Summary required readings module 2 (Semántica inglesa USAL), Apuntes de Filología hispánica. Universidad de Salamanca (USAL)
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Summary required readings module 2 (Semántica inglesa USAL), Apuntes de Filología hispánica. Universidad de Salamanca (USAL)

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Asignatura: semantics, Profesor: Pilar Alonso Rodriguez, Carrera: Filología Hispánica, Universidad: USAL
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Required readings module 2

Background (p.4 – p.8)

• Discourse

• Formal definition

■ Discourse = a unit of coherent language consisting of more than 1 sentence

■ However, a piece of discourse in context can consist of as little as 1 word

• Functional definition

■ Discourse = language in use

■ However, this is so general that it is almost meaningless

• Synthesis

■ Discourse = an instance of spoken or written language that has describable internal relationships of form and meaning relate coherently to an external communicative function/purpose and a given audience/interlocutor

■ Purpose depends on context and participants

■ Using a language entails the ability to interpret AND produce discourse in context in spoken and written communicative interaction

• Discourse analysis

• The study of language in use that extends beyond sentence boundaries

■ Everyday conversation

■ Written discourse of all types

■ Spoken discourse of all types

• °Late 1960’s

• Parallel terms

■ Text linguistics: focus on written texts from a variety of fields and genres

■ Discourse analysis: more cognitive and social perspective, written and spoken discourse

• Umbrella term

■ for a variety of approaches

■ for all issues that have been dealt with in the linguistic study of texts and discourse

• 2 different paths

■ Extension of grammatical analysis to include functional objectives

• Theoretical

• Often related to formal linguistics or systemic linguistics

■ Study of institutionalised language use within specific cultural settings

• Describing actual communication within institutionalised contexts

• Application

■ Many discourse studies have been motivated by concern with

• language teaching

• speech analysis

• writing and reading process

• genre and register analysis

• Developing area in linguistics and related disciplines

• Types of discourse

• Written – spoken

■ Channel or medium

■ Different psychological processes

• Register – genre

■ Register = level of formality

■ Genre = communicative purpose, audience, conventionalised style and format

• Monologic – dialogic – multiparty

• Planned – unplanned

■ Planned: speeches, sermons, edited or published written work

■ Unplanned: most conversations, informal notes and letters

• Context-embedded – context-reduced

■ Context-embedded

• Most everyday conversation take place in familiar situations

• Relying on social convention and contextual information

■ Context-reduced

• Most instances of written discourse (+ some spoken discourse) are at more abstract and conceptual level

• Relying on knowledge of the language code and genre types

• Characteristic of literate spoken and written texts

• Transactional – interactional

■ Transactional: transmission of information/exchange of goods and services

■ Interactional

• Shaping and maintenance of social relations and identities

• Express speaker’s/writer’s attitude toward the topic/interlocutor(s)

• More of a continuum than hard dichotomies

■ Proficient language user manipulates the different types and purposes of discourse according to his/her needs

■ Entails knowledge of the language, discourse, sociocultural norms, speaking and writing conventions, …

• Register

• Level of formality or informality indicated through a characteristic set of lexical and grammatical features that are compatible with the particular register

• Lower register

■ More colloquial

■ Fewer complex grammatical forms

• Higher register

■ Professional/academic lexicon

■ Denser grammatical structures

• Degree of technical specificity or general usage

• Genre

• A culturally and linguistically distinct form of discourse

■ E.g. narrative, exposition, procedural discourse, …

• Recognisable communicative event characterised by a set of communicative purpose(s) identified and mutually understood by the members of the professional community in which it regularly occurs (Swales, Bhatia)

• Communicative purpose shapes the genre and gives it internal structure

• Fields of study

• Cohesion

■ Use of various cohesive ties to explicitly link all the propositions in a text

■ Grammatical ties

• Reference

• Ellipsis

• Substitution

• Conjunction

■ A variety of lexical ties

■ Bottom-up connections

• Coherence

■ Top-down planning and organisation

■ Contributes to the unity of a piece of discourse such that the individual sentences/ utterances hang together and relate to each other

■ Result of

• a recognisable organisational pattern

• e.g. based on temporal or spatial relations, semantically associated relations, …

• the presence of linguistic devices that strengthen global unity and create local connectedness

■ Also depends on degree of coherence within each paragraph/section

■ Can be very culture specific

• Information structure

■ Presentation of known – unknown information indicated by the context and grammatical and discourse features

