LINGUIST List 15.1915

Thu Jun 24 2004

Diss: Discourse Analysis: Plum: 'Text and...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. gaplum, Text and Textual Conditioning in Spoken English

Message 1: Text and Textual Conditioning in Spoken English

Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 10:21:55 -0400 (EDT)
From: gaplum <>
Subject: Text and Textual Conditioning in Spoken English

Institution: University of Sydney
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 1988

Author: Guenter A PLUM

Dissertation Title: Text and Textual Conditioning in Spoken
English: A genre approach

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis, Sociolinguistics, 
Text/Corpus Linguistics

Dissertation Director 1: MAK Halliday
Dissertation Director 2: James R Martin
Dissertation Director 3: Barbara Horvath

Dissertation Abstract:

This study brings together two approaches to linguistic variation,
Hallidayan systemic-functional grammar and Labovian variation theory,
and in doing so brings together a functional interpretation of
language and its empirical investigation in its social context.

The study reports on an empirical investigation of the concept of
text. The investigation proceeds on the basis of a corpus of texts
gathered in sociolinguistic interviews with fifty adult speakers of
Australian English in Sydney. The total corpus accounted for in terms
of text type or 'genre' numbers 420 texts of varying length, 125 of
which, produced in response to four 'narrative' questions, are
investigated in greater detail in respect both of the types of text
they constitute as well as of some of their linguistic
realisations. These largely 'narrative-type' texts, which represent
between two and three hours of spoken English and total approximately
53000 words, are presented in a second volume analysed in terms of
their textual or 'generic' structure as well as their realisation at
the level of the clause complex. The study explores in some detail
models of register and genre developed within systemic-functional
linguistics, adopting a genre model developed by J.R. Martin and
others working within his model which foregrounds the notion that all
aspects of the system(s) involved are related to one another

In order to investigate the concept of text in actual discourse under
conditions which permit us to become sufficiently confident of our
understanding of it to proceed to generalisations about text and its
contextual conditioning in spoken discourse, we turn to Labovian
methods of sociolinguistic inquiry, i.e. to quantitative methods or
methods of quantifying linguistic choice. The study takes the
sociolinguistic interview as pioneered by Labov in his study of
phonological variation in New York City and develops it for the
purpose of investigating textual variation. The question of
methodology constitutes a substantial part of the study, contributing
in the process to a much greater understanding of the very phenomenon
of 'text in discourse', for example by addressing itself to the
question of the feasibility of operationalising a concept of text in
the context of spoken discourse.

The narrative-type texts investigated in further detail were found to
range on a continuum from most experientially-oriented texts such as
procedure and recount at one end to the classic 'narrative of personal
experience' and anecdote to the increasingly inter-personally-oriented
'exemplum' and 'observation', both of which become 'interpretative' of
the 'real world' in contrast to the straight-forwardly
representational slant taken on the same experience by the more
experientially-oriented texts. The explanation for the generic
variation along this continuum must be sought in a system of generic
choice which is essentially cultural.
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