In studying discourse, the problem for the linguist is to find a fruitful level of analysis. Carlota Smith offers a new approach with this study of discourse passages, units of several sentences or more. She introduces the key idea of the "Discourse Mode," identifying five modes: Narrative, Description, Report, Information, Argument. These are realized at the level of the passage, and cut across genre lines. Smith shows that the modes, intuitively recognizable as distinct, have linguistic correlates that differentiate them. She analyzes the properties that distinguish each mode, focusing on grammatical rather than lexical information. The book also examines linguistically based features that appear in passages of all five modes: topic and focus, variation in syntactic structure, and subjectivity, or point of view. Operating at the interface of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, the book will appeal to researchers and graduate students in linguistics, stylistics, and rhetoric.
CARLOTA S. SMITH is Centennial Professor of Linguistics at the University of Texas. She is the author of The Parameter of Aspect (second edition, 1997). Her current research is at the interface of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, especially in texts.