Lexical Cohesion. Text-internal standard of textuality

Term Paper, 2015

21 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Cohesion
2.1. Lexical cohesion vs. grammatical cohesion

3. Types of lexical cohesion
3.1. Repetition
3.2. Sense relations
3.3. Paraphrase
3.4. Collocation

4. Conclusion


List of abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1. Introduction

This paper aims to give a general overview of the types of lexical cohesion in the English language. Together with grammatical cohesion, lexical cohesion forms one of the seven standards of textuality, namely cohesion. Therefore, a short explanation of the term itself as well as the difference between grammatical and lexical cohesion is given before focus is set on lexical cohesion and its different types.

The types of lexical cohesion are the main topic of this paper. The given definitions and explanations aim to show what lexical cohesion is about, and the examples demonstrate how lexical cohesion works in a text. The types of lexical cohesion presented in this term paper refer to the classification of Schubert, who names the following ones: repetition, sense relations including synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy as well as meronymy, paraphrase, and collocation. Moreover, definitions of the terms underline the explained types and contribute to a clear understanding.

2. Cohesion

Cohesion is, such as coherence, a text-internal standard of textuality1. Therefore, it is not a user-centred but a text-centred notion. According to de Beaugrande/Dressler, cohesion “concerns the ways in which the components of the SURFACE TEXT, i.e. the actual words we hear or see, are mutually connected within a sequence” (1981, 3). Halliday/Hasan in turn underline that cohesion is based on semantic relations within a text (1976, 4). From these explanations we learn that cohesion is about how spoken or written words are linked to each other, and that cohesive ties are the devices that hold a text together. These cohesive ties can be distinguished on a grammatical as well as on a lexical level.

2.1. Lexical cohesion vs. grammatical cohesion

Since cohesion does not only occur on a lexical level, but also on a grammatical- structural basis, the difference is stated at this point. While grammatical cohesion is based on the structural content of a text and how these structures are woven together, lexical cohesion is based on lexical knowledge (i.e. knowledge of vocabulary) and the way these lexical items are woven together (Carter 2008, 150). Consequently, grammatical cohesion looks at structure in a text, and lexical cohesion looks at the actual words. These grammatical structures are found on the surface of a text, while lexical cohesion already reaches underneath the surface, tackling the meaning of words.

Lexical cohesion refers to the relations created between lexical items (Schubert 2008, 46). Therefore, when talking about lexical cohesion, it is about ties between words or phrases and moreover, it helps to create text unity. According to Halliday/Hasan lexical cohesion “[...] involves a kind of choice that is open-ended, the selection of a lexical item that is in some way related to one occurring previously” (1976, 303) and it is described as “[...] the cohesive effect achieved by the selection of vocabulary” (1976, 274). These statements infer that our choice of words is the basis of coherence in a text or in an utterance, which implies in turn a certain general knowledge.

3. Types of lexical cohesion

According to Schubert (2008, 62), lexical cohesion can be divided into four groups, which are mostly further subdivided:

a) repetition and partial repetition,
b) sense relations,
c) paraphrase, and
d) collocation

3.1. Repetition

A prevalent type of lexical cohesion is repetition, also known as recurrence. Halliday/Hasan refer to repetition as reiteration, defining it as “a form of lexical cohesion which involves the repetition of a lexical item, at on end of the scale; the use of a general word to refer back to a lexical item, at the other end of the scale [...]” (1974, 278). Repetition is the most obvious type of lexical cohesion. However, it is not restricted to the repetition of the same morphological form of the lexical item. If a word reoccurs in a different morphological form, e.g. altered by inflection, derivation, or compounding, we talk about partial repetition. Examples for partial repetition are (Schubert 2008, 47f):

- the use of nouns and compounds composed of these nouns: e. g. using pet, pets, pet dogs, dog, and dogs in the same text;
- the use of an adjective and its adverb in the same text: e. g. moral and morally;
- the use of the same word but in different word classes: the British (noun) and British people (adjective).

Repetition contributes to clearness and continuity in text, which means it helps to avoid ambiguity. Nontheless, very frequent repetition might reduce the level of informativity by producing redundancy.

Let us look at an example for repetition:

The children played with their neighbour’s dog. The dog was excited.

Here, the second occurrence of dog refers back to the first one. Therefore, repetition is related to pro-forms of grammatical cohesion. Nevertheless, repetition is more explicit and does not imply to look for a reference.

Furthermore, a repeated lexical item does not necessarily have to have the same identical content as its first occurrence - like in the example above - but there can be various shades of meaning. This so-called referential relation between the first occurrence of a lexical item and its repetition plays an important role. Schubert distinguishes between four such referential relations (2008, 47f):

a) identical
b) inclusive
c) exclusive
d) unrelated

So for example: There is a child climbing that tree. (Halliday/Hasan 1974, 283)2

a) The child is going to fall if it doesn ’t take care.
b) Those children are always getting into mischief.
c) And there is another child standing underneath.
d) Most children love climbing trees.

