The Semantic Structure of Written Communication

Beekman, John, John C. Callow, and Michael F. Kopesec

This work provides a brief overview of the basic relationships of meaning and structure of a language. The overview is followed by a more detailed analysis and practical application of the semantic relationships from the lowest level propositions through the highest level units of the text. A significant portion of the work addresses the semantic relations and roles of the communication units.

Theory Applied

The theory described in The Semantic Structure of Written Communication is applied in the books in the Semantic Structure Analyses Series. Each book has a systematic presentation, via a standard format and a tightly controlled discourse analysis of the Semantic Structure of the Greek text of the New Testament. The books in the Semantic Structure Analyses Series are designed to be used as a special kind of commentary to help translators find the precise meaning of the Source Language text. The SSA books are especially useful at points where regular New Testament commentaries are in disagreement or do not address themselves to the questions that translators are obliged to answer in the process of their work. In its format, an SSA includes a display of the semantic content and structure of each paragraph and each grouping of paragraphs in the text, in a form somewhat resembling a tree diagram. Also included are notes and comments justifying the analytical and exegetical decisions presented.

Table of Contents:


Part I: Overview of the Theory

  • Chapter 1: Some Basic Notions about Language
    • 1.1 There is a Fundamental Distinction Between Form and Meaning in Language
    • 1.2 The Primary Dimensions of Form
    • 1.3 The Primary Dimensions of Meaning
    • 1.4 The Meaning Determines the Form
    • 1.5 Meaning is Structured

  • Chapter 2: Characteristics of Semantic Structure
    • 2.1 Semantic Structure Consists of Units
    • 2.2 Semantic Structure is Hierarchically Organized
    • 2.3 Each Semantic Unit has the Same Meaning Features
    • 2.4 The Particle, Wave, and Field Perspective

  • Chapter 3: The Relationship of Semantic Structure to Surface Structure
    • 3.1 The Three Analytical Features are Universals
    • 3.2 There are Three Hierarchies in Language
    • 3.3 The Semantic Hierarchy is the “Master” Hierarchy
    • 3.4 Skewing Between the Semantic and Grammatical Hierarchies
  • Part II: A Detailed Presentation of the Theory of Semantic and Structure

  • Chapter 4: The Major Discourse Types
    • 4.0 Introduction
    • 4.1 Conversation and Discourse Genre
    • 4.2 The Major Discourse Types Defined
    • 4.3 Parameters of the Major Discourse Types
    • 4.4 Discourse Types and the Author’s Purpose
    • 4.5 Discourse Types and Specific Genres

  • Chapter 5: The Concept
    • 5.0 Introduction
    • 5.1 Lexical Versus Discourse Concepts
    • 5.2 The Concept View Analytically
    • 5.3 The Concept View Holistically
    • 5.4 The Concept and Surface Structure
    • 5.5 Summary

  • Chapter 6: The Proposition
    • 6.1 Referential Meaning and the Proposition
    • 6.2 Situational Meaning and the Proposition
    • 6.3 Structural Meaning and the Proposition
    • 6.4 Prominence and the Three Aspects of Meaning in the Proposition
    • 6.5 The Proposition and Surface Structure
    • 6.6 Representing the Proposition in a Semantic Structure Analysis
    • 6.7 Summary

  • Chapter 7: The Propositional Cluster
    • 7.1 The Propositional Cluster as a Propositional Configuration
    • 7.2 Simple, Complex, and Compound Propositional Clusters
    • 7.3 Coherence in the Propositional Cluster
    • 7.4 Classification of the Proposition Cluster
    • 7.5 The Role and Purpose of the Propositional Cluster
    • 7.6 Prominence in the Propositional Cluster
    • 7.7 The Propositional Cluster and Surface Structure
    • 7.8 Summary

  • Chapter 8: The Communication Relations and Roles
    • 8.1 Relations and Roles Distinguished
    • 8.2 Communication Relations and Discourse Genre
    • 8.3 Generic Classification of Relations
    • 8.4 The Chronological Addition Relations
    • 8.5 The Non-chronological Addition Relations
    • 8.6 The Chronological Support Relations: Progression
    • 8.7 The Chronological Support Relations: Stimulus-Response
    • 8.8 The Non-chronological Support Relations: Orientation
    • 8.9 The Non-chronological Support Relations: Clarification
    • 8.10 The Non-chronological Support Relations: Logical
    • 8.11 The Non-chronological Support Relations: Association
    • 8.12 Relations Between Communication
    • 8.13 Prominence and the Communication Relations

  • Chapter 9: The Paragraph and Larger Units in Non-narrative Genres
    • 9.1 Coherence in the Paragraph
    • 9.2 Paragraph Boundaries and Koine Greek Surface Structure
    • 9.3 The Classification of the Information
    • 9.4 The Role of Paragraphs
    • 9.5 Prominence and Thematic Content in the Paragraph
    • 9.6 Simple, Complex, and Compound Paragraphs
    • 9.7 The Theme of Compound Paragraphs
    • 9.8 Paragraph Clusters
    • 9.9 The Purpose of the Paragraph
    • 9.10 Summary
    • 9.11 Units Larger than the Paragraph in Non-narrative Genres

  • Chapter 10: Narrative Units and their Characteristics
    • 10.1 The Hierarchy of Narrative Units
    • 10.2 Coherence Features in Narration
    • 10.3 Prominence in Narrative
    • 10.4 The Purpose of Narrative Units
    • 10.5 The Time-Line


fifth revision
147 pages
Discourse analysis
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