? Frank's got a bug and Tony
wants me to take his place at the admissions cttee.
Sorry to dump on you.M
Language variation: register
 Task 3. Domain
 The following provisions of this
clause are a Statement of the
general aims of the Charity to
which the Trustees are (subject to
the following) to have regard at all
times but no part of or provision in
such Statement is to qualify
derogate from add to or otherwise
affect the Objects set out in clause
3.1 and the furtherance of the
Objects (which shall in the event
of any conflict prevail over such
 The exact way in which
information is 'coded' in the
auditory nerve is not clear.
However, we know that any single
neurone is activated only by
vibration on a limited part of the
basilar membrane. Each neurone is
'tuned' and responds to only a
limited range of frequencies.
Language variation: register
 Task C. Tenor
UNIONS yesterday
threatened a wave of
strikes to stop bosses
axing workers' pension
TUC warns of strikes over
pensions crisis
put on alert yesterday that
employees were increasingly
prepared to take industrial
action to defend their
pensions, now the single
most important issue at
Taking for granted or making
 In informal situations we do not need to make everything
explicit, we can take things for granted. In formal
situations, when it is important to avoid ambiguity, or
when participants do not want to presume a relationship
that is not established, things will be made very explicit
 Often the distinction is not so much between written and
spoken but rather between whether a text is produced in a
context dependent situation and whether it is planned or
Can you you place these texts on the continuum?
 a political speech
 a conversation in a shop
 an academic lecture
 a phone call to a friend
 a joke
 TV news broadcast
 a novel
 a sign e.g. ‘no bicycles’
 a magazine article
 chat
 a letter
 a form
Beyond the sentence:
 Although sentences can occur on their own, they usually
form texts (these can be written or spoken). There are
three prerequisites for a text.
 A text makes sense,
 it is somehow complete
 and it has coherence and cohesion.
When is a text not a text?
 We can tell whether something is a text e.g.
 Text 1. Pick up a handful of soil in your garden.
Ordinary, unexciting earth. Yet it is one of nature’s
miracles and one of her most complex products. Your
success as a gardener will largely depend on its
condition, so take the first step in gardening. Get to
know your soil.
It makes sense
 We can understand what the text is about.
 We can translate it.
 We can paraphrase it .
 We can summarise it.
 We can explain the meaning to someone else.
It is somehow complete
 It is made up of sentences, not bits of sentences.
 E.g. Can I have a….
 is not a complete sentence we know there is something
missing at the end
 ……were not very clear
 Is not a complete text we know there is something
missing at the beginning
Summary of the text
 Our text was taken from the first page of a book about
gardening. The first paragraph introduces the idea of the
important role played by the soil, underlining how
unremarkable it is in physical terms but how miraculous it
is in terms of it properties, and encourages the reader to
become familiar with this element.
 Cohesion is the set of grammatical and lexical connections
between sentences which are linked together into a text.
 There are several of these elements in our text.
Cohesive features
 Text 1. Pick up a handful of soil in your garden. Ordinary,
unexciting earth. Yet it is one of nature’s miracles and one
of her most complex products. Your success as a gardener
will largely depend on its condition, so take the first step
in gardening. Get to know your soil.
 Fertilizers put back what the rain and plants take away.
Plastic pots are not just substitutes for clay ones. Pears
are a little more temperamental than apples. Supporting
and training are not quite the same thing.
 Although there are some cohesive features in the text it is
not coherent. It does not really say anything coherent that
one could paraphrase. It seems to be talking about a lot of
unconnected things even though it is on the topic of
 In fact it is taken from the first line of each chapter of the
gardening manual.
Cohesive features
 Texts have texture as we have seen. The sentences in
a text are linked together into a cohesive whole, the
elements are in some way tied together, they are
linked by a series of devices known as cohesive ties.
 Without cohesive ties, texts become a collection of
isolated sentences; they are the devices a language
uses to achieve unity and cohesiveness in texts,
written or spoken.
Five kinds of cohesion have been identified:
reference, substitution, ellipsis and conjunction
which are kinds of grammatical cohesion using
closed sets.
and lexical cohesion which uses the resources of
the lexical system by using the same, similar or
related words in successive sentences so that the
later occurrences refer back to and link up with the
previous occurrences.
Lexical cohesion
 and lexical cohesion which uses the resources of the
lexical system by using the same, similar or related
words in successive sentences so that the later
occurrences refer back to and link up with the
previous occurrences.
 The two broad types of lexical cohesion are
reiteration (four kinds: repetition, synonymy,
superordinates, general words)
 and collocation which refers to the habitual company
which words keep, cohesion resulting from the
occurrence of a word’s collocates.
Grammatical cohesion
 Reference is a semantic relation. It ensures the continuity
of meaning in a text involving items which cannot be
interpreted without recurrence to the surrounding text
(endophoric reference),
 or outside the text to the situation (exophoric reference).
Endophoric reference
 Reference to elements which can be reconstructed
from inside the text.
 It can be cataphoric (pointing forwards as in This is
how he said it…) or, much more commonly,
anaphoric, pointing backwards e.g. I met John in the
station. He was completely drunk. Where he in the
second sentence refers back to John in the first
sentence). Only endophoric reference is cohesive
since it refers to another point in the same text. In the
majority of cases it is anaphoric.
 There are three kinds of reference: personal,
demonstrative and comparative.
 To be able to understand, produce and analyse texts you
will need to know how to recognise them.
Personal reference
 Use of the personal pronouns, possessive pronouns
(mine, yours etc) and possessive identifiers (my, your
etc). Most pronouns replace noun phrases so as to be
economical and avoid excessive repetition.
 Sometimes the third person pronoun it can refer back
not to a noun or a noun phrase but to a larger unit,
sometimes even more than one sentence.
 Third person pronouns are nearly always endophoric
but first and second person pronouns can be
Demonstrative reference
 involves the demonstrative (this, that , those, these)
the definite article (the) and the adverbs (here, now,
there, then) they are a form of verbal pointing (known
as deixis indicating proximity, or with variable
 They can also be used to refer to extended text. This
can refer to something the speaker has said and that to
something the other person has said. The former and
the latter discriminate between entities mentioned one
before the other in an earlier part of the text.
Comparative reference:
 may be general, expressing the identity, similarity or
difference between things or particular expressing a
qualitative or quantitative comparison. He earns 12000€ a
month. I wish I had such a salary.
She was wearing an orange sweater with a purple skirt with
holes in it. I couldn’t bear to see her so badly dressed.
The same man was seen later leaving the pub accompanied by
a young girl
Naples is much livelier than other cities.
His right hand held a formal evening top-hat. He had a glove
in the other hand.
 is a grammatical relation where one linguistic
grammatical item substitutes for a lexical one. The
substituted item can only be interpreted by reference
to the original longer item. There are three kinds of
substitution nominal, verbal and clausal.
 Nominal substitution is when one or ones in
pronominal use substitute a singular or a plural
countable noun, and the substitution of the whole
noun phrase by the same .
Nominal substitution
 This Coke is flat. Get me a fresh one.
 This bulb is broken . Give me a new one.
 These magazines are old. Let’s look at some newer ones.
 Give me a pint of Guinness and a packet of crisps.
 I’ll have the same.
Verbal substitution:
 Substitution of a verb: is carried out by means of the
various forms of do functioning as pro-verbs substituting
for some lexical verb mentioned previously.
 Did you manage to finish that homework? I didn’t but
Martin did.
 Does anyone live in Grosseto? I need a lift.
 I do.
Clausal substitution:
 Replaces a whole clause and not just a verb: It is carried
out by means of so to replace an affirmative clause and
not to replace a negative one
 Is there a strike on Saturday? They say so.
 Are you going to Grosseto? If so, we could travel together.
If not I’ll take the bus.
 Ellipsis is similar to substitution but the item
concerned is replaced by nothing. There is an obvious
structural gap which can only be revealed by a
previous sentence.
 Nominal ellipsis involves the omission of a head
noun or noun phrase.
 Ten students passed and another ten failed.
 Which jeans are you going to wear? These are the
Verbal ellipsis
 Verbal ellipsis involves the omission of a lexical verb
form a verb phrase and possibly an auxiliary or two, only
recoverable from reference to a previous sentence.
 Is it going to rain today? It may, it may not.
 Have you been crying? No, laughing.
Clausal ellipsis
 Clausal ellipsis is concerned with the omission of large
parts of clauses, whole phrases and more.
 Who has taken my car keys? Peter.
 Where did you leave those library books? On the floor in
the bedroom.
 refers to specific grammatical devices, conjunctions,
which link sentences to each other.
 Additive conjunctions add on information
 Adversative conjunctions draw a contrast
 Causal conjunctions make a causal link
 Temporal conjunctions make a time link between
two sentences.
Conjunctions e.g.
 Additive: and, in addition,
 Adversative: but, yet, however,
 Causal: so, therefore, consequently
 Temporal : then, after that, subsequently
Lexical cohesion
 the use of the same or similar or related openclass words in successive sentences
 Reiteration: where the same word is repeated.
 Try speaking for one minute without repeating a
word and you will see how difficult it is to avoid
using reiteration. You can avoid it by using
 Synonyms: words of a similar meaning
 Superordinates: words of a higher order of
 General words: superordinates of much higher
order which subsume the meaning by
indicating a class of objects, entities, people
 General words, a range of lexical words which need their
context to be fully understood which describes a certain class
of objects.
What shall I do with all this stuff?
These are a number of these words, they are basically
superordinates: people, man, woman, child, boy to refer to
To refer to non-human animates we can find creature,
inanimate concrete things thing, object. Inanimate concrete
mass stuff.
Inanimate abstract nouns have a number of possible general
words like business, matter, affair. Referring to actions you can
use words like move, action, and for places place.
anaphoric nouns
 A whole range of cohesion producing nouns which talk about
the discourse itself and can be used as pro-forms standing for
other more complete and explicit units:
 such as admission, accusation, answer, assumption, belief,
complaint, conclusion, criticism, hypothesis, declaration, point,
proposal, statement, suggestion.
 For example: He wanted to go out and spend a day in the hot
pools in Saturnia then go to a restaurant he knew nearby but
no-one was interested in that proposal.
 The proposal involves the outing including hot pools in
Saturnia and the meal at the restaurant.
 either
 words which habitually go together e.g. heavy drinker, we
don’t say big drinker or deep drinker
 We say ask a question and perform an operation
 or from the same lexical field or set of fields, for example
an article about a road accident might have one set of
words which are collocates on the topic of injury, another
set about roads and weather conditions and another to do
with the highway code.
 Coherence is concerned with logical links which
mean that the text makes sense as a whole. It is
concerned to a great extent with our knowledge of the
world which comes from our previous experience and
learning, we use this to process texts.
 texts therefore can seem incoherent to people who
have very different backgrounds from the person
 We can talk of having certain expectations.
Sometimes we talk about schemata, frames,
scenarios to refer to these expectations. They often
help us to predict the content, finish a text which is
unfinished, re-order jumbled texts or reconstruct
illegible elements in a text. Background knowledge
plays an important part in understanding texts
Cohesion and coherence
 Cohesion consists of linguistic elemetns in the text which
are related to each other in some way and weave the text
into a whole
 Coherence is related to overall text meaning and the way it
related to the real world and is consistent
 Reading: Dispensa Cohesion and coherence

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