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A performative theory of discourse

This thesis formulates an account of two language abilities shared by adult speakers of English. First, language users are able to recognize when a text is contiguous
from utterance to utterance. Second, users are also able to decide when a discourse as a whole is well-formed. As previous work in either area has been minimal, a central problem becomes that of discovