The evolution of text linguistics
1. Whereas only
ten years ago the notion of “text linguistics” was familiar to few
researchers, we can now look back on a substantial expanse of work. Surveys and
readers are widely available (see for instance Stempel (ed.) 1971; Dressler
1972a; Fries 1972; Schmidt 1973; Dressler & Schmidt (eds.) 1973; Sitta &
Brinker (eds.) 1973; Jelitte 1973-74, 1976; Petöfi & Rieser (eds.) 1974;
Kallmeyer et al. 1974; Harweg 1974, 1978; Hartmann 1975; Schecker & Wunderli
(eds.) 1975; Daneš & Viehweger (eds.) 1976; Coulthard 1977; Gülich &
Raible 1977; Jones 1977; Dressler 1978; Gindin 1978; Grosse 1978; Kuno 1978; Nöth
1978; Rieser 1978; Beaugrande (ed.) 1980). The picture that emerges from these
works is diffuse and diversified, because there was no established methodology
that would apply to texts in any way comparable to the unified approaches for
conventional linguistic objects like the sentence.
2. Teun van
Dijk (1979a) stresses that “text linguistics” cannot in fact be a
designation for a single theory or method. Instead, it designates any work in
language science devoted to the text as the primary object of inquiry. Our brief
overview in this chapter will be centred on a few exemplary studies which
demarcate the gradual evolution of theory and method toward an independent,
specially tailored foundation for the study of texts. But first, we should
glance at some historical roots with important implications.
3. The oldest
form of preoccupation with texts can be found in rhetoric,
dating from Ancient Greece and Rome through the Middle Ages right up to the
present (on the current resurgence of classical rhetoric, see for example
Corbett 1971; Winterowd (ed.) 1975; Plett (ed.) 1977; Brown & Steinmann
(eds.) 1979). The traditional outlook of rhetoricians was influenced by their
major task of training public orators. The main areas were usually the
following: invention, the discovery of ideas; disposition, the
arrangement of ideas; elocution, the discovery of appropriate expressions
for ideas; and memorization prior to delivery on the actual occasion of
speaking. In the Middle Ages, rhetoric belonged to the “trivium” (three
studies) alongside grammar (formal language patterns, usually Latin and Greek)
and logic (construction of arguments and proofs).
shares several concerns with the kind of text linguistics we are exploring here
(cf. Spillner 1977), notably the assumptions that:1
arranging of ideas is open to systematic control;
transition between ideas and expressions can be subjected to conscious training;
(c) among the
various texts which express a given configuration of ideas, some are of higher
quality than others;
of texts can be made in terms of their effects upon the audience of receivers;
(e) texts are vehicles of
limits, researchers can study units of sound and form, or formal patterns of
sentences, from a relatively abstract standpoint. But many aspects of texts only
appear systematic in view of how texts are produced, presented, and received.
Whereas the conventional linguistic question might be: “What structures can
analysis uncover in a language?”, our question (cf. III.6) would be rather:
“How are discoverable structures built through operations of decision and
selection, and what are the implications of those operations for communicative
interaction?” It is plain that classical rhetoric, despite its different terms
and methods, was vitally involved in seeking the answer to the second question.
6. A similar
conclusion can be drawn about the traditional domain of stylistics.
Quintilian, an early theoretician (1st century A.D.), named four qualities of
style: correctness, clarity, elegance, and appropriateness.
While correctness depends on conformity with prestigious usage, and
appropriateness is presumably definable in terms similar to our own notion (cf.
I.23), the notions of clarity and elegance seem at first too vague and
subjective to be reliably defined and quantified. They are akin to our notions
of efficiency and effectiveness, respectively, without being identical. Still,
Quintilian’s categories reflect the assumption that texts differ in quality
because of the extent of processing resources expended on their production (cf.
The range of stylistic studies in modern times has been rather multifarious (cf.
surveys in Sebeok (ed.) 1960; Spillner 1974). Recently, linguistics has been
employed as a tool for discovering and describing styles (cf. survey in
Enkvist 1973). Despite the diversity of approaches, nearly all work reflects the
conviction that style results from the characteristic selection of options
for producing a text or set of texts. Hence, we might look into the style of a
single text; of all texts by one author; of a group of texts by similar authors;
of representative texts for an entire historical period; and even of texts
typical of an overall culture and its prevailing language.2
Obviously, the methodological difficulties increase as we move along toward
larger and larger domains.
