COHERENCE

• Coherence is about creating texts that make sense and are logical (i.e.
are coherent).

• Coherence comes from making logical connections between ideas in
each part of the text, and between the text and the context

• Coherence also comes when there is consistency in point of view and
the presentation of the participants in a text

• Coherence is a feature of cohesive texts - if the text makes sense (i.e.
is coherent), this helps it to stick together (i.e. be cohesive), and if a
text sticks together well (i.e. are cohesive), it can help it to make
sense - BUT texts can be cohesive without being coherent.

• Coherence is based on phonetic, lexical, and morphosyntactic
features, but often goes beyond words and structures, and involves
inference and implications (i.e. is about semantic and discourse
features).
COHERENCE: PHONETICS
Elocution
• In spoken texts, pronouncing words clearly can assist
with coherence.

phonetics
/haʊ a: ju/
vs.
/hewǝjǝ /

COHERENCE: LEXICOLOGY
Simplified lexis
Speakers can use simplified or less complex lexemes/lexical items
in order to aid textual coherence.
E.g. Pass the sodium chloride to our paternal progenitor
vs.
Pass the salt to Dad.

Reduced lexical density
Reducing lexical density means using pronouns, substitution and
ellipsis to replace lexemes, phrases and clauses so that readers
and listeners are presented with a simplified text that requires
less work to comprehend
E.g. “The United States of America has extended the United States of America’s hand in
an act of friendship towards the United States of America’s known enemies.” vs.
“The US has extended its hand of friendship to known enemies.”

lexicology
COHERENCE: SYNTAX
Making choices around syntactic structure and length, especially
drawing primarily on simple sentence structures, and avoiding
long or overly complicated sentence structures, can aid coherence
by avoiding obfuscation.

If I were able to afford to do it, I would quickly find myself wandering
the world in search of an excellent cookie to eat and I would eat it up
without stopping to see where I was in the world.
vs.
I would search the world for an excellent cookie. Then I would eat it
up. I wouldn’t notice the location.
syntax
COHERENCE: SYNTAX

Correct use of prepositions
Using appropriate prepositions shows the logical temporal or spatial
relationships between parts of a sentence, and therefore aids
coherence.
E.g. We sat at the table is not the same as We sat near the table

Conjunctions
Similarly, conjunctions link ideas effectively & logically together
within a sentence, thus aiding coherence.
E.g. Dragana was firm but fair
You were going to be the next Prime Minister, however, you just couldn’t hack it.

syntax
• Discourse particles – clarify meaning, indicate a change of
topic, etc…

• Headings – signpost topics to be discussed

• Layout / Formatting – can make the information easier to find,
more logical in its sequencing, demonstrate underlying
information (think DRABCD on pg17 of diary)

• Logical ordering – things being in an order or sequence that
makes sense to the reader or interlocutor.
I did some shopping, went home, but before that when to the movies.
vs.
First I went to movies, then I did my shopping and after that I went home.
COHERENCE: DISCOURSE ANALYSIS
COHERENCE
In terms of discourse analysis, we can test a text’s coherency by asking…

How well can we understand the text?

Does the layout and formatting make it easy to extract and comprehend
information? Are there headings, subheadings etc? Is the text logically
ordered and unified?

Does it meet the expectations we have of this text type? Does it fulfil the
conventions of this text type?

Is there a consistent P.O.V., and a consistent use of register, tenses, jargon,
discourse features?

Is there a consistent presentation of participants?

Does the text lack ambiguity?
discourse
analysis
COHERENCE
We enter into conversations and read texts with the assumption that
speakers and authors are working to be co-operative and/or
coherent. As a result, speakers and readers will work to make
meaning from even seemingly incoherent sequences. For
example:

S1: That’s the door.
S2: I’m in the shower!

How could we translate the utterances of the two speakers so that
the two appear more explicitly connected?

INFERENCE
COHERENCE: IMPLICATION AND
INFERENCE
The connection between the two utterances is made through
IMPLICATION and INFERENCE.

Implication = making something understood without expressing it
directly

Inference = making a reasonable guess

Speakers typically imply more than they assert, while hearers
typically infer more than is asserted.

S1: That’s the door … implies that the S2 should get the door
S2: I’m in the shower! … infers that S1 wants her to get the door; S1
also implies that she can’t get the door because she’s otherwise
detained
S1: OK … infers that he needs to answer the door himself
semantics
pragmatics
COHERENCE: INFERENCE
- Using INFERENCE to create cohesion (i.e. links between sentences,
paragraphs, ideas) and coherence (overall understanding of the
text) -

Asking readers/addressees to make inferences is a way of creating
cohesion and coherence (i.e. understanding what is implied will
help you to make sense of the text).

When looking for instances of inference, you are looking for what is
not explicitly stated – what must the reader know or understand
to make sense of the text?

Put your foreign-language-learner hat on!

• Name 4 things you must infer for the following to make sense:
Rust in peace, Iron Lady.

semantics
pragmatics
COHERENCE

• Remember: texts can sometimes be purposefully
incoherent, failing to adhere to the expectations of the
genre, manipulating logical ordering and playing on expected
inferences, all for stylistic effect.
• Remember: the connections that contribute to a text’s
coherence are often not explicit. Making the participants,
events and relationships in a text relevant to one another
enables readers/listeners to infer meaning.
To sum up…
Cohesion = explicit (you can see connections)

Coherence = implicit (you can infer
connections)

Coherence is a feature of cohesive texts, but
texts can be cohesive without being coherent.

Writing about…COHERENCE
• Coherence can be achieved through… logical ordering (of ideas)
… formatting / clear
communicative stages
… eliminating ambiguity
… maintaining consistency in
lexis and syntax
… maintaining a consistent
register

• “Coherence is achieved through...”
• “The clear communicative stages of the text contribute to its
overall coherence”
COHESION AND COHERENCE:
FURTHER READING and ACTIVITIES
Text Reading Activities
Living Lingo • pp59-60
• pp131-133 (only the section
titled ‘cohesion & coherence’)
• Activities 13 & 14,
pp75-76
Advanced English
Language (Sara Thorne)
• pp43-46

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