Text grammar

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A text grammar is the study of texts above the level of the sentence.[1][2] It shows how texts are put together so as to convey ideas, facts, messages, and fiction.

A similar term is discourse analysis.[3] Both are mostly concerned with natural language use; discourse analysis would include spoken language. Speech is also the parent of rhetoric, the ancient study of persuasive speaking. In a similar way, literary criticism parallels text grammar, because both concentrate on the printed word. A text grammar approach puts emphasis on the linguistic structure of a text, rather than its cultural or symbolic meaning.[4]

A text is a coherent body of sentences.[5] Coherent means they are linked by a consistent theme. The text ends when completion is signalled. For example, when a problem introduced at the start is solved, or when a promised discussion has reached a conclusion.

Text types[change | change source]

Each text focuses on certain things. If text are grouped by what they are doing, then there are five basic text types:

  1. Description. Common in science and technology.
  2. Narration. Covers the passage of time, and is common in the humanities.
  3. Exposition. In which the narrator or writer offers an analysis and explanation of some issue.
  4. Argumentation. In which the communicator compares alternative points of view, judges and persuades.
  5. Instruction. In which the communicator tells readers what to do. Uses "action-demanding sentences in sequence".[1]

Many texts, of course, can and do have a mixture of two or more of these types.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Werlich, Egon 1976. A text grammar of English. Quelle & Meyer, Heidelberg.
  2. van Dijk T.A. 1972. Some aspects of text grammar: a study in theoretical linguistics. The Hague, Mouton.
  3. van Dijk T.A. (ed) 1985. Handbook of discourse analysis. 4 vols, Academic Press, London.
  4. de Beaugrande R. and Dressler W. 1981. Introduction to text linguistics. Longman, London.
  5. Alternatively, a text is a communicative event (de Beaugrande). That, however, is a bit too broad.