8. The most
neutral means for uncovering the selections made in a text or set of texts is
direct statistical tabulation of occurrences (cf. Doležel & Bailey (eds.)
1969). This method, however, obscures some significant considerations. The
relative frequency of an occurrence is often less decisive than the immediate
likelihood of finding it in the specific context currently evolving (cf.
VII.5f.). What is expected within the norms of the language overall may be
unexpected within a given context, and vice versa (cf. Riffaterre 1959, 1960;
Beaugrande 197Sa: 39f). In addition, there are variations in the degree to which
any option influences the identification of a style, e.g. by being more or less
conspicuous. From considerations like the above, it follows that style is really
only definable in terms of the operations carried out by the producers and
receivers of texts—a major issue of concern in the present volume.
9. When modern
linguistics began to emerge, it was customary to limit investigation to the
framework of the sentence as the largest unit with an inherent structure (cf.
Bloomfield 1933: 170). Whatever structures might obtain beyond the sentence were
assigned to the domain of stylistics. This division does reflect a fundamental
property of language. It is much more straightforward to decide what constitutes
a grammatical or acceptable sentence3 than what constitutes a
grammatical or acceptable sentence sequence, paragraph, text, or discourse.4
When we move beyond the sentence boundary, we enter a domain characterized by
greater freedom of selection or variation and lesser conformity with established
rules. For instance, we can state that an English declarative sentence must
contain at least a noun phrase and an agreeing verb phrase, as in that perennial
favourite of linguists:
 The man hit the ball.
But if we ask how  might fit
into a text, e.g.:
[18a] The man hit the ball.
The crowd cheered him on.
[18b] The man hit the ball.
He was cheered on by the crowd.
[18c] The man hit the ball.
The crowd cheered the promising rookie on.
it is much harder to decide what
expression for the ‘man’ should be used in a follow-up sentence (e.g.
‘him’ vs. ‘this promising rookie’), and in what format (e.g. active vs.
passive). Certainly, we have-no hard and fast rules which would force us to
prefer just one continuation.
10. For a
science of texts as human activities, the distinction we have just raised is not
so crucial. If we assume that structures are always the outcome of
intentional operations (cf. II.5), then even single sentences must evolve
through selection rather than being derived from abstract rules alone. Moreover,
there are many surface relationships, such as noun followed up by pronoun, which
can occur both within one sentence and among an extensive sequence of sentences.
Thus, there are good motives for merging sentence linguistics with stylistics
when building up a science of texts.
11. Texts have
been a long-standing object of literary
studies, though emphasis was limited to certain text types (cf. X.13-18).
Scholars have at various times embarked on tasks such as these:
(a) describing the text
production processes and results of an author, or a group of
authors in some time period or setting;
(b) discovering some
problematic or contestable senses for texts;
(c) assigning values to
The attempt to make these tasks
more systematic and objective has spurred an application of linguistic methods
to literary studies (cf. Spitzer 1948; Levin 1962; Chatman & Levin (eds.)
1967; Jakobson & Jones 1970; Ihwe (ed.) 1971; Koch (ed.) 1972; van Dijk
1972a, 1972b; Ihwe 1972; Spillner 1974; Kloepfer 1975). Quite possibly, the
expanded scope of text linguistics renders it still more useful in this kind of
application than the conventional methodology of describing structures as such:
we try to go beyond the structures and ask how and why texts are built and
utilized (cf. o.6; X.16ff.).
12. Texts have
also come under the scrutiny of anthropology
in its explorations of cultural artefacts (cf. X.8). Bronislaw Malinowski (1923)
expounded the importance of viewing language as human activity in order to study
meaning. Special attention was devoted to myths and folktales by Vladimir Propp
(1928) and later by Claude Lévi-Strauss (1960) and his followers.
