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Tema 8: Análisis del discurso. Cohesión y coherencia: conectores y marcas de organización textual. Anáfora y catáfora. Deixis. Referentes

Discourse analysis:

The resources that give “texture” to a piece of discourse, without which it would not be discourse, are the following:

a) Structural:

1. Thematic structure: theme (first part) and rheme (second part)

2. Information structure and focus: given and new.

b) Cohesive:

1. Reference

2. Ellipsis and substitution.

3. Conjuction.

4. Lexical cohesion.

  1. Theme and focus:

a) The choice of theme: The choice of theme, clause by clause, is what carries forward the development of the text as a whole. Themes throughout a text tend to differ from one register to another. In a dialogue, there may be alternation of themes.

b) The choice of focus: It expresses the main point of information unit. The pattern of focus throughout the text expresses the main point of the discourse.

In speech the focus is realised by tonic prominence, it typically falls on the final lexical element.

In writing the principle is that the information unit is a clause, unless some other unit is clearly designated by the punctuation; and the focus falls at the end of the unit unless some positive signal to the contrary is given, either by lexical cohesion or by grammatical structure.

– It was in the park where I saw him. (Cleft sentence)

– Not only did he hit her but also insult her. (Inversion)

c) The combination of theme and focus:

Since the unmarked place of focus is at the end of the information unit, and since the unmarked information structure is “one information unit, one clause”, this gives a kind of diminuendo-crescendo movement to the typical clause of English: the downward movement from initial thematic prominence being caught up in the upward movement toward final- informational prominence.


There is a one-to-one relation between given and new information on the one hand and theme and focus on the other.

The two kinds of prominence are complimentary. The theme is speaker-oriented prominence, it is what I am talking about. The new, which culminates in the focus is listener-oriented prominence: it is what I am asking you to pay attention to. Focus normally occurs at the end of the information unit.

  1. Lexical cohesion and reference:

An important characteristic of many varieties of texts is the referential chain produced by a combination of lexical cohesion (repetition and synonymy) and reference. They are sometimes called participant chains, but they are not restricted to participants in the sense of persons, they may be objects, institutions, abstractions, passages of a text, anything that can have a participant role in a transitivity structure. What gives the texture its coherence is not simply the presence of such chains but their interactions one with another.

  1. Ellipsis and substitution: If reference and referential chains are more typical of narrative, ellipsis and substitution are more characteristically found in dialogue, where the typical sequence is based on pairs, or triads or longer structures, that are related not so much by ideational as by interpersonal meaning: request-assent-question-answer-acknowledgement, etc.
  1. Conjuction: The difference between conjuction and the other text-forming resources is that the conjunctive relations are essentially relations between messages or between larger complexes that are themselves constructed out of messages.

As a cohesive resource, conjuction works in two ways corresponding to the ideational and the interpersonal metafunctions:

a) Extrernal or ideational conjuction: this sets up a relatioship between processes. It is a sequence of events shown as following one another in time: first this happened, then that happened, finally the other happened…

b) Internal or interpersonal conjuction: this sets up a relationship between propositions and proposals: first (I say this), then (I say that), finally (I say the other). Here the semantic relations are between the steps in an argument, not between phenomena of experience.

  1. Text structure: Is there a structure above the complex clause? There is but it is not a grammatical structure. A text has a structure but it is semantic not grammatical: A text does not consist of complex clauses, it consists of elements of its own which vary from one register to another: descriptive, instructional, narrative, transactional, expository. Each has its own elements and configurations. A text is a stretch of language which makes coherent sense in the context of its use. It may be spoken or written, as long as book or as short as a cry for help.

Cohesion and coherence:

A text, written or spoken discourse, is a stretch of language which seems appropriately coherent in actual use, that is, the text coheres in its real world context, semantically and pragmatically, and it is also internally or linguistically coherent.