In (a), the child has the same meaning as its first occurrence in the given example sentence. In (b), those children (being a partial repetition) includes the child in the example, and also other children. In (c) however, another child excludes the child referred to in the example sentence, therefore it is about two non-identical children. In (d) finally, most children is unrelated to the first mentioned child, since it is not possible to tell whether the child in the example loves climbing trees or not.

3.2. Sense relations

In opposition to referential relations between lexical items, sense relations are concerned with their meaning. According to the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics, a sense relation refers to “any relation between lexical units within the semantic system of a language [...]”. Therefore, the meaning on a semantic level is concerned when it comes to sense relations. There are several types to look at (Schubert 2008, 48ff).

a) Synonymy

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (1997, 367) Synonymy is “the relation between two lexical units with a shared meaning”. Synonymy therefore is the use of words with a similar meaning in the same text, which leads to a cohesive relation between them. Especially the English language is quite rich in synonyms. However, usually such synonyms are not interchangeable because mostly they differ stylistically: one might have a stronger meaning than the other and it would also depend on the used register, which synonym is chosen (Finch 2000, 184). E.g.: close and shut, obstinate and stubborn.

For example: There is a child climbing that tree. The little one is going to fall if it doesn’t take care. Here, little one is a synonym for child, since it has a similar meaning and it builds a cohesive tie referring back to child.3

b) Antonymy

“Relation in the lexicon between words that have opposite meanings; e.g. tall is in its basic sense an antonym of short.” This is how the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics defines antonymy (1997, 20). Therefore, antonymy is the expression of an opposite meaning in the same text, again resulting in lexical relation. According to Schubert, antonymy can take different forms (2008, 49f):

a) complementary antonymy: there is no in-between form, e.g. inside/outside, male/female
b) gradable/polar antonymy: the extremities of a scale, with options in between, e.g. high/low, big/small, hot/cold
c) converse antonymy: an event can be seen from different perspectives, e.g. buy/sell, lend/borrow
d) directional antonymy: movement in various directions, e.g. forward/backward, left/right, north/south
c) Hyponymy

The sense relation hyponymy is a hierarchical one, and it “exists between two terms in which the SENSE of one is included in the other” (Finch 2000, 166). Also the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics describes hyponymy as “the relation between two lexical units in which the meaning of the first is included in that of the second” (1997, 167). Therefore the term hyponymy refers to the tie between a superordinate and a corresponding subordinate term.

For example: The tree is bearing fruit. We will harvest the oranges soon. Here, fruit is be the superordinate or hypernym, while oranges is the subordinate or hyponym.

d) Meronymy

The fourth type of sense relation according to Schubert is meronymy. In the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics, the term meronymy is defined as “relation between lexical units where the objects, etc. denoted by one are parts of those denoted by the other: e.g. sleeve is a meronym of coat, dress, or blouse .” (1997, 223). Finch states that meronymy is in a way similar to hyponymy, seen that is also reflects a hierarchical relationships between lexical units (2000, 169).

For example: There are many people at the party. I see several familiar faces. In this example, faces refers to people. Meronymy is a part-whole relation with a lexical item referring to the whole, called holonym (in that example people), or a lexical item referring to a part of the whole, called meronym (faces).

3.3. Paraphrase

Another type of lexical cohesion is the paraphrase. We speak of paraphrase if the meaning of a lexical item is expressed twice, not as in sense relations, but the second occurrence seeing to explain the first one using more words or even phrases. Therefore it is similar to synonymy, yet it is a longer form, using a more detailed explanation rather than a single word similar in meaning. The aim of a paraphrase is usually to achieve greater clarity (Schubert 2008, 51f). Furthermore, Schubert mentions two directions of recurrence of meaning:

- Expansion: the second occurrence is more detailed or an explanation of the first one. E. g.: Some students disrupt the lessons. They constantly talk to their neighbours, play with their mobile phones, eat their lunch, and simply do not listen to the teacher. Here, the second sentence is explaining in detail the first one.
- Condensation: the first occurrence is the more detailed one, followed by the more general expression. E.g.: Clothes and toys were all over the floor, dirty pots, dishes and cutlery on the kitchen press and in the sink, the sofa was untidy with a pile of used tissues on top of it and underneath. The place was a complete mess. In this example, the second sentence summarises the first one.


1 The seven standards of textuality being cohesion, coherence, intentionality, acceptability, informativity, situationality, and intertextuality, are not dealt with explicitly in this paper. However, it is important to note that these standards are considered to be the features that make a text communicative, with cohesion as one of the most important standards.

2 This is an example by Halliday/Hasan, just that these authors use boy instead of child.

3 In that example, little one is clearly used as a synonym for child, therefore one is not a nominal substitution for child.

Excerpt out of 21 pages


Lexical Cohesion. Text-internal standard of textuality
University of Salzburg  (Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
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Cohesion is, such as coherence, a text-internal standard of textuality . Therefore, it is not a user-centred but a text-centred notion Including a presentation
lexical, cohesion, lexical cohesion, english, linguistics, textuality
Quote paper
Elisabeth Lyons (Author), 2015, Lexical Cohesion. Text-internal standard of textuality, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/496702


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