Anthropologists like these borrowed from linguistics various methods of
structural analysis and description (cf. also Dundes 1962; Bremond 1964; Greimas
1967; Zolkovskij & Sčeglov 1967; Colby 1973a, 1973b). The operational
approach of the kind we are following has been adopted more and more in the last
few years (cf. Beaugrande & Colby 1979).
Anthropological investigation of little-known cultures was massively supported
by a linguistic method known as tagmemics
(developed largely by Kenneth Pike 1967; see also Longacre 1964, 1970, 1976).
The method called for gathering and analysing data in terms of “slots” and
“fillers”, i.e. according to the positions open within a stretch of text and
to the units that can occupy those positions. Tagmemics looks beyond the
boundaries of both sentences and texts toward such large complexes of human
interaction as a football game or a church service. The slot-and-filler method,
a basic technique of code-breaking, is eminently useful for describing languages
about which the investigator knows nothing in advance. The investigator uses
means of language elicitation which impel native speakers to produce
utterances of particular types.
14. The integration of anthropology and linguistics in the tagmemic
approach has provided invaluable documentation of many rapidly disappearing
languages in remote regions. The major contribution to a science of texts lies
in the systematic recognition of relationships between language and the settings
of communication. However, a slot-and-filler approach is too rigid to encompass
textuality as depicted in this volume; there must be operational processes
before there can be any configurations of slots to fill in the first place.
Again, we face the distinction between the discovery or analysis of the
structures, and the procedures which select and build structures (cf. o.6; II.5;
has developed an interest in the analysis of conversation
as a mode of social organization and interaction (cf. X.8). For example, studies
have been conducted on how people take turns in speaking (Sacks, Schegloff &
Jefferson 1974). The field entitled ethnomethodology
inquires into correlations between patterns of speaking and social roles or
groups (cf. Gumperz & Hymes (eds.) 197.2; Bauman & Scherzer (eds.)
1974): how people adapt their language behaviour in certain group encounters;
how speaking conventions are established or changed; how social dominances
emerge in speaking; and so forth.
16. The study
of conversation, sometimes also called discourse
analysis (CF. Sinclair & Coulthard 1975; Coulthard 1977), is of vital
import to a science of texts. The mechanisms which combine texts
as single contributions into discourses
as sets of mutually relevant texts directed to each other, reveal major factors
about the standards of textuality.5 Cohesion is affected when
surface structures are shared or borrowed among separate texts (cf. IV.33;
VI.26). Coherence of a single text may be evident only in view of the
overall discourse (cf. IX.22f.). Intentionality is shown in the
goal-directed use of conversation (cf. VI.16ff; VIII.13ff.), and acceptability
in the immediate feedback (cf. I.15; VI.4). The role of situationality is
particularly direct (cf. VIII.13), and the whole organization illustrates intertextuality
in operation (cf. IX ‘3ff.). The selection of contributions to conversation
can be controlled by the demands of informativity (cf. IX. 14).
17. We have
rapidly reviewed some disciplines which, for various motives, share many
concerns with a science of texts. Indeed, the regrettable lack of co-operation
among these disciplines in past times might well be due to the absence of a
pivotal text science. We shall now glance at some previous work in the field of
linguistics proper, where the text was generally considered a marginal entity
until it became hard to ignore any longer.
18. An early
milestone emerged from philology, a
forerunner of modern linguistics, dealing with the organization and evolution of
language sounds and forms in historical time. Comparing word order in ancient
and modem languages, Henri Weil (1844, 1887) detected another principle besides
grammar: the relations of “thoughts” to each other evidently affects the
arrangement of words in sentences. His investigations were renewed by Czech
linguists (many of them in the “Prague School”) under the designation of functional
sentence perspective (cf. IV.51-53; VII.18.4). This designation suggests
that sentence elements can “function” by setting the knowledge they activate
into a “perspective” of importance or newness. In many languages, for
instance, elements conveying important, new, or unexpected material are reserved
for the latter part of the sentence (cf. IV.52f.).
