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Sentence vs.


• Sentence: a syntactic unit expressing a grammatical relation of predication. It also expresses a

tought or an idea.

• Text – language material outside a single sentence boundaries – texts consist of sentences.

Text vs. Discourse

• The basic meaning of ‘discourse’, in modern ordinary usage, is ‘talk’.

• Originally the term ‘discourse’ came from Latin, discursus, meaning ‘to run’, ‘to run on’, ‘to run
to and fro’.

• Historically, it has been applied more to rehearsed forms of spoken language—like speeches,
where people ‘run on’ about a topic—than to spontaneous speech.

• The modern meaning of ‘discourse’ as encompassing all forms of talk has evolved because
conversations, like formal speeches, ‘run’.

• This means that speakers make an effort to give their interactions shape and coherence -not
consciously, but as an integral part of co-operating with another speaker to make meaning.

• So when people refer to talk as discourse they are drawing attention to the way talk is a
crafted medium.

• While it has long been understood that this was true of speeches and other aspects of formal
oratory, it has only recently been recognised that casual conversation is subtly and skilfully
fashioned by speakers as they go along, often at rapid speed.

• Another way of looking at talk-as-discourse is to use the metaphor of weaving. In fact, we use
this metaphor very often in our own talk about talk: for example, we talk about ‘losing the
thread of the conversation’, ‘cottoning on’ to what people mean when they ‘spin us a yarn’;
teachers often close their lessons by referring to ‘tying up loose ends’. We clearly see speakers
as engaged together in discourse in the way a group of weavers would be to create a pattern
in some fabric.

• But it’s not only spoken language that ‘runs’ or gets woven into patterns.

• This is also true of written language; and the modern use of the word ‘discourse’ can also be
used to refer to aspects of written texts.

• This tends to be used much more within the academic world than outside it.

• The word text itself originally meant ‘something woven’ (Latin texere, textum—‘to weave’),
and you can see a relationship between text, textile (‘capable of being woven’) and texture
(‘having the quality of woven cloth’).

• Written language is also often referred to as ‘material’.

• Like speakers, then, writers manipulate different aspects of language in order to weave their
texts and give their material ‘texture’.

• So to talk about discourse in written texts is to focus on the way written texts are constructed.

Tracing the patterns

1 Lexical cohesion

• This looks at the way aspects of vocabulary link parts of texts together.

2 Grammatical cohesion

• Here you will be exploring some of the important ways that grammar holds texts together
across sentence boundaries.

3 Information structure

• This focuses on the role of grammatical features in the ordering and presentation of
information within texts.

Text Linguistics

• Text Linguistics is the branch of linguistics primarily concerned with the analysis of written

• It is concerned with understanding how texts function both as internally coherent systems,
but also how certain kinds of texts function in relation to their larger sociological contexts.

• Recently, text linguistics has expanded to include many diverse systems of communication. It
is closely allied with other fields such as discourse analysis and literary criticism.

Cohesion and Coherence

• Text linguistics is largely concerned with cohesion, understanding how texts are put
together, and coherence, which is how the construction of a text develops and affects
meaning and interpretation. In general, an analysis of cohesion will consider the kinds
of phrase structures, references, tropes, and other linguistic devices that make up the
"surface" elements of a text.
• An analysis for coherence will attempt to understand how these elements are put
together to develop a text's meaning. Together, these can largely be thought of as the
internal mechanics of a text.


• Your reception and understanding of a particular text is largely dependent upon your
experience of other texts you have encountered.

• This includes making sense of analogies, identifying genres or forms, and recognizable
social conventions.

• This notion can be reasonably extended to include your prior experience with
language itself.

Context and Situation

• Your interpretation of a text may largely depend upon your knowledge of the text's
historical or social context.

• Additionally, the way you interact with a text may differ depending upon the situation
in which you experience it. For example, you will interact differently with a satirical
essay from the 18th century, which you will read deeply in order to understand the
speaker's use of irony, than when you interact with a web page, which you will
probably only scan to retrieve needed information.

Author and Audience

• The analysis of any text will need to consider pertinent information about who wrote
it, for what purpose, and for what kind of audience.

• For example, a speech delivered to Parliament by the Prime Minister will have a
different set of intentions and be received differently than when the same speech is
delivered by a comedic actor in a parody sketch.

Authorial Intent vs. Intentionality

• For a text to exist it must be both intended and accepted as such; in other words, it
must be recognizable as something which you are meant to read.

• This is a text's intentionality, or its purposive "aboutness."

• Some textual analysts distinguish between intentionality and an author's intentions,

which is her specific intended meaning.
• You can read and interpret a text successfully without ever being told what the author
intended to mean; indeed, it may be that a text's exact meaning is radically unknowable by
anyone but the author.

• Some textual analysts argue that it is not necessary to consider an author's intentions at all;
the text can be read in a variety of different ways regardless of how the author intended it to
be read, and each of these readings will yield its own valid insights and observations.


• Text linguistics is utilized primarily by academics across a variety of disciplines. For

example, anthropologists may use it to help them better understand the role of texts
in a given culture, such as what kinds of texts are used for rituals and what those
rituals mean.

• Linguists may use it to better understand the structures of languages. Sociologists use
text linguistics to understand how people relate through their language and how they
make use of particular kinds of written texts in their social interactions.

• Finally, literary critics use text linguistics to understand how texts create meaning, and
how those meanings can provide insights into other aspects of culture and society.

What are words made of?

• Structure

• Content

• Lexical Relations

• Grammatical Relations

Word and meaning

1 Lexical ambiguity: say what you mean, or mean what you say?

– This looks at the way users of text can exploit the capacity of words to carry more than
one meaning.

