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Texture in Text: A Discourse Analysis of a News Article Using Halliday and Hasan’s Model of Cohesion

Paul A. CRANE

1. Introduction The study and analysis of actual language in use is the goal of text and discourse analysis. Michael Halliday, one of the linguists credited with the development of systemic linguistics and functional grammar, defines text as any authentic stretch of written or spoken language. According to Halliday (1994: xiv) the historical study of linguistics first involved studying the morphology of language followed by studying the meaning of words at the sentence level. Ultimately the goal of such analysis was to find the meaning of the forms of language. However, in Halliday’s view, the reverse approach is more meaningful: “A language is interpreted as a system of meanings, accompanied by forms through which the meanings can be expressed.” Beyond the grammar and lexis of language, understanding the mechanisms for how text is structured is the basis for his work. What makes any length of text meaningful and coherent has been termed texture. Texture is the basis for unity and semantic interdependence within text and a text without texture would just be a group of isolated sentences with no relationship to one another. Eggins (1994: 85) refers to the term put forth by Schegloff and Sacks

(1973/74) “sequential implicativeness” which proposes that language follows a linear sequence where one line of text follows another with each line being linked or related to the previous line. This linear progression of text creates a context for meaning. Contextual meaning, at the paragraph level is referred to as “coherence” while the internal properties of meaning is referred to as “cohesion”. Coherence has both “situational” coherence when field, tenor, and mode can be identified for a certain group of clauses and “generic” coherence when the text can be recognized as belonging to a certain genre. Cohesion relates to the “semantic ties” within text whereby a tie is made when there is some dependent link between items that combine to create meaning. Therefore, texture is created within text when there are properties of coherence and cohesion, outside of the apparent grammatical structure of the text. Using the Newsweek article Ruins With A View as a basis, the textual aspect of meaning through cohesion will be analyzed. The principles of referencing, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical cohesion put forth by Halliday and Hasan (1976) and Bloor and Bloor (1995) will be applied to the article and analyzed to demonstrate the relevance of the cohesive elements that are present in texts which contribute to the overall meaning of the text. Understanding how cohesion functions within text to create semantic links could be beneficial to students of English as a second or foreign language to help “decode” meaning. 2. Principles of Cohesion Structure in text is provided by grammar therefore cohesion is considered to be outside of the structure. Cohesion refers to the “non-structural text-forming relations” (Halliday and Hasan 1976: 7). The concept of cohesion in text is related to semantic ties or “relations of meanings that

exist within the text, and that define it as a text” (ibid: 4). Within text, if a previously mentioned item is referred to again and is dependent upon another element, it is considered a tie. Without semantic ties, sentences or utterances would seem to lack any type of relationship to each other and might not be considered text. Halliday and Hasan (ibid: 4) refer to this intertextual link as “the presupposing” and “the presupposed”. Using the authors’ example, “Wash and core six cooking apples. Put them into a fireproof dish.”: The word “them” presupposes “apples” and provides a semantic tie between the two sentences, thus creating cohesion. Cohesion creates interdependency in text. 2.1 Referencing Referencing functions to retrieve presupposed information in text and must be...
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