emergence of modern linguistics in the present century (particularly in the USA)
was associated with methods which came to be termed descriptive
Language samples were gathered and analysed according to systems
of minimal units. Minimal units of sound were called
“phonemes”; those of form, “morphemes”; those of word order, “syntagmemes”;
those of meaning, “semes” or “sememes”; and so on. Each system of
minimal units constitutes a level
organized by the opposition of units and
their distinctive features, so that
each unit was in some way distinct from all others. Hence, if a “system” is
defined as “a set of elements in which each element has a particular
function” (cf. III.2), then these systems were upheld by the function of distinctiveness. When the several systems of a language had been
identified and their units classified, the language would have been completely
20. Even this
brief outline of the descriptive structural method should indicate that it has
no obvious provisions for the study of texts. Of course, one can analyse a text
into levels of minimal units as depicted, but there is no guarantee that we will
have uncovered the nature of the text by doing so. On the contrary, the
extraction of tiny components diverts consideration away from the important
unities which bind a text together.
surprisingly, early work on texts in this tradition was diverse. Zellig S.
Harris (1952, reprinted 1963) proposed to analyse the distribution of morphemes
in texts according to “equivalences”: relationships in which elements were
the same or had the same environments. To increase the number of equivalences
and thus to make analysis more exhaustive, Harris applied the notion of
“transformation” that was later adopted and modified by his pupil Noam
Chomsky. A “transform” of the text gradually emerged with a maximum of
equivalences. For example, to obtain a pattern equivalent to “you will be
satisfied”, Harris transforms an earlier stretch of text from ‘satisfied
customers’ to ‘customers are satisfied’—a familiar operation to sentence
22. Despite the
enormous impact of the concept of “transformation” (employed here for the
first time in linguistics, as far as we know), Harris’s proposal for
“discourse analysis” on distributional principles seems to have received
little notice (see now Prince 1978). It is not fully clear what Harris’s
method is supposed to discover. Whereas descriptive linguistics was centred on
classification of units, the operation of “representing the order of
successive occurrences of members of a class” had never been applied before
(Harris 1952: 8). Harris himself admits (1952: 493) that the equivalences of
structure among sentences tell us nothing about relationships of meaning
(indeed, he is anxious to avoid appealing to meaning in any way); at most, “we
can say what criteria a new sentence must satisfy to be formally identical with
the sentences of the text”. As Bierwisch (1965a) shows in his critique of
Harris, a very doubtful text can be set up which all the same satisfies the
equivalence criteria being used. Still, Harris’s paper is an interesting proof
that the cohesion of texts entails a certain degree of recurrence and
parallelism of syntactic patterns from sentence to sentence (cf. IV. 12ff.).
Coseriu’s (1955-6, reprinted 1967) study of “determination and setting” is
based on entirely different considerations. He asserts that research on language
demands the investigation not only of speakers’ knowledge of a language but
also of techniques for converting linguistic knowledge into linguistic activity.
He employs the notion of “determination” to show how word meanings can be
applied, e.g. via “discrimination” (picking among possible referents of an
expression), “delimitation” (singling out certain aspects of meaning), and
“actualisation” (making potential knowledge currently active, cf. III.12),
each of these having subtypes dealing with identities, individualities,
quantities, class inclusions, specifications, distinctions, and specializations.
He then presents an elaborate classification of “settings” (“entornos”)
based on such factors as cultural, social, cognitive, and historical
surroundings, degree of mediation between text and situation (cf. VIII.1), and
range of content being addressed.
24. It is
indeed lamentable that Coseriu’s proposals went unheeded at the time. The
issues he raised are only now being recognized as significant for the empirical
study of meaningful communication. Units of content are not fixed particles with
a stable identity, but rather fuzzy agglomerates sensitive to the conditions of
their usage (cf. V.4). Some of the bizarre side effects of subsequent attempts
to describe language isolated from its uses and functions might have been
averted if Coseriu’s ideas had been accorded the attention they merited.
