Cohesion in English

Topics: Semantics, Anaphora, Linguistics Pages: 8 (2606 words) Published: March 11, 2011
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 that cohesion establishes local relations between syntactic items while coherence deals with global meaning expressed through speech activity (154). Based on Hallidayan linguistics, there are about five general grammatical and lexical strategies speakers use to achieve cohesion. These strategies are reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical cohesion. Each of the has been discussed below beginning with reference. 1. Reference as a Cohesion Forming Device in English

Reference is expressed in terms of the relationship between presupposed item and its presupposing elements across sentences. Bloor and Bloor note that “a characteristic of cohesive reference is that, on second and subsequent mention, instead of being named, the person or thing being referred to may be indicated by means of a pronoun, demonstrative or a comparative” (93). In other words, the referring item must be co-referential to its referent. Reference can point within a text (endophoric) or outside the text (exophoric). The following passage displays the use of personal reference to achieve cohesion: Never in life did it occur to me that a mere man could make deception and camouflage an integral aspect of his personality until I met Joe. From the first day I met him, Joe set my life in motion, tossing it up and down while making sure that everything reached a point when it would snap, topple over and crash-land with a catastrophic consequence. He simply burrowed into my life, leaving a hole which later deepened into a tunnel. With each passing day, the void he created in my life continued to widen. There was that vacuum which only his presence could have filled but he harshly abandoned me, leaving me both cold and comfortless.

(Text A. Use of Reference. Adapted From: The Cruel Deceit by Basil Ovu)

All the highlighted elements in the above passage refer to Joe and the use of personal pronouns there also helps to link the sentences into one semantic unit. These words:...

Cited: Hodder Education. 2004.
Johnstone, Barbara. Discourse Analysis. 2nd. Ed. Oxford. Blackwell Publishing. 2008.
Printing Co., 1999.
University of Port Harcourt. Press. 2007.
Ovu, Basil. The Cruel Deceit. Owerri. Cel-bez Nigeria Limited. 2011.
------------ Rivulets: A collection of Poetry. Owerri. Cel-bez Nigeria Limited. 2011.
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