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What Is Text Linguistics?

By Meghan Perry
Updated May 23, 2024
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Text linguistics is an area of study within the linguistics field that focuses on the meaning and interpretation of written texts. This type of linguistics looks at ways in which the written word produces meaning, both on a small and large scale. Text linguistics is generally used by academics and is related to literary criticism. It grew out of structuralism in the 1960s.

Texts have both internal and external functions, according to the principals of text linguistics. Part of the internal function may be referred to as cohesion. This is how the actual words in the text are connected and flow together to create meaning at a sentence level. Texts use devices such as conjunctions, ellipses, and substitution to connect words so that they flow from one sentence to the next. This helps the reader create meaning within the text.

Coherence is another internal element of text linguistics. This is how the sentences are put together as a whole to create the meaning of the entire text. In other words, while cohesion may look at the individual elements of a sentence, coherence is about how each sentence, paragraph, and the overall text are constructed so that the reader can understand it. It also looks at how the text is arranged in time.

An external function of text linguistics is intertextuality. This concept is the study of the interconnectedness of different texts. In some cases, it may be necessary to have studied one text in order to understand another. For example, in order to understand a critical article, it may be necessary to have read the text that the article is about. In this way, many different texts may be connected.

Texts may also be better understood by looking at the contexts in which they were written. This context may be historical and may include looking at the events that were happening in the world at the time the text was written. Text linguistics may also look at the social context, which includes the social aspects of a culture at the time the text was written. Studying these contexts may help readers understand the meaning of the texts more clearly.

Other aspects of text linguistics include studying the purpose of the text, which would include studying why the author composed the writing. This is connected to audience, another aspect of text linguistics. In order to understand the intention of the text, it is important to understand who wrote it and who it was written for.

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