25. The first
large-scale inquiry into text organization was contributed by Roland Harweg
(1968).8 He postulated that texts are held together by the mechanism
of “substitution” (one expression following up another one of the same sense
or reference and thus forming a cohesive or coherent relationship). As his
chapter on “the phenomenology of pronominal chaining” (1968: 178-260)
reveals, his notion of “substitution” is extraordinarily broad and complex,
subsuming relationships such as recurrence (cf. IV.12ff.), synonymy (cf. IV.18),
class/instance (cf. V.17), subclass/superclass (cf. V.17), cause/effect,
part/whole, and much more.9 He stresses the directionality of substitution, i.e., the order in which
something follows up whatever it is being substituted for. Although our own
model has a different organization and terminology from Harweg’s, we will be
concerned with many of the same textual relationships as those he described.
26. There were
a number of other text studies based more or less on the descriptive structural
approach,10 but the main tendencies should now be evident. The text
was defined as a unit larger than the sentence (cf. Pike 1967; Koch 1971; Heger
1976). Research proceeded by discovering types of text structures and
classifying them in some sort of scheme. Occasionally, the framework of
investigation was expanded to include sequences of texts or situations of
occurrence (e.g.1n Coseriu 1955-6; Pike 1967; Harweg 1968; Koch 1971). But in
general, structures were construed as something given and manifest, rather than
something being created via operational procedures of human interactants. We end
up having classifications with various numbers of categories and degrees of
elaboration, but no clear picture of how texts are utilized in social activity.
27. Even within
its own boundaries, the descriptive method eventually breaks down in the face of
complexity (when a language aspect
is too intricate, and its constituents too numerous and diversified, for full
classification) and open systems (when
a language aspect entails sets of unlimited membership). For instance, we can
classify endless numbers of English sentences as distributions of morphemes and
still not have exhausted the patterns of all possible sentences. The language
model usually called “transformational grammar” was well received when it
offered a means of handling complexity and open systems: the infinite set of
possible data in the standard model, sentences of a language is seen as
derivable from a small set of basic patterns plus a set of rules for
manipulating and creating more elaborate patterns.
28. This new
approach leads to a different outlook on texts. Instead of viewing the text as a
unit above the sentence, we would see it as a string composed of well-formed
sentences in sequence. At first, Katz and Fodor (1963) argued that the text
might as well be treated as one super-long sentence that happened to be joined
by periods rather than conjunctions. This option is left open by the standard
grammar, since there is no limit on sentence length. But there are some
structures which are less typical in sequences of separate sentences than within
a single long sentence.11 And the empirically given texts have
doubtless assumed the format of separate sentences for potent motives anchored
somewhere in speakers’ knowledge of their language. There is no way in which
the Katz-Fodor proposal could account for textuality in the sense we are using
Heidolph (1966) notes that the factors of accent, intonation, and word-order
within a sentence depend on the organization of other sentences in the vicinity.
He suggested that a feature of “mentioned” vs. “not mentioned” could be
inserted in the grammar to regulate these factors. Horst Isenberg (1968, 1971)
follows Heidolph with a further enumeration of factors which cannot be solved
within the bounds of the isolated sentence, such as pronouns, articles, and
sequence of tenses. He adds features intended to capture the status of noun
phrases, e.g. knownness, identity, identifiability, generality, and
contrastivity. He also appeals to coherence relations like cause, purpose,
specification, and temporal proximity.
30. Some time
after these scholars had argued in support of text linguistics, a group of
researchers convened at the University of Konstanz, Germany, to participate in a
federally funded project on the notion of “text grammar”. This group,
centred around Hannes Rieser, Peter Hartmann, János Petöfi, Teun van Dijk,
Jens Ihwe, Wolfram Köck, and others, undertook to formulate an abstract grammar
and lexicon that would “generate” a text by Brecht entitled ‘Mr K’s
Favourite Animal’, i.e., that would assign structural descriptions to the
sentences of the text. The results of the project (some of them set forth in van
Dijk, Ihwe, Petöfi, & Rieser 1972) indicate that the differences between
sentence grammar and text grammar proved more significant than had been
supposed. Despite a huge apparatus of rules, there emerged no criteria for
judging the text “grammatical” or “well-formed.12 Why might the
sentences not be in some other order or format? The problem of common reference
was not solved, but simply incorporated into the “lexicon” for the text.13
A debate ensued between Werner Kummer (1972a, 1972b) and members of the project
(Ihwe & Rieser 1972), in which he questioned the basic assumptions of the
Konstanz project is in some ways reminiscent of Harris’s (1952) “discourse
analysis” (cf. Again, a grammatical method was applied to an unintended task,
and again, nothing seems to have been proven except that sentences share
structural properties within a text just as much as within the grammar of a
language overall. No standards for distinguishing between texts and non-texts
were found. The rules certainly do not reflect the processes that would operate
in producing or receiving a text. Indeed, as Kummer (1972a: 54) notes, the
“generating” of the text is presupposed by the investigators rather than
performed by the grammar.
