Advances in Written Text Analysis

By Malcolm Coulthard | Go to book overview
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Labelling discourse: an aspect of nominal-group lexical cohesion

Gill Francis


The main aim of this chapter is to identify, describe and illustrate one of the principal ways in which nominal groups are used to connect and organize written discourse. This type of nominal-group lexical cohesion will be referred to as labelling. Two types of label will be identified: these will be termed advance and retrospective labels. The examples given to illustrate the use of these are all from the Bank of English collection of corpora held at Cobuild, Birmingham, and, in particular, the corpus containing a series of complete editions of The Times.

Within the category of labels, an important sub-set is further isolated and described: this set is referred to as metalinguistic. These are nominal groups which talk about a stretch of discourse as a linguistic act, labelling it as, say, an argument, a point or a statement. In other words, they are labels for stages of an argument, developed in and through the discourse itself as the writer presents and assesses his/her own propositions and those of other sources. Unlike, say, problems and issues, which exist in the world outside discourse, they are ad hoc characterizations of the language behaviour being carried out in the text.


The main characteristic of what will be termed a label is that it requires lexical realization, or lexicalization, in its co-text: it is an inherently unspecific nominal element whose specific meaning in the discourse needs to be precisely spelled out (Winter 1982, 1992). Labels may function either cataphorically (forwards) or anaphorically (backwards). Where the label precedes its lexicalization, it will be termed an advance label; 1 where it follows its lexicalization, it will be called a retrospective label.

It should be noted that, while a label and its lexicalization often occur within a single clause, I will be considering only those which operate cohesively across clause boundaries.


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Advances in Written Text Analysis


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