• Theme/topic: old information

• Rheme/comment: new information

■ General rule: theme precedes rheme

■ Spoken discourse: frequently recoverable from the context

■ Written discourse: indicated by grammatical and discourse features

■ Bardovi-Harlig: a sentence within a passage functions at 3 levels

• Syntactic level

• Semantic level

• Pragmatic level

• Conversation analysis

• Critical discourse analysis

How Texts are Made – Fowler (p.62 – p.67): 5 types of cohesive relationships

• Reference

• Word in a subsequent sentence refers to some entity/action that has been designated by another term in a preceding sentence

• Usually a pronoun or a demonstrative

• Substitution

• A word in a subsequent sentence refers not to exactly the same entity as does the related word in the preceding sentence, but to some other entity to which the same term would be applicable

• Verbs and nouns

• Ellipsis

• A part of a subsequent sentence which would repeat a phrase/idea explicitly stated in a preceding sentence is omitted

• Very important in dialogue

• Suggests intimacy and intensity

• Substitution by zero

• Deletion in transformational terms

• Lexical cohesion

• Fully meaningful vocabulary items that contribute to textual cohesion

• 2 types

■ Lexical reiteration

• The same word is repeated in a subsequent sentence, either referring to the same object (like reference) or to another instance of an object of the same kind (like substitution)

■ Collocation

• Sets of words tend to turn up together in texts because they belong to the same semantic frame

• Appear close together in texts because texts tend to be cohesive/stay on the same topic

• A natural and unnoticed aspect of textual cohesiveness

• If context is not given in advance to make sense of the lexical pattern, collocation can cause defamiliarization

• Strong influence on the structuring of ideas in a text

• Conjunction

• This does not need to be expressed in an actual conjunctive word

• 3 types

■ Additive

• A succeeding sentence supplies some additional information about a topic

■ Adversative

• A succeeding sentence is in an oppositional/contrastive relationship with the preceding one

■ Causal

On Cohesion: Theory and Practice

• Cohesion

• Components of the surface texts are mutually connected within a sequence

■ Semantic relations

■ Lack of cohesion implies difficulty in understanding a text

• Earlier approaches: function similar to syntax

■ Beaugrande and Dressler

■ Syntax relates elements within the sentence

■ Cohesion relates elements within the text

• Now: difference

■ Syntax: relations are structural

■ Cohesion: relations are semantic

• Not rule-governed

• More often than not a question of personal choice

• Cohesion exists when the interpretation of an element in the text depends on the interpretation of another

• ‘Cohesion in English’ by Halliday and Hassan (’76)

• First semantic study with cohesion as a means to bring texture into communicative units

• 5 categories of cohesive relations

■ Reference (or phoricity)

• Exophora

• Reference to an element in the context of the situation

• Deixis: item pointed at is a part of the context

• Endophora

• Reference to another element within the verbal text

• Anaphora: item referred to is part of the preceding text

• Cataphora: item referred to is part of the following cotext

• Personal, demonstrative or comparative

■ Substitution

• Replacement of one item in the text by another

• Substitute must be of the same grammatical class as the item for which it substitutes

• Always possible to replace the substitute by the actual word it is replacing

■ Ellipsis

• Replacement of one item in the text by nothing

• An element, which is structurally and semantically necessary for the correct processing of the utterances, is left out

• Common in conversation

• Economising way of making advance without excessive repetition

■ Conjunction

• At the logico-semantic level of discourse

• Intersentential relations based on the actual meaning of the connective element

• Offers an explicit link between 2 sentences/ larger stretches of text

• Different types

• Additive

• Adversative

• Temporal

■ External

■ Internal

• Comparative (manner)

• Causal-condition

■ Lexical cohesion

• Directly affects the open class of full content words

• Local and global cohesion in any type of discourse

• Expected factor once a given semantic frame has been opened

• Because coherent discourse tends to develop around a topic/set of related topics

• Discourse continuity through re-usage of lexical items which are

■ Similar

■ Equivalent

■ Connected in meaning

• 2 basic types

• Reiteration

■ Repetition

■ Synonym

■ Antonym

■ Superordinate: a more general class of which a given item is an instance

■ Hyponym: relation of the type specific – general, a type of

■ Meronym: relation of the type part – whole

■ General word: a nun which covers only for the main most basic features of the major categories

• Collocation

■ Co-occurrence of any pair of lexical items which are in some way semantically close

■ When words are associated with each other in the language/belong to the same semantic frame

• All these cohesive devices

■ function at the intersentential level

■ build semantic links for the construction and processing of global textual content

■ co-occur in a text

• diversity of links

• each text activates its own cohesive network

• no preconceived patterns

• Each text generates its own semantic structure through free combination of selected resources!