32. János Petöfi
(1971) had already foreseen the difficulties of using transformational grammar
for a theory of texts. He reviewed the “standard” theory (after Chomsky
1965) in which the syntactic structure is generated first and then a semantic
interpretation” is performed, as compared to the generative semantic” theory
(cf. papers in Steinberg & Jakobovits (eds.) 1971) in which the basic
structure is a representation of the meaning and the syntactic form is imposed
later on. Petöfi asks whether it might not be expedient to construct a grammar
with separate components for the speaker and for the hearer. While the speaker
would start with meaning and create a sequential pattern, a hearer would begin
with the completed sequence and work back to the meaning.14
1971 volume ushered in the development of a vastly elaborate theory of texts,
often called the “text-structure/world-structure theory” (“TeSWeST” for
short). He has undertaken to distribute the various aspects of texts over a
battery of representational devices derived from formal logic. As the theory
evolves, the number and complexity of its components steadily increases (see Petöfi
1980 for a current version). The trend is to integrate more and more factors
relating to the users of texts rather than to the text as an isolated artefact.
For example, the lexicon, which
originally contained little more than the vocabulary defined for the text at
hand (see van Dijk, Ihwe, Petöfi & Rieser 1972), is made to incorporate
steadily more “commonsense knowledge” about how the world at large is
organized (cf. Petöfi 1978: 43). The logical status of text sense simply does
not emerge unless we consider its interaction with the users’ prior knowledge
(see already Petöfi 1974).
34. In the 1980
version, components are offered for representing a text from nearly every
perspective. To meet the demands of the logical basis, a “canonical” mode (a
regularized, idealized correlate) is set up alongside the “natural language”
mode in which the text is in fact expressed. Rules and algorithms are provided
for such operations as “formation”, “decomposition”, “construction”,
“description”, “interpretation”, and “translation”.15 The
reference of the text to objects or situations in the world is handled by a
“world-semantic” component; at least some correspondence is postulated
between text-structure and world-structure.
aside the technical details of Petöfi’s evolving model, we can view it as
illustrative of the issues which logic-based text theories will have to face.
Either established logics are employed, so that much of the texts’ nature is
lost from view; or the logics are modified to capture texts more adequately (Petöfi
1978: 44f.). Petöfi foresees intricate mechanisms to mediate between real texts
and logically adequate versions of texts. Whether this undertaking will succeed,
and whether it will then clarify the interesting properties of texts, remains to
be seen. Perhaps a less rigorous, formalized approach would do more justice to
the approximative way humans use texts in everday communication.
36. Teun van
Dijk’s (1972a) monumental treatise, Some Aspects of Text Grammars,
pursues a rather different range of considerations. Like Heidolph (1966) and
Isenberg (1968), 1971), van Dijk marshalled the arguments for text grammars in
terms of problems that sentence grammars could not treat satisfactorily. His
main object of study was literary and poetic texts, which often do
not conform to conventions of grammar and meaning and still belong indisputably
to the set of texts of a language (cf. IX.9). He concluded that there must be
“literary operations” applied to sound, syntax, and meaning in order to
obtain such unconventional texts, e.g. addition, deletion, and permutation
(i.e., inserting, leaving out, or changing the basic materials). Literary
metaphors served as illustrations.
important notion which sets van Dijk’s work apart from studies of sentence
sequences is that of macro=-structure:16
a large-scale statement of the content of a text. Van Dijk reasoned that the
generating of a text must begin with a main idea which gradually evolves
into the detailed meanings that enter individual sentence-length stretches (cf.
