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Discourse Modes: A Linguistically Interesting Level of Text Structure by Carlota S. Smith
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Topic:  Discourse Modes: A Linguistically Interesting Level of Text Structure by Carlota S. Smith
posted itemPosted - 25/05/2004 :  17:38:53
Carlota S. Smith

Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics

Language Information Sciences Research Centre

The Linguistic Society of Hong Kong



Carlota S. Smith

University of Texas

Discourse Modes: A Linguistically Interesting Level of Text Structure

Time: 4:30 - 6:00 pm

Date: 31st May 2004 (Monday)

Venue: B7603 (CTL Multi-purpose Room), City University of Hong Kong


Linguistic expressions can form interesting patterns in discourse. I will show that aspectual categories such as event and state pattern together to establish discourse units at the relatively local level of the passage. Within a text one recognizes passages that are intuitively of different types, e.g. narrative, description, argument. These stretches tend to have a particular force and a characteristic cluster of linguistic features. They realize different "discourse modes". Five modes for written discourse are posited: Narrative, Report, Description, Information, and Argument. Each mode introduces certain situation entities into the universe of discourse, and has a particular principle of progression. The situation entities are of three main classes: Eventualities, General statives, and Abstract entities. To arrive at these classes I extend the familiar classes of aspectual entities, and seek their linguistic correlates. The principles of progression for the temporal modes of Narrative, Report, and Description are temporal. The modes of Information and Argument are atemporal. For them, progression involves metaphorical change of location in the semantic space of a text. I develop the notion of the 'primary referent' of a clause; atemporal texts advance with changes in the metaphorical location of the primary referents. The modes constitute an interesting level of text structure. Both situation entities and advancement are based on temporal notions. Thus temporality in the wider sense proves important in accounting for texts at the local level. The analysis has been formalized in the framework of Discourse Representation Theory. The analysis has been carried out mainly for English, with some work on Mandarin Chinese. Whether all languages have correlates for these notions is an interesting research question.
Language of Presentation: English
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