12. On the Notion of Coherence

• Responsible for

• Global meaning of discourse

• The meaning relations between the linguistic components

• Allows the discourse to function as a communicative unit

• Network of meaning

• Goes beyond the propositional content of each sentence

• How the information is organised in the discourse

■ Decisive for the interpretation by text receivers

• Interaction with other types of meaning at all stages of the communicative process

• Built on different types of semantic relations

• e.g. cohesive devices

• Often coded in the language of the discourse

■ Explicitly

■ Implicitly

• Missing links

• Propositions which contribute to coherence but remain implicit

13. The Scope of Coherence: Local and Global Coherence

• Local coherence

• Meaning relations between individual propositions which are normally physically close to one another

• Different types of relations (e.g. chronological, cause – effect, explanation, …)

• May by marked through

■ Cohesive devices

■ Different semantic operations (e.g. hierarchical ordering, topic recurrence, …)

• Microstructure

■ The actual and directly expressed structures of the discourse (Van Dijk)

• Global coherence

• Macrostructure

■ The global dimension of discourse meaning

■ Abstract, theoretical object designed to recover the most essential and general content of a discourse

■ Many semantic relations

■ Not always easy to trace

• Interdependence between microstructure and macrostructure

• Analysis of microstructure: step-by-step treatment of the discourse

• Macrostructure: recovers its general meaning

• Semantically interrelated propositions function together towards the construction of the general message/achievement of the communicative plan

• Episodes

• Facilitate the transition from the individual propositions in the discourse to the macropositions that constitute its macrostructure

• Topically coherent parts of discourse

• A sequence of sentences dominated by a macroposition

• Intermediate block of meaning

• Easy to recognise

• Offer transitional strategies to the receiver

• Macroposition

• Semantic unit which subsumes a set of interrelated propositions

• Active role in bringing local and global level together

• Intermediate block of meaning

16. The notions of theme, topic and comment and the global organisation of the information

• Old/given/known information

• Semantically: topic

• Grammatically: subject

• New/unknown information

• Semantically: comment

• Grammatically: predicate

• Semantic chain

• As the text progresses, new information usually becomes old information

• Semantic chain of graded importance and variable scope

• Distinction topic-comment is therefore valid for

■ related sequences of propositions

■ semantic organisation of the whole discourse

14. Local Meaning Relations at the Micro-structural Level of Discourse

• Different types of meaning relations

• Connect the different propositions within the discourse

• Favour the organisation of the information along spatial, temporal and conditional parameters (e.g. general – articular, known – unknown, part – whole, …)

• Normal circumstances – abnormal circumstances

• Normal: arbitrary disposition may result in lack of coherence

• Abnormal: alterations in the normally expected presentation of the discourse to be intentionally introduced and exploited for stylistic or rhetorical effects

• Van Dijk distinguishes 2 types of local coherence

• Conditional coherence: propositions are linked by a causal relation

• Functional coherence:

■ Propositions are linked by any other type of relation (e.g. explanation, comparison, contrast, example,…)

■ Usually redefine/expand the semantic content of some previous part of the text

• Larger scope coherence relations

• Other coherence relations help to create a textual world

• Need the proximity of the referred elements, but are equally capable of establishing regular processing links through long spans of text at the same time (global scope)

• 2 types

■ Relations of identity

• Guarantee conceptual continuity

• May be established

• in a text for entities and processes

• for properties and relations which are said or predicated of other entities/attributed to them

• when the facts/events in a text occur in the same textual world, at the same place and/or time

• different propositions may be about the same entity, which can be referred to in different ways

• e.g. proper name, pronouns, different expressions, …

■ Relations of difference and change

• When new individuals, properties, events or information are mentioned

• Connection between the changes introduced and the already existing information

• Changes must be homogenous

• Relations must be made mutually compatible and suitable to the situation which has been established previously

15. The macrorules (Van Dijk): meaning of a text is also specified at the more global levels

• Global macroposition underlies the general meaning of the whole discourse

• Based on the meaning of sentences (in isolation and relation) in individual propositions

• Macroposition = a generalisation with respect to the more specific propositions expressed by the discourse

• Set of rules to recover the essential information of a text at the global level

■ 4 reductive and constructive macrorules that may be used recursively

■ To reduce the amount of info represented in the macrostructure

■ PROBLEM: the theoretical moves for their application are not specified

• Application is based on the text user’s own judgement!

