The Relationship of Cohesion and Coherence:
A Contrastive Study of English and Chinese
Abstract ？This article tackles the relationship of cohesion and coherence from a contrastive linguistic point of view. Several Chinese texts are then analyzed with a focus on the use of reference and conjunctive relations. The analysis shows that cohesion, as surface linguistic eatures, can not account fully for the coherence of a text. Rather, underlying semantic relations as well as readers' perceptions of the text should be taken into consideration to construct a complete picture of discourse processing.
Key Words: discourse analysis, cohesion, coherence, reference, Chinese-English contrastive study
The coherence of one text comes from cohesive ties of various functions, such as reference, ellipsis, and conjunction or merely comes from the adjacency of two phrases or comes from the reader's common sense. Among the discourse researches, most researchers are interested in the mechanisms of textual cohesion or propose hypotheses to explain the assumptions of coherence in the mind of the reader. In this article, text will be viewed from different angle ,it tends to examine the relationship between cohesion and coherence from the view of contrastive linguistics. 2 Text analysis - reference
Here we will look at a short paragraph of classical Chinese written in the 16 century.
(1) cha bu yiben；
tea not transplant,
(2) zhi bi sheng zi。
plant sure produce seed.
(3) guren jiehun ；
ancient people marry,
(4) bi yi cha wei li；
sure use tea as gift,
(5) qu qi bu yizhi zhi yi ye。
use it not convert particle meaning modal particle.
"Tea bushes cannot be transplanted, but once planted they are sure to produce seeds. In olden days, therefore, when people got married, they would be sent tea as a betrothal gift, in reference to the plant's steadfastness."
In Chinese, the topic "cha" (tea) in the first sentence is not clearly mentioned in the following clause which has the same reference. Then, a new topic, "guren" (ancient people), is introduced at the very beginning of the second sentence, and the three actions "jiehun" (marry), "yi" (use) and "qu" (use) which share the same topic are connected in a chain. In the parallel English translation text, however, the pronouns "they" have to be used, firstly referring to "tea " in the first sentence and secondly to "people" in the second sentence.
This supports the point mentioned above that the cohesion of a text in English is constituted by reference items, such as "he" or "they," while the cohesion in Chinese might be realized by the existence of a topic chain. It can find that English and Chinese have a different network of reference items functioning as cohesive devices. 3 Text analysis -- conjunction
In Li and Thompson's grammar book of Mandarin Chinese (1981), the function of conjunction is called "sentence linking." Explicit linking elements and implicit ones are common use in the language.
The absence of explicit markers of cohesion is striking in classical Chinese texts. The "cha" paragraph analyzed above can serve as a good example here. Not a single explicit conjunctive word can be found. Yet, the text presents a complex network of conjunction. In the first sentence, the adversative relation is clear, while in the second sentence, the reason why tea was given as a wedding gift is spelt out in the causal relation between the following clauses. In contrast, most of the implicit linking elements discussed above are rendered explicit in the English translation, namely, "but," "once," "therefore" and "when".
From the study, two conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, different languages might have different systems of cohesive devices. Some of them might be avoided in a particular language, while the others are preferred. Secondly, a text's coherence is universal in the sense that the underlying semantic relations can be grasped by the reader/speaker with the knowledge of language as well as from other resources. This can certainly help guide an inexperienced reader to find his/her way to the writer's intentions.