Modes of Discourse: The Local Structure of Texts

By Carlota S. Smith | Go to book overview

4 Aspectual information: the
entities introduced in discourse

The Discourse Modes introduce situation entities into the universe of discourse, and have different principles of text progression. The information is conveyed by forms of aspect and temporal location. The two are complementary. Temporal location locates a situation in time, while aspect specifies the internal temporal structure of the situation. This chapter is devoted to aspect; temporal location is discussed in Chapter 5.

The understanding of aspect is the key to the analysis of Discourse Modes, because the situation entities are aspectual in nature. The Discourse Modes characteristically introduce different types of situation entities. Passages of the Narrative and Report modes primarily involve Events and States. The Description mode primarily concerns States and ongoing Events. The Information mode primarily has General Statives; the Argument mode primarily has Abstract Entities, Facts and Propositions, and General Statives. After a brief introduction to aspectual systems, this chapter discusses the concepts of situation entities and their linguistic correlates, and how aspectual information is encoded in Discourse Representation Theory.

Section 4.1 introduces the two components of aspectual systems and discusses Event and State situation types, including shifts of one type to another; 4.2 discusses General Statives; 4.3 discusses Abstract Entities; 4.4 discusses the linguistic correlates for the three major classes of situation type; 4.5 covers aspectual information in Discourse Representation Structures.


4.1 Aspectual categories

4.1.1 The two components of aspectual systems

Aspect is a sub-system of language that conveys information about the internal temporal structure of situations. Aspectual systems have two components, situation type and viewpoint (Smith 1991). The components interact in sentences.1

1. The two-component theory of aspect is presented in Smith (1997).

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Modes of Discourse: The Local Structure of Texts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • I Discourse Structure 5
  • 1: The Study of Discourse 7
  • 2: Introduction to the Discourse Modes 22
  • 3: Text Representation and Understanding 49
  • II: Linguistic Analysis of the Discourse Modes 65
  • 4: Aspectual Information 67
  • 5: Temporal and Spatial Progression 92
  • 6: Referring Expressions in Discourse 123
  • III: Surface Presentational Factors 153
  • 7: Subjectivity in Texts 155
  • 8: The Contribution of Surface Presentation 185
  • 9: Non-Canonical Structures and Presentation 213
  • IV: Discourse Modes and Their Context 241
  • 10: Information in Text Passages 243
  • 11: Discourse Structure and Discourse Modes 258
  • Appendix A - The Texts 267
  • Appendix B - Glossary 286
  • References 294
  • General Index 314
  • Index of Names 318
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