What are the main features of linguistics

Characteristics of texts

Table of Contents


1) Definition of "text"

2) Development of text linguistics

3) Characteristics of texts

4) discussion



It is well known that texts are an important part of our lives because they make up a large part of communication. From birth to the phase of death we communicate with our fellow human beings. There are many ways of communication. There is written language, spoken language and language that operates with visual elements, also called sign language. With the growing presence of the Internet in our everyday lives, the importance of communication on the web is also increasing. Humans are social beings and need social contacts, which are most quickly established through communication with other people.

From the 1960s onwards, new linguistic research areas arose: applied linguistics, communication science, media didactics and of course text linguistics, whose scientific focus is primarily on texts. There are interesting and boring texts, humorous and factual, entertaining and meaningless. But what is a text and what characteristics does it have to have in order to be regarded as such?

The present work is dedicated to the term “text”. The first chapter reveals the difference between the general, everyday term and the scientific representation of the text. The second chapter deals with the history of text linguistics, because without knowledge of its historical development it is difficult to understand why the term is so hotly debated. In the third chapter, several examples are used to explain the characteristics of texts and point out points of criticism before approaches for future research are presented. Text linguistics is not as popular these days as other linguistic areas, but with the rapid digitalization of our everyday lives, it is essential to talk about the latest issues in text linguistics and especially in the field of text analysis.

1. Definition of "text"

The first chapter is devoted to a definition of the text. First, its everyday meaning is discussed. Furthermore, the linguistic approaches to the topic are summarized. What is a text? When is it considered to be such and in which cases do we no longer speak of texts but of non-texts?

According to the dictionary of contemporary German language (DWDS), a text represents a “(written) fixed, thematically related sequence of statements1 Based on this definition, everyday language use only refers to texts if the following two criteria are met: A text is a written medium and at the same time a series of statements, both in the form of a song and a can appear as a signature on an image.2 But what are songs that have no meaning in terms of content? Are poems that do not seem to form a thematically coherent sequence of statements also not texts? If one follows the definition of the Digital Dictionary of the German Language (DWDS), secular literary works are to be regarded as texts. Other linguistic messages, such as comics or SMS messages, on the other hand, are not texts.

In Wikipedia, additional features are taken up that expand the definition of texts somewhat: “Text (Latin texere, weave”, “braid”) denotes a delimited, coherent, mostly written linguistic utterance in non-scientific usage, also in a broader sense non-written, but writable language information (for example a song, film or an improvised theater performance). " 3

Wikipedia differentiates between the narrow and the broad definition of text. It is also postulated that a text is not determined by the characteristic of being in writing, because there are also oral forms of a text. In addition, Wikipedia takes up the pragmatic level of meaning: a text therefore represents “the linguistic form of a communicative act”. It therefore does not function as a grammatical unit, but as a unit of the parole (“a unit of language in use”) .4

In the linguistic literature, a closer scientific examination of the term leads to more complex attempts to define and describe it. Different text definitions are given that use various criteria to separate verbal material into text and non-text. Thus, the opinion of Vater is to be met, according to which a generally valid final definition is not possible, since there are different approaches that view a “text” as a process or as a product of communicative action (Vater 1992: 20).

2. Development of text linguistics

As can be seen from Chapter 1, due to the complexity of the term in text linguistics, there are several theories about what a text is. The underlying reasons lie in the history of this science.

Schindler locates the beginning of text linguistics in the mid-1950s and refers in this context to Karl Boost, who “coined the term“ sentence community ”, which z. B. come about through lexical repetition or pronoun use ”(Schindler 2006: 1).

In the mid-1960s, linguistics still oriented itself towards the central terms sound, word and sentence, but these were increasingly felt to be insufficient for describing texts. The sentence-centered grammar could not explain the context of sentences, new ways of understanding linguistic elements and their functions were sought. The programmatic work of Harweg (1968) and Hartmann (1968) marked the beginning of text linguistics oriented towards language systems in the late 1960s. During this time, the description and structure of the sentence were examined in the context of structuralist linguistics as a purely syntactic unit of grammar. At that time, it was not the sentence that counted as the highest linguistic unit, but the text. Thus, the hierarchy of the previously assumed units of the linguistic system (phoneme, morpheme / word, clause, sentence) was only expanded to include the unit “text” (Brinker 2015: 13-15).

Schindler explains the following: “A text is ... determined as the highest linguistic unit that is created by grammatical rules that a sentence grammar cannot establish. A coherent sequence of sentences is considered to be a text (here the dependence on the unit sentence is still very clear)… ”(Schindler 2006: 2). In this first phase, text linguistics was still heavily based on traditional sentence-centered grammar.

The second direction of text linguistics, which became established in the 1970s, “communication-oriented text linguistics”, accentuated the fact that texts are always embedded in a communication situation, “in that speakers and listeners, with their social and situational requirements and relationships, are the most important factors - set "(Brinker 2015: 15). This direction is based on the principles of linguistic pragmatics (the speech act theory by J.L. Austin 1955, edited and expanded by J.R. Searle 1971). The text itself is no longer understood as a grammatically linked sequence of sentences, but as a (complex) linguistic act in the context of which a speaker / writer tries to establish a certain communicative relationship with the reader / listener (Brinker 2015: 16).