The term cohesion has been applied to the actual forms of linkage. There are four ways in which cohesion is created in English:

  1. Reference: A participant or circumstantial element introduced at one place in the text can be taken as a reference point for something that follows. In the simplest case, this means that the same thing comes again.
  1. Ellipsis: A clause or a part of a clause or a part of a verbal or nominal group, may be presupposed at the subsequent place in the text by saying nothing, where something is required to make up sense.
  1. Conjuction: A clause or complex clause or even some longer stretch of text, may be related to what follows it by a specific set of semantic relations. The most general categories are those of opposition and clarification, addition and variation and the temporal and causal-conditional.
  1. Lexical cohesion: Continuity may be established in a text by the choice of words. This may take the form of word repetition, or the choice of a word related in some way to a previous one either semantically. Lexical cohesion may be maintained over long passages by the presence of key words, words having special significance for the meaning of a particular text.

These resources make it possible to link items of any size, whether below or above the clause and to link items at any distance, whether structurally related or not. But they meet these requirements in different ways:

  1. Reference is a relationship between things or facts. It may be established at varying distances, and although it usually serves to relate simple elements that have a function within the clause, it can give to any passage of the text status of a fact and so turn it into a clause participant.

– I can’t believe that (and something is said before)

  1. Ellipsis: (including substitution) is a relationship involving a particular form of wording either a clause or some smaller item. It is usually confined to closely continuous passages, and is particularly characteristic of question/answering dialogue.

– I believe so (and something is said before)

  1. Conjunctive relations involve contiguous elements up to the size of paragraphs. Conjunction is a way of setting up the logical relations that characterise complex clauses.

Then it would die of course.

  1. Reiteration and collocation are relations between lexical elements most typically between simple lexical items, either words or larger units.

Cohesion is process because discourse itself is a process. Text is something that happens, in the form of talking or writing, listening or reading. Cohesion is a relation between entities.

For a text to be coherent it must be cohesive. It must deploy the resources of cohesion in ways that are motivated by the register of which it is an instance. It must be semantically appropriate that is: it must make sense and it must have structure.

Lexical organisation:

Lexical cohesion comes about from the selection of items that are related in some way to those that have gone before.

  1. Repetition: The most direct form of lexical cohesion is the repetition of lexical item. The second occurence marks back to the first.

In order for a lexical item to be recognised as repeated, it needs to be in the same morphological shape Eg: dine, dining, diner, dinner are all the same item.

  1. Synonomy: In the second place lexical cohesion results from the choice of a lexical item, that is: in some sense synonymous with the preceding one Eg: sound with noise. There again, cohesion need not depend on identity of reference.

(a) With identity of reference: It includes synonyms of the same or some higher level of generality. Synonyms in the narrower and super-ordinates. Eg: bird is at a higher level of generality than black bird, it is a super-ordinate term.

(b) Without necessary identity of reference: The occurence of a synonym even where there is no particular referential relation is all cohesive. There is cohesion between the synonyms hedge and bush.

  1. Collocation: The items have a tendency to co-occur. Collocation is one of the factors on which we build our expectations of what is to come next.


  1. Personal Reference: At a given stage in the evolution of language, the basic referencial category of person was deictic in the strict sense, that is to be interpretted by reference to the situation here and now. Thus, “I” was the one speaking, “you” the one spoken to, “he/she/they/it” the other(s) in the situation.
  1. Demonstrative reference: The second type of reference item is the demonstrative: this/that, these/those. The basic sense of this and that is one of proximity, “this” refers to something as being near, “that” refers to something as being not near (far). Proximity is typically from the point of view of the speaker so “this” means near me; “that” is the unmarked term of the pair. The word “the” is still really a demonstrative although a demonstrative of a rather particular kind. It announces that the identity is specific; it does not specify it. The information is available elsewhere. It may be in the preceding text (anaphoric) or in the following text (cataphoric).

The locative demonstratives “here” and “there” are also used as reference items. Here may be cataphoric or anaphoric.

– So here is a question for you

There is anaphoric without the sense of near.

– You´re wrong there!

