Literary Stylistics:
Workshop Notes no. 17

Some Essential Concepts in the Analysis of Cohesion

A Note on Texture

In Halliday's grammar, the analysis of cohesion is closely related to the analysis of theme-rheme  and given-new, as all these features are connected to the textual metafunction  of language. Theme-rheme  and given-new  combine in the grammar of English to form what Halliday calls the structural component of TEXTURE, which is defined as ‘the property of ‘being a text’’. The other component of TEXTURE is the cohesive, which is the non-structural component. The concept of TEXTURE should thus consist of the following features:

(A) the structural component of texture

1 thematic structure: Theme & Rheme (Chapter 3)
2 information structure and focus (Chapter 8)

(B) the cohesive (non-structural) component of texture (Chapter 9)

1 reference
2 ellipsis and substitution
3 conjunction
4 lexical cohesion

A Prior Note on Coherence

Cohesion must be distinguished from COHERENCE. A cohesive text may not necessarily be coherent to the reader, and a text which is coherent to someone may be lacking in certain crucial cohesive elements. A text is cohesive according to the language it is written or spoken in, and it is coherent to the individual reader or hearer. Cohesion is thus dependent on the resources of a particular language, whereas relevant psychological and other variable extra-linguistic factors are needed for the realization of coherence. A physics text-book for example, may be written using all the necessary cohesive devices of the language, but it may not be coherent to someone who does not have the necessary background knowledge (which is needed for the realization of coherence) even if he has a very good command of the language.

One problem that you may face when doing stylistic analysis, is the fact that your available linguistic concepts do not adequately deal with connections between sentences. The various rela­tionships between the primary and secondary clauses discussed in the workshops on clause com­plexing   may be applicable to the analysis of more than one clause, but only if they exist within the boundaries of a single sentence. The analysis of theme-rheme in a passage, when combined with the concepts of given and new, can help you to examine the relationships between sen­tences, but your analysis in this direction may not be as multi-sided as you may have wished. In order to provide you with the tools for a more complete analysis, you have to turn to Halli­day's analysis of cohe­sion.

Halliday's Approach to Cohesion

Cohesion in English, in Halliday's view, is achieved by any of the four ways below:

1) REFERENCE
2) ELLIPSIS
3) CONJUNCTION
4) LEXICAL COHESION


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