The view that a text represented a unit of linguistic communication and could not only be defined as the uppermost unit of several sentences revolutionized the entire linguistic world, because until then texts in text linguistics had been understood as isolated, static objects. The context had hardly been taken into account. From the 1970s onwards, questions were asked about the functions and purposes of a text (appellative, informative, etc.) as well as about the type of relationship between producer / s and recipient / s. Other factors became just as important, e.g. institutional framework conditions, assumptions made by the producer about recipients, etc. (Schindler 2006: 2).

Although there is no definition of the text that does not provoke any criticism, a quote from Brinker was selected for the present work, which is able to characterize a text comprehensively because it emphasizes the communicative function of a text and in addition to the written one Form allows further variants of a text: “A“ text ”is to be regarded as a linguistic and at the same time communicative unit, ie as a limited, grammatically and thematically related (coherent) sequence of (written) linguistic signs that are recognizable as such communicative function (text function) realized ”(Brinker 2015: 23).

Overall, it can be stated that an integrative text term encompasses both approaches (the linguistic system-oriented and the communication-oriented approach), which are in a complementary relationship to one another, not in an alternative one. Both theories have a right to exist, and there is no longer any polarity, because the text is examined either as a product or as a process of human communication (Brinker 2015: 23).

3. Characteristics of texts

It is well known that not every sequence of sentences can be accepted as text. The everyday use of the word “text” is not entirely uniform (see Chapter 1). Certain rules determine the text. Father (1992: 28f.) Analyzes the textuality criteria5 von De Beaugrande / Dressler (1981), by means of which they differentiate between texts and non-texts: “If any of these criteria is not considered to be met, the text is not considered communicative. Therefore, non-communicative texts are treated as non-texts ”(De Beaugrande / Dressler 1981: 3, quotation from Vater 1992: 28). The authors also list seven criteria and their interaction. 1) COHESION (lat. Cohaesum, participle II from lat. Cohaerere) = the combination of sentences) According to Beaugrande / Dressler (1981: 3f), cohesion is “the way in which the components of the surface text, ie the words, as we actually hear them or see connected with each other. The surface components depend on one another through grammatical forms and conventions, so that cohesion is based on grammatical dependencies ”(Vater 1992: 29).

Father puts this definition into perspective by stating that although cohesion is to be understood as a grammatical relation between units of the text, “it is primarily a matter of inter-sentence relations” (Vater 1992: 30). There is therefore also cohesion without inter-sentence relations.

It affects all areas of grammar:

a) Phonological cohesion (mainly in poems, artistic texts)

It is used in the following forms: rhythm, rhyme, sound symbolism, intonation, pause structure. Punctuation plays an important role (full stop and comma, exclamation marks and question marks, semicolons, colon, etc.).

T1: I want to climb the mountains, Where the pious huts stand, Where the breast opens up freely, And the open air blows. (Heinrich Heine, “Die Harzreise6 “)

b) Morphological cohesion is mainly found in the formation of new words that are motivated and interpretable by the surrounding text. The words Brexshit and Brextinct can only be understood if one follows the political discussion on this topic.

T2: London - With the Brexit there is a lot of play on words in Great Britain - "Brexshit" for example. Now a new one has been added: “Brextinct” - a combination of Brexit (exit from the EU) and extinct (extinct). With this, the British newspaper “The Sun” headlined on Wednesday, including the caricature of Prime Minister Theresa May as Dodo - an extinct bird.7

c) Syntactic cohesion becomes present through the syntactic connections in the sentence, e.g. by means of pronominalization:

T3: Paul called. He will come tomorrow.

It can also be expressed through connectors such as conjunctions and subjunctions, and or because that, relative words, der, die, das, which, etc., and through prepositions, because of, despite, etc., it can be expressed. Junctions indicate, for example, causal or temporal relations between sentences:

T4: Kahn criticized his boss. So he was released. (Father 1992: 36)

d) recurrence (Latin recurrere "to run back", "to return"):

T5: “I come from the north” - “And I from the south” - “And I from the sea” (Th. Fontaine, Die Brück am Tay).

Recurrence occurs most often in spoken speech and in literary works. It is rather unpopular in media and factual texts (Graefen 2012: 299)

e) Ellipse, omitting parts of speech, e.g. Hans loves Marie and Willi too.

Several authors emphasize the role of cohesion in the text, but note that it is not enough on its own to qualify a text as text. There must be a context in terms of content, “a common thread”. (Lindner 2014: 260)

An example of a non-text despite existing cohesion is given below:

T6: There is no one who is not carried away by your singing. Our singer is called Josephine. Singing is a five letter word. Singers make a lot of words. (Wawzyrniak 1980: 54, quotation from father 1992: 16).


1 https://www.dwds.de/wb/Text

2 ibid.

3 www.wikipedia.de/Text

4 ibid.

5 The property of "being text" is called textuality.

6 Heine, H. Complete Works. Artemis & Winkler Verlag, Munich 1969

7 Heine, H. Complete Works. Artemis & Winkler Verlag, Munich 1969

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