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From Sentence to Text

  • Communication
  • Linguistics


We are used to applying the term text to any stretch of language which makes coherent sense in the particular context of its use. So conspicuous a linguistic reality, the text may be either spoken or written, either as long as a book or as short as a cry for help. Linguistic form is important but is by no means of itself sufficient to give a stretch of a language the status of text. For example a road – sign reading Dangerous Corner is an adequate text though comprising only a short noun – phrase. It is understood as an existential statement, paraphraseable as something like There is a dangerous corner near by, with such block language features as zero article, that are expected in notices of this kind. By contrast, a sign at the roadside with the same grammatical structure but reading Critical Remark is not an adequate text, because although we recognize the structure and understand the words, the phrase can communicate nothing to us as we drive by, and thus is meaningless.

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