III.21). When a text is presented, there must be operations which work in the
other direction to extract the main idea back out again, such as deletion
(direct removal of material), generalization (recasting material in a
more general way), and construction (creating new material to subsume the
presentation) (van Dijk 1977a).17 Sentence grammars of course make no
provision for any such operations concerning macrostructures, since the issue
simply does not come up in the contemplation of isolated sentences. Accordingly,
van Dijk turned to cognitive psychology for a process-oriented model of
the text. In collaboration with Walter Kintsch, he investigated the operations
people use to summarize texts of some length, notably stories (cf. Kintsch &
van Dijk 1978; van Dijk & Kintsch 1978).18 The typical summary
for a text ought to be based on its macro-structure (see now van Dijk 1979b).
However, research showed that the actual outcome involves both the
macro-structure of the text and previously stored macro-structures based on
knowledge of the organization of events and situations in the real world (cf.
our discussion of “schemas” in IX.25-28).
38. A still
different line has been adopted in the work of Igor Mel’čuk (cf. Mel’čuk
1974, 1976; Mel’čuk & Žolkovskij 1970). He argues that the
transition between “meaning” (Russian “smysl”) and text should be the
central operation of a linguistic model, i.e. how meaning is expressed in or
abstracted out of a text. “Meaning” is to be defined as “manifesting
itself” in the “speaker’s ability to express one and the same idea in a
number of different ways and in the hearer’s ability to identify a number of
outwardly different synonymous utterances as having the same meaning” (Mel’čuk
& Žolkovskij 1970:11). As might be expected from this declaration, the
mainstay of investigation is the construction of paraphrasing systems” (on
paraphrase, cf. IV.18-19).
envisions a meaning representation with its own “syntax”; that is, with a
connectivity not visible in the grammatical organization. He arrives at a
network which is in some ways similar to those we shall discuss in Chapter V,
though he subdivides concepts into simpler units upon occasion. The units are
taken from a “deep lexicon”, moved to the network, and then formatted with a
“deep syntax” (“deep” in the sense of being composed of primitive, basic
elements rather than words and phrases of the text itself. 19 To
create acceptable paraphrases, “weighted filters” are imposed on the
selection of options.
40. The “text
grammars” of Petöfi, van Dijk, and Mel’čuk are typical of recent
attempts to redirect transformational generative grammar. Whereas the earlier
research simply postulated the same kind of structures among sentences as
those that had been established within sentences, allowing only small
alterations (e.g. Heidolph 1966; Isenherg 1968, 1971; van Dijk, Ihwe, Petöfi
& Rieser 1972), the recent trends reveal a search for a fundamentally
different conception of grammar. Mel’čuk’s model adapts the paraphrase
potential built into the notion of “transformation” (see Ungeheuer 1969) to
focus the direction of the language model toward “imitating human behaviour in
a purely automatic manner” (Mel’čuk & Žolkovskij 1970: 10). For
this task, he adopts a new kind of meaning representation to capture cognitive
continuity (cf. V.2). Petöfi shifts the operation of transformation from its
original domain on the syntactic level only and allows transformations among
different levels, so that more elaborate correspondences throughout the
language can be developed. Van Dijk expands transformations to describe
cognitive processes that can render texts “literary” or produce summaries.
41. It is
probably safe to conclude that virtually all models of texts and text grammars
will make some use of the notion of “transformation”, but probably not the
same use made in Chomskyan grammar. Moreover, many assumptions found in the
older grammar such as the autonomy of syntax are likely to be dropped as the
demands of modelling human communication in real interaction become better
defined. The trends indicated by the work of Petöfi, van Dijk, and Mel’čuk
illustrate this kind of evolution in theory and method.
chapter has not been intended as an exhaustive survey of research on texts.
Instead, we have merely essayed to mention some representative work inside and
outside linguistics. In particular, we intended to suggest the sort of
approaches that arise when texts are investigated from various perspectives and
for various motives. In most cases, the notion of “text” involved has been
narrower than the one we are advocating ourselves (e.g.: unit bigger than the
sentence; distribution of morphemes; sequence of well-formed sentences), but the
scope is expanding steadily, as Petöfi and van Dijk have demonstrated.
