Cohesive devices in newswriting

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The question of what constitutes a text has received a great deal of attention and, as a partial answer to the question, the concept of cohesion has long been used in discourse analysis (cf., among others, Halliday and Hasan 1976, Hasan 1984, Hoey 1991, Parsons 1996, Taboada 2000, Martin 2001). Attempts have also been made to relate cohesion to social context through register (Martin 2001).
The relation of cohesion to register had been pointed out by Halliday and Hasan (1976: 23) already in 1976 when they wrote: “The concept of cohesion can ... be usefully supplemented by that of register, since the two together effectively define a text. A text is a passage of discourse which is coherent in these two regards: it is coherent with respect to the context of situation, and therefore consistent in register; and it is coherent with respect to itself and therefore cohesive.”
As reiterated by Halliday (1994: 339), for a text to be coherent “it must deploy the resources of cohesion in ways that are motivated by the register of which it is an instance.” From this we may draw the assumption that cohesion operates differently in variant registers and that cohesive devices used in different text types may vary and may constitute a significant text-type characteristic.
This study thus examines cohesion in news discourse with a twofold objective. Its first goal is to enquire whether there is a relation between cohesive devices and the ‘top-down’ organization of news discourse (cf. below).
“... surface structures that may be used to signal underlying semantic coherence are usually described as properties of cohesion. These are rules and strategies for the establishment of cohesion, and it is important to find out whether news reports in general, or specific types of news topics, display special preferences in the application or deviation from such rules.” (van Dijk 1988b: 11)
The second objective is to study whether there is a difference between two types of newswriting (texts in quality and tabloid newspapers) in the cohesive devices they employ, ie to see “the trace of context in the text”, to relate the structure to the genre (cf. Martin 2001).


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