  1. Comparative reference: Comparatives set up a relation of contrast. The reference item signals “you know which” not because the same entity is being referred to over again but rather there is a frame of reference, something by reference to which what I am now talking about is the same or different, like or alike, equal or unequal or more or less.


There is a range of meaning expressed by the choice of a conjunction.

  1. Ellaboration: There are two categories of ellaborative relation.

a) Apposition: In this type of ellaboration some element is re-presented or re-stated either by exposition or by example:

– expository: in other words, that is (to say), I mean (to say), to put it another way.

– Exemplifying: for example, for instance, thus, to illustrate.

b) Clarification: Here the ellaborated element is not simply restated but summarised, made more precise or in some way clarified: to be more precise, or rather, in short, in fact, to sum up, briefly.

  1. Extension: It involves either addition or variation.

(a) Addition is either positive (and), negative (nor) or adversative (but).

(b) Variation is replacive (instead), substractive (except), and alternative (or) types.

  1. Enhancement:

a) Spatio-temporal: Place reference may be used conjunctively within a text, with “here” and “there”, spatial adverbs such as behind, nearby and expressions containing a place noun or adverbs plus reference item (in the same place). Temporal conjunction covers a great variety of different relations: following (next), simultaneous (just then), preceding (before that), conclusive (in the end), immediate (at once), durative (meanwhile), punctuality (at this moment).

b) Manner: Manner conjunctives create cohesion by comparison and by reference to means. Comparison may be positive (is like): likewise, similarly; or negative (is unlike): in a different way.

c) Causal conditional: So, then, therefore, consequently. Conditionals subdivide into positive (in that case), negative (if not, otherwise)

d) Matter: Positive: here, there, up to that, with reference to, in that respect. Negative: in other respects, elsewhere.


Deixis is a function to point what is before our eyes. It refers to some item to mention or already mentioned, this function takes the name of cataphoric or anaphoric reference.

There are three main categories of deictic items in English: personal, demonstratives and comparatives:

  1. Personals: Personal, possessive andreflexive pronouns have distinctions of persons. The three persons may be defined as follows:

– 1st person: I, me, my, mine, myself. We, us, our, ours, ourselves. The reference of these personals includes the speaker(s)/ writer(s) of the message.

– 2nd person: you, your, yours, yourself, yourselves. The reference of these personals include the addressee(s) but excludes the speaker(s), writer(s).

– 3rd person: he, him, his, himself. She, her, hers, herself. It, its, itself. They, them, their, themselves. The reference of these personals exclude both the speaker(s), writer(s) and addressee(s). They refer to third parties not directly involved in the origin or reception of the utterance in which they occur.

The first and the second persons “I” and “you” retain this deictic sense. Their meaning is defined in the act of speaking. The third person forms “he”, “she”, “it”, “they” can still be used deictically, though they are more often anaphoric, that is they point backwards to the preceding text. Cataphoric reference occurs less frequently.

2. Demonstratives:

a) Situational reference: the basic meaning of “this” and “that” is one of proximity; they contrast in terms of the nearness of the referent to the speaker. The measurement of spatial proximity can easily be extended to the more abstract sphere of time. (this/that morning). In reference to time “this” is typically associated with what is before us and “that” with what is behind us.

b) Anaphoric and cataphoric reference: the anaphoric and cataphoric uses of the demonstratives are extensions of their situational use. The near demonstratives this/these can have both anaphoric and cataphoric reference, while the distant demonstratives that/those can have only anaphoric reference.

c) Comparatives: Whereas personals and demonstratives, when used anaphorically, set up a relation of co-reference whereby the same entity is referred to over again, comparatives set up a relation of contrast.

In comparatives reference, the deictic item still signals “you know which” not because the same entity is being referred to over again but rather because there is a frame of reference, something by reference to which what I am now talking about is the same or different, like or unlike, equal or unequal, more or less.

Like personals and demonstratives, comparative deictic items can also be used cataphorically within the nominal group: much more smoothly than a live horse.