Accordingly, we view our own approach as an outcome of continual evolution
rather than a confrontation or even refutation of previous theories and methods.
1 We return to these matters in our sketch of text
2 The notion of a whole language having “style” seems
out of place: how can the repertory itself be a selection? The selection
involved here would be the characteristic means which one language offers among
the totality that could be available to language in principle. The
“comparative stylistics” of Vinay and Darbelnet (1958) (cf. X.23) is quite
3 On judging grammaticality or acceptability, cf. VI.
4 It will not help to view texts or discourses as
super-long sentences (cf. Katz & Fodor 1963; 11.28) or as sentence sequences
joined with “punctuation morphemes” (periods) (cf. Ballmer 1975). Sentences
are judged by their cohesion, whereas texts and discourses must possess all the
standards of textuality enumerated in Chapter I.
5 Our own use of the term “discourse” is that
explained here, and is more compatible with Sinclair and Courtyard’s work than
with that of Zellig Harris (1952), who also uses the term (cf. II.21-22). If, as
we argue here, discourses inherit all the standards of textuality, we might want
to make the discourse our central notion (see for example “discourse-world
models” vs. “text-world models”, IX.23). But we might incur some
disadvantages for treating single texts occurring by themselves.
6 Later, the term “taxonomic linguistics” was applied
to this approach by transformational grammarians, whose work was also the
description of structures (a very special use of the notion of “generative”)
(cf. II.30). The most elaborate taxonomic work is that of Koch (1971), who
devotes considerable attention to the implications of creating taxonomies.
7 We use the term level throughout to designate one of the systemic, simultaneously
co-present aspects of a language or text, e.g. sound, syntax, meaning, planning,
etc, and not a type of unit, e.g. morpheme, word, sentence, etc; the latter are
better called ranks.
8 Like many early landmarks in text linguistics — e.g.
Schmidt (1968), Koch (1971), and Wienold (1971)—Harweg (1968) was a
habilitation dissertation directed by Prof. Peter Hartmann at the University of
Münster (West Germany). The publication dates are all substantially later than
the actual work.
9 When citing from various sources, we try to use our own
terminology rather than that of each individual researcher, provided there are
discoverable correspondences, to save confusion and promote unity.
10 Most of these are found in the references in Dressler
11 One example is “cataphora”, in which the pro-form
appears before any noun or noun phrase supplying its content (cf. IV.23-24).
12 The notion of “well-formedness” has rather
indiscriminately been expanded from grammar to domains where its application is
rather doubtful. To prevent further confusion, we do not use the notion at all,
assuming that all actually occurring texts are “well-formed” if intended and
accepted as such; they may of course be inefficient, ineffective, or
inappropriate (cf. 1.23). We will have enough to do with these real samples and
need not try to concoct deliberately “ill-formed” texts on our own.
13 Concerning the “lexicon”, cf. II.33.
14 But this model only captures some activities of real
production and reception of texts, dwelling with undue stress on linearization
15 Such elaborate machinery is probably required for any
logic-based model of texts with as wide a scope as Postfix’s. Petofi’s basic
representation is, surprisingly perhaps, still first-order predicate calculus.
For a lengthy treatment, see Biasci & Fritsche (eds.) (1978).
16 In van Dijk (1972a), he used the term “deep
structure” but dropped it later to save confusion with Chomskyan usage (cf.
van Dijk 1979b). See note 19 to this chapter.
17 Van Dijk makes no attempt to bring these notions into
contact with the similar work of David Ausubel or John Bransford. See also
discussion in 1X.28.
18 Concerning story understanding, see note 22 to Chapter
19 In transformational grammars, “deep” entities are
primitive ones not capable of further decomposition, e.g. the structures of
axioms. In the procedural approach, “deep” entities are those removed from
the surface presentation; “deeper” processing therefore entails less
identification and more integration and organization than shallower processing
(cf. III.9 and note 6 to Chapter III).
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