2 Metaphor: life’s a beach and then you fry

– This explores the way metaphor operates within text, and looks at some of the effects
of metaphoric language.
3. Idiomatic language: flogging dead crocodiles and keeping your feet under water

• Here, you will look at some set structures of language having specific meanings
that don’t necessarily relate to the individual words within the structure.

4 Denotation and connotation: what are words worth?

– This looks at the emotional loading that many words carry, and the way producers of
text can exploit this capacity of language to make texts effective.

5 Linguistic determinism

– Is our perception of the world influenced, or even controlled, by the language that we

Word and Sense

• Most users of English would assume that words are the smallest units of language to carry

• This, however, is not necessarily the case, which makes questions such as ‘What is a word?’
even more difficult to answer.

Words may be made up of one or more morphemes:

• One morpheme dog, elephant, establish, child

• Two morphemes dog s, establish ment, child ish

• Three morphemes dis establish ment, child ish ness.

• In theory, there is no limit to the number of morphemes a word can have, but logic and
comprehensibility mean that there tends to be an upper limit, and six morphemes is about it for

Most speakers of English will have very little trouble answering these questions.

There was more than one plog, because this word carries the plural marker ‘s’.

‘Glorped’ is marked as a verb by the use of the past tense marker ‘ed’, so the reader knows what the
plogs were doing, and the fact that they were doing it in the past.

Finally, the reader can tell how or in what manner the plogs were glorping—bliply—because the word
carries the adverb marker ‘ly’.
Just a brief look at text can establish that units smaller than words are carrying meaning. These units are

Meaning therefore exists in units of language smaller than the word, in morphemes.

Users of English frequently use the term ‘word’ when, strictly speaking, they are referring to

If someone looks a word up in the dictionary, for example ‘dogs’, they don’t look up the plural form,
they look up the base morpheme ‘dog’.

For this reason, many linguists prefer the term ‘lexeme’ to the term ‘word’. Lexeme refers to a unit of
meaning that may be smaller or larger than the traditional term ‘word’ implies.


The examples of text below all apparently intend one meaning, but give another. Try to identify the
word(s) that have caused the difficulty, and say why this has happened.

These examples are all from letters sent to housing departments.

1. I request permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.

2. Will you please send a man to look at my water. It is a very funny colour and not fit to drink.

3. The person next door has a large erection in his back garden which is unsightly and dangerous.

In the activity above, some of the words used in these letters have synonyms, or are polysemes.

‘Drawers’ is synonymous with ‘part of an item of furniture’ but is also synonymous with ‘item of
women’s underwear’.

‘Water’ can mean any amount of water from the flow from a tap to the ocean; but also by association

‘Erection’ can mean ‘building’ or ‘sexual arousal’. If the producer of a text intends one meaning, but the
context in which a word is used implies another, the result is confusion, because the text becomes


• The existence of metaphor allows for a further expansion of meaning. By linking words or
concepts that don’t generally have a semantic link, a new meaning can be expressed. Metaphor
allows producers of text to make connections in a few words, that would take lines of writing, or
long stretches of speech, to make in a more literal way.

• The literal translation of a metaphor rarely produces the same effect as the metaphor.
• Metaphor can be used to make comments on aspects of human behavior or society without the
writer having to spell out literally the point he/she is trying to make.

• Metaphor is often seen as something that is more likely to exist in the domain of literature, and
not as something that has a lot to do with everyday life. It isn’t unusual for people to associate
metaphor with written language, and particularly with written language that is literary or has
literary associations.

• Advertising, for example, is often very creative; tabloid newspapers are known for their
inventive ways of using the phonological and lexical levels of language. However, metaphor is
much more a part of day-today uses of language.

• Metaphor, then, is very much a part of the day-to-day language, so much so that its presence is
often not even noticed by users of language. It serves to encode and possibly reinforce our
attitudes to many aspects of life.

• Given this, metaphor has the capacity to be a very powerful tool of language.


• Idioms present problems of direct translation. It is unusual to be able to substitute one word for
another and provide a translation into non-idiomatic English.

• Frequently, a whole phrase has to be rewritten.

Textual translations

1 On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

2 On the menu of a Polish hotel: Roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country

people’s fashion.

3 On the door of a Moscow hotel room: If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to


4 In an Acapulco hotel: The manager has personally passed all the water served here.

In some cases, these texts have gone wrong because the translator was unaware that he/she was
dealing with

In other cases, the translator has unwittingly produced an idiom that has a different meaning from the

one that the combination of words would logically suggest.

Try to rewrite these texts into clear English. Identify the idiom that has caused the translation to go

1 ‘Hope’ is synonymous with ‘desire’. Unfortunately, ‘leaves nothing to be desired’ means the opposite

of ‘nothing to hope for’. A translator who was not fluent in English, and who was working with a

thesaurus, could easily fall into this trap.

2 ‘Free-range’ is an expression of very fixed meaning. It may appear to mean the same as ‘let loose’, but

it doesn’t.

The second mistranslation in this example is not a matter of idiom, but is a problem of lexical

ambiguity (see p. 77 above). ‘Battered’ is synonymous with ‘covered in batter’ and with ‘beaten up’.

3 ‘You are welcome’ and ‘you are welcome to it’ have more or less opposite meanings. An inexperienced

user of the language would have no way of knowing this.

4 The word ‘pass’ has the meaning ‘to adjudicate or make judgement’. However, the phrase ‘pass water’

has a very specific meaning that presents a trap to both the fluent and the inexperienced user of the