Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

A Study of Lexical Cohesion Theory in Reading Comprehension

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

A Study of Lexical Cohesion Theory in Reading Comprehension

Article excerpt


This paper aims to introduce students to a new problem-solving method in reading comprehension through analyzing the feasibility of using the lexical cohesion theory based on Systemic Functional Linguistics. For this purpose, an empirical research was carried out to some Chinese college students. Research shows that the lexical cohesion theory can help improve students' reading speed and accuracy and thus provide them with a new problem-solving method in reading comprehension. The implications of the lexical cohesion theory to reading comprehension can be reflected at such language levels as lexis, sentence and text. But this kind of improvement is limited to a certain extent. The students' reading skills depend mainly on their language proficiency, and reading techniques can only play a supporting role.

Keywords: lexical cohesion, repetition link; information point, reading comprehension

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1. Introduction

Reading as a means of language input plays an important role in second language acquisition. For decades, extensive and in-depth researches on reading have been carried out from such perspectives as psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, applied linguistics and cognitive psychology, etc. with fruitful achievements. In recent years, more and more researchers have begun to introduce textual linguistics into language teaching (Yue, 1993; Liu, 1999). The focus of research of textual linguistics is on the cohesion and coherence of text. Cohesion is one of the three systems (Theme-Rheme system, Cohesion system and Information system) of the textual metafunction in Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday, 1985, 1994; Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004, 2014). "The concept of cohesion is a semantic one" (Halliday & Hasan, 1976, p. 4); it refers to the mutual interpretation of two language components in the text (Halliday & Hasan, 1976; Brown & Yule, 1983; Hu et al., 1989; Hoey, 1991; Zhu et al., 2001).

Halliday & Hasan (1976) distinguish five cohesive devices: reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction and lexical cohesion. The first four are grammatical devices, and the last, lexical. Lexical cohesion refers to a number of semantically related words occurring in text subsequently to make all parts of the text connect closely to each other in meaning (Zheng, 2002). Lexical cohesion devices include reiteration and collocation. Reiteration is further divided into full and partial repetitions. Full repetition means that two lexical items are same in both form and meaning, and partial repetition, two lexical items different in form but having certain similar semantic features, including synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, meronymy and general nouns. Collocation refers to the co-occurrence of lexical items. Hoey (1991) develops the lexical repetition pattern in the Halliday an sense into simple repetition, complex repetition, simple paraphrase, complex paraphrase, superordinate, hyponymy, co-reference, substitution and ellipsis, etc. According to Hoey (1991; 1994; 1995), simple lexical repetition occurs when a lexical item that has already occurred in a text is repeated with no greater alternation than is entirely explicable in terms of a closed grammatical paradigm. This is the most basic repetition pattern. Complex repetition occurs either when two lexical items share a lexical morpheme but are not formally identical, or when they are formally identical but have different grammatical functions. Simple paraphrase occurs whenever a lexical item may substitute for another in context without loss or gain in specificity and with no discernible change in meaning. Hoey's (1991) simple paraphrase is quite the same as Halliday & Hasan's (1976) synonymy and near-synonymy. If the interpretation of one of two words with no shared morphemes is dependent on that of the other, they are complex paraphrase of each other. For example, "writer" and "writing" are complex repetition because they both share the morpheme "write", and "writing" and "author" are complex paraphrase because each of the two can be explained through the other. …

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