• Reconstructing the macrostructure may go through several stages until a minimal comprehensive version of the global content of the discourse is achieved

• The macrorules

• Deletion rule

■ Delete all those propositions which are not relevant for the interpretation of other propositions of the discourse

■ Dropping inessential information

■ 2 variants

• Weak deletion: drops irrelevant pieces of info

• Strong deletion: drops pieces of info that

• may be relevant at the local level

• but are not vital for the interpretation of the whole discourse unit

• Generalisation rule

■ Abstracts from semantic detail in the respective sentences to construct a proposition that is conceptually more general

■ Groups together entities/participants/topics/predicates under a common argument

■ Disregards the variation between them

• Construction rule

■ Constructs a new proposition which includes other local propositions contained in the text

■ Only applicable when the details contained in the macroposition are conventional

• E.g. describing the process of a flight to London might be represented globally by “I took a plane to London”

■ Associated with the theory of scripts (Schank and Abelson)

• Zero rule

■ leaves intact those propositions that contain essential info for the macroposition

■ especially important in very short discourses

17. Global discourse coherence (Van Dijk)

• Microstructure

• Constituted by the specific information provided at the local level

• Made up of the related meaning of the minimal units of language

• Can be handled in short-term memory/ detailed representation

• Macrostructure

• A theoretical concept to provide a method of representation of the global semantic content of discourse

■ Discourse is very frequently a complex information unit!

■ Distinguish between details and the general idea

• Conceptual structure

• Subsumes the more essential, relevant, abstract or general info

■ Rearranges the totality of the info into a well-differentiated coherent whole

■ Common macrostructure guarantees discourse coherence!

■ Ensures projection of discourse as a unique mental representation

• Constituted by the general information that corresponds to the global level

• Resources of language at the local level acquire a global macrostructural projection:

■ If the local connections are linked up to other semantic relations active in other portions of the discourse

• Functions: helps language users to …

■ Manage the information of complex semantic units of any kind

■ Represent and organise the cognitive operations involved in the processing of these activities

■ Understand: necessary part of discourse comprehension

■ Recall: memory retrieval

• Only theoretically relevant for complex and hypercomplex information

■ Permits the subdivision of global semantic structures into smaller blocks of meaning

• Relation microstructure – macrostructure

• Each discourse

■ Own macrostructure and is characterized by it

■ Makes it distinguishable from any other discourse

• Not possible to derive the macrostructure without previous knowledge of its microstructure

■ They are never independent

■ Systematically related!

• Same type of info may function as microstructure or macrostructure

■ Depends on its semantic role

■ And/or the particular interest of the participants

18. The communicative process in reading

• Simple model

• Steps

■ Encoder has message in his mind

■ Encoder encodes the message

■ Message is available outside his mind as a text

■ Receiver decodes the message

■ Receiver has message in his mind

• Communication

• Too simple

■ Things can go wrong at any stage of the process

■ Reading means getting out of the text as nearly as possible the message the writer put into it

■ Not all meaning in the text actually gets into the reader’s mind

• Prerequisites for satisfactory communication

• Encoder and receiver share the same code

• Encoder and receiver have in common a command of that code that is not too widely different

• Encoder and receiver share certain assumptions about the world and the way it works

• Receiver has enough previous knowledge to bring to the text

• Mismatch between encoder and receiver

• Receiver assumes that the extent of common ground is greater than it actually is

• Encoder assumes that receiver shares his knowledge to a greater extent

• Etc.

• Always some mismatch of some kind: no 2 people have had the exact same experiences

• HOWEVER, understanding need not be total for most purposes!

• Active involvement of the reader

• Reader is actively involved: has to work to get the meaning out of the text

• If the reader is not aware he is not understanding, he cannot become a competent reader

• Co-operative principle:

■ we assume that people are telling the truth

■ and have something sensible to say

■ until evidence to the contrary is too strong to resist

• Communication is a co-operative task: both reader as writer have to make an effort

• Lack of shared assumptions is

■ Likely to be the worst problem

■ Not always recognised

• Reading as an interactive process

■ Different from conversation because writer is normally not available > more difficult

■ BUT writer has an advantage: time to structure his text efficiently

■ AND reader has an advantage: time to re-read, stop and think, …

• Reader has to read with skill and care

• to reconstruct the assumptions on which the writing is based

• to get the message intended rather than the message he might have preferred

• to make sense of the text

• Prediction

• Reader’s sense and experience help him to predict what the writer is likely to say next

• Reader can think along with the writer

• Reader constantly makes and remakes hypotheses

• Reading as a psycholinguistic guessing game:

• Overall pattern of the text and the way the argument is organised helps to make a reasoned guess at the next step

• Leading us to interpret correctly the value of an utterance

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