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Cohesion in English

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  • March 2011
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0. Introduction: Meaning of Cohesion

One thing that comes to mind at the mention of cohesion is the word: text. A text can be written or spoken, prose or verse, dialogue or monologue, etc. It ranges from a few sentences to thousands. A text is not usually defined by size. It is not a grammatical unit but a semantic unit; it is a unit of language in use and any attempt to analyse a text usually shows that it is a product of an ongoing process of meaning. Cohesion prevents texts from being a mere collection of sentences. Johnstone maintains that cohesion is “what distinguishes a written text or a conversion from a random list of sentences” (118). Linguists have defined cohesion in different ways. For Matthews, cohesion is “the connection between successive sentences in a text, conversation, etc., in so far as it can be described in terms of specific syntactic units” (62). He defines cohesion in two ways. His first definition recognises cohesion as one of the text making strategies used in discourse or conversation. That is the main thrust of this paper. His second definition refers to cohesion as that which holds between different grammatical or structural units. For example, a word is cohesive because it is internally structured. But linguists and discourse analysts like Halliday and Hassan have argued that cohesion operates across sentences. Toolan in particular defines cohesion as “the linguistic means by which sentences are woven together to make texts” (23). Although a sentence may be cohesive, it is only when more than one sentence is considered that one can talk about textual cohesion. Cohesion therefore is the process of achieving inter-sentence textuality. Again, linguists normally distinguish between cohesion and coherence. According to Mey, cohesion is the way “words formally hang together in sentences” while coherence “captures the content-based connections between the words that make them produce sense” (153). He states further...

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