Sorry, this page is still under construction. When it is finished, it will show some hidden aspects of communication that are not taught in schools--that of enabling text to hold together. These techniques are very dependent on the culture of individual languages and are very difficult to translate.
A thorough explanation of cohesion techniques would take a full book. For further reading see Halliday and Hasan, Cohesion in English, for a definitive explanation of semantic/syntactic techniques. Halliday also introduces the concepts necessary for structural cohesion in his book An Introduction to Functional Grammar. Matthiessen, Mann, Thompson et al at USC ISI have developed a model for showing how clauses can interconnect. This too is one aspect of cohesion. See the appended bibliography for further articles.
What I will do here, instead, is just summarize how cohesion is expressed in English and the kinds of cohesion we can expect to see in technical documentation.
First, what is cohesion? Cohesion is the structural, syntactical, and lexical means by which we relate together a series of statements in a document, making the information "stick together." Traditionally, most studies of cohesion have emphasized the syntactic and lexical means, but I hope to show that those means are not the primary means for keeping cohesion in technical texts. Rather, it is the structural means, the use of standard paragraph structures and the use of parallelism, that are used most to show how ideas relate in technical discussions.
As mentioned above, there are three major means for creating cohesion--structural, syntactical, and lexical. There has been no definitive work in the area of structural cohesion, so I am proposing new terms to help distinguish some of those techniques. The terms used in semantic/syntactic cohesion come from Halliday and Hasan's definitive work. The whole gamut of techniques are as follows:
- standard paragraph structures
- clause and phrase level parallelism (and the deliberate use on nonparallelism)
- theme/rheme relations between sentences
- reference: anaphoric, cataphoric, exophoric; pronouns, demonstratives/determinatives, comparatives
Technical documentation uses the structural techniques very heavily. It also uses reference and conjunction a lot. Substitution and ellipsis are used less in highly technical documents but more often in "novice user" documentation. Reiteration/collocation appears most often in educational documentation. In highly technical documentation, we can roughly expect 60% of all cohesion to be expressed structurally, 25% by means of reference, and 15% by conjunction.
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