Holistic Discourse Analysis

Longacre, Robert E. and Shin Ja J. Hwang

The central idea of this volume is the insistence that the structure of a part of a text needs to be explained in light of the structure of the whole. This thesis needs to be repeated anew to every generation of linguistics students as a warning against analytic nearsightedness—the fixation on particular parts of a text without regard to the whole. Holistic Discourse Analysis is not a plea to abandon the analysis of lower levels of grammar, but to enrich the study of them by putting them in broader perspective.

The book addresses discourse analysis and its purpose, text typology, and constituent-based charting with an analysis of a story in terms of peak and profile. It discusses functions of different verb types and their tense/aspect/modality, of noun phrases, and of clause combining in discourse. It also includes a chapter with a layman’s introduction to discourse analysis, and another discusses ways to represent combinations of sentences in a paragraph. The last three chapters deal with non-narrative discourses: procedural, hortatory, and expository.

This second edition has significantly improved the usability of the volume by employing color-coding in illustrative texts so the reader can more easily visualize multiple levels of prominence in these texts. This book offers itself both as a classroom text and a field manual for discourse analysis. It can also serve as an introduction to the more theoretically oriented volume, Longacre’s The Grammar of Discourse (1996).

About the Authors

Robert Longacre joined the Summer Institute of Linguistics in 1946. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He and his wife Gwen translated the New Testament into Trique, a Mexican Oto-Manguean language. From 1972 to 1991 he taught linguistics at the University of Texas at Arlington and also served as a linguistic consultant for SIL. At the present time, he is researching the discourse structure of biblical Hebrew and also the theory and practice of discourse analysis in general.

Shin Ja Hwang, originally from Korea, was a student of Robert Longacre in her M.A. and Ph.D. studies and has worked with him as a colleague, sometimes team-teaching, co-authoring articles, and serving on thesis and dissertation committees together. She has taught graduate courses on discourse analysis, functional grammar, language universals and typology, and sociolinguistics at Texas SIL, the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics, and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Table of Contents:

Abbreviations and symbols

Chapter 1: Why Discourse Analysis?
1.1 Word order
1.2 Functions of different forms of the verb
1.3 Participant reference in discourse
1.4 Definitivization and deictics
1.5 Temporal and locational expressions; adverbial clauses
1.6 Sequence signals and conjunctions
1.7 Mystery particles
1.8 The length of syntactic units
1.9 Conclusion
1.10 Exercises

Chapter 2: A Layman’s Introduction to Discourse Analysis
2.1 What different forms of verbs contribute to a story
2.2 What nouns and pronouns do within a story
2.3 How verbs and referents interplay in the structure of this paragraph
2.4 Internal relations in the text: Cohesion and coherence
2.5 Marking a great moment within a story
2.6 What part does each sentence play in the plan of the whole?
2.7 The resultant constraints on interpretation
2.8 Exercise
Appendix 2A. Paragraph analysis: Tree diagram
Appendix 2B. Paragraph analysis: Indentation diagram

Chapter 3: Text Typology
3.1 An etic scheme of discourse types
3.2 An emic scheme of discourse types in Aguacatec (Mayan)
3.3 Sample texts from English
3.4 Exercises

Chapter 4: Approaching a Narrative: Constituent Charting and Macrosegmentation
4.1 Constituent charting of a text
4.2 Macrosegmentation of a text
4.3 Comparative charting as a translation check
4.4 Conclusion
4.5 Exercises
Appendix 4. Constituent chart of “Hans”

Chapter 5: How the Listener/Reader Follows a Story
5.1 Salience scheme for English
5.2 Salience scheme in chaining languages
5.3 Conclusion
5.4 Exercises

Chapter 6: Participant Reference: Discourse Operations and Ranking
6.1 Three variable factors
6.2 “Hans”
6.3 The Three Little Pigs
6.4 Summary for English participant reference
6.5 Conclusion
6.6 Exercises

Chapter 7: Clause Combining in Discourse
7.1 Co-ranking and chaining structures
7.2 Clause combining devices
7.3 Distribution and functions of clause combining devices in English
7.4 Distribution and functions of clause combining devices in chaining structures
7.5 Conclusions
7.6 Exercises
Appendix 7A. Notional structure combinations of propositions
Appendix 7B. English sentence types by nuclei
Appendix 7C. English sentence margins

Chapter 8: Drafting Trees for Discourses and Paragraphs
8.1 Representations of extensive sections including whole discourses
8.2 Representations of paragraph structures
8.3 Concluding remarks
8.4 Exercise
Appendix 8A. Paragraph types
Appendix 8B. Dialogue and similar paragraph types

Chapter 9: Procedural Discourse
9.1 Segmentation of English procedural discourse
9.2 Characteristics of a Korean recipe
9.3 Toward a characterization of procedural discourse
9.4 Conclusions
9.5 Exercises

Chapter 10: Hortatory Discourse
10.1 The hortatory template
10.2 Text organization
10.3 Peak
10.4 Mainline and supportive information
10.5 Sample text analyses
10.6 Conclusions
10.7 Exercises
Appendix 10. Paragraph structure of “The Working Person”

Chapter 11: Expository Discourse
11.1 Analysis of Psalm 23 in tree structure
11.2 Analysis according to the structure of information
11.3 Conclusion
11.4 Exercises
Appendix 11A. Ephesians 1:3–14 (NIV)
Appendix 11B. Alzheimer disease text

Language Index

Second Edition
xvi, 247 pages
Discourse analysis
ISBN 13:
ISBN 10:
6 × 9 × 0.53 in
0.9 lb
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