Coherence

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COHESION, COHERENCE AND ABSURDITY: THE WE MAKE SENSE OUT OF TEXTS Let us look at the following two groups of sentences-
i.Sachin Tendulkar stared at yet another challenge when he left Mumbai on Saturday with wife Anjali for London. The maestro will be operated on his right shoulder by dr. Andrew Wallace on Monday. Since he needs around eight weeks to recover, Tendulkar has been ruled out of the ODI series against England. There is question mark about his availability for India’s tour of West Indies as well. (Hindu, 26/3/ 2006) ii .Indian democracy is in a very bad state. Cricket is a very interesting game. Sachin scored a century recently. Well, the summer is going to be very hot. Whereas i. above will be immediately recognized as a coherent text, ii. will be difficult to make sense of. The difference between the two is that i. is a text, where as ii. is merely a group of sentences put together without any logical or grammatical connection between the sentences. i. is ‘coherent’: ii. is absurd. Let us now look at the concepts of cohesion, coherence and absurdity keeping in mind the above two examples. We will be mainly asking ourselves what are the elements that make i. a meaningful text and ii. an absurd collage of sentences. To begin with, let us talk about textuality. Textuality is “---what enables the speaker or writer to construct ‘texts’, or connected passages of discourse that is situationally relevant” and “--- it expresses the structure of information, and the relation of each part of the discourse to the whole and to the setting” ( Halliday, as quoted in Joia and Stenton,1980: 50). It is clear that when talking about texts, we will have to move beyond sentence. For a long time the dominant trend in linguistics was to look at sentence as the basic unit of language. However, the development of discourse analysis lead to a study of the larger-than-sentence units and it was seen that textual organization is not a mere extension of syntactic organization. As van Dijk says “Those syntactic relationships that have traditionally formed the core of grammar-hold only within the sentence. If we extend them to descriptions of intersentential relations, we are lapsing into metaphor. ------. Infact the domain of text and discourse linguistics is more congruent with that of rhetoric than with that of syntax” (1985: 13). Halliday and Hasan make the same point when they say “A text is not something that differs from a sentence, only bigger; it is something that differs from a sentence in kind” (1976: 2). Let us now see how intersentential relations lead to textuality. Meaningful text manifests both cohesion and coherence. The term cohesion is generally used to refer to the grammatical connectivity between the sentences of a discourse and coherence is used to refer to the semantic organization of the content. For example, Bublidge et al use the term cohesion for “the syntactic organization of discourse which can be recognized by the discourse receiver.” And they say “The semantic organization of discourse can to a large extent be characterized as a set of properties which we designate by the term ‘coherence” (Bublidge et al, 1999:5). Velde D. van also makes similar point when he says “ ----( cohesion is) the syntactic organization of discourse which can be recognized by the discourse receiver.--- The semantic organization of discourse can to a large extent characterized as a set of properties which we designate by the term ‘coherence’” (1984: 5). Thus cohesion refers to the grammatical connectedness between sentences of a text, whereas coherence refers to the semantic connectedness. Let us first look at the concept of cohesion. Halliday and Hasan(1976) make a detailed analysis of cohesion in English in their book ‘Cohesion on English’. They say that in a text, the sentences are interconnected. As they say “Cohesion occurs when the interpretation of some element in discourse is...
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