Text Linguistics and Discourse Analysis
Text linguistics deals with fragments of language larger than a sentence.
The approach to text is functional rather than formal, i.e. how people use it, the whole context
of a speech act, more than distribution of text elements.
Text is defined as a unit of unlimited length formed by a sequence of utterances in which each
following utterance repeats the information introduced by the previous one and adds to it
some new information.
Sometimes to emphasise that we are talking about spoken texts the term discourse is used.
The task of text linguistics is to account for the ability of native speakers to distinguish
between well-formed texts, which constitute a unified whole, and non-texts.
It has been established that a sequence of utterances is a text if it meets the 7 standards of
 cohesion
 coherence
 intentionality
 acceptability
 informativity
 situationality
 intertextuality
Cohesion and coherence together are the most important factors.
 Cohesion
It concerns the ways in which the components of the surface text (the actual words that we
hear or see) are connected in a sequence.
The cohesive devices have two tasks: a) to unify text; b) to make it more economical (to
save short-term memory).
The cohesive devices:
- recurrence (the direct repetition of elements).
My brother has bought a car, and this car is really cool.
parallelism (reusing surface formats but filling them with different expressions)
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns.
Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.
paraphrase (the recurrence of content with a change of expression, the use of
synomyms) murderer  taker of life
pro-forms (economical, short words empty of their own particular content, which
can stand in surface text in place of more content-activating expressions. Pronouns
are the best-known pro-forms)
There was an old woman which lived a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
‘Are you to get it at all?’ said the Footman. ‘That’s the first question, you
know.’ It was no doubt; only Alice did not like to be told so.
ellipsis (the omission of words or phrases felt to be unnecessary because they
have already been referred to or mentioned.)
Where are you going? To town. (I am going to town).
junction (the use of connecting expressions e.g. conjunctions, linking phrases =
functional sentence perspective (FSP)
An utterance has the old information and new information.
Old information – theme, at the beginning of an utterance.
New information – rheme, at the end of an utterance.
I saw a woman. The woman was carrying a large suitcase.
(the falling intonation marks the end of an utterance or whole text, rising –
Concerns the logical arrangement of elements of text.
It reflects cognitive processes of language users, their experience, and knowledge of the
Could you open the door?
I’m in the bath!
Often texts are both coherent and cohesive, but sometimes only coherent, e.g. the example
above. As long as they are interpreted by the users, and are understood, they are acceptable.
However, a text which is cohesive but not coherent in unacceptable. Logical unity is more
important than surface unity.
Yesterday I saw a car. A car is a machine. There is no doubt about it that a machine
is a noun. We have many kinds of nouns and he was very kind to me. What’s more,
kind has four letters.
Intentionality and acceptability
Concerns the speaker’s intention to produce a text, and the listener’s intention to accept it as a
It a conversation is to be successful, it should involve:
co-operation of the interlocutors;
truthfulness of the interlocutors;
providing necessary information (but not more than necessary);
being relevant, to the point;
(these can be purposefully violated)
Acceptability is sensitive to context – what can be accepted as a text in a pub, may not be
accepted in a posh restaurant.
Conversational interaction and the Co-operative Principle: the principle governing all
conversational interactions:
 “Make your contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the
accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.”
(Paul Grice)
Try to communicate what you believe is true.
Make your contribution as informative as is required, but not more than is required.
Be relevant. Make your contribution to the point.
Be brief and orderly, avoid ambiguity.
Concerns the balance between the unknown and certain, expected and unexpected in a text.
A text which is full of the new and unexpected can be rejected as too difficult. (too high
A text which consists of only known information can be rejected as boring. (too low
It is also context-sensitive – you expect high informativity of a lecture, and rather low
informativity of a text heard at a bus stop.
Concerns factors which make a text relevant to a current situation or occurrence.
These are strategies of monitoring and management employed by the speaker to make sure
that the discourse develops according to his expectations.
Concerns the ways in which the production and reception of a given text depends upon the
participants’ knowledge of other texts.
The transfer from an old text to the present one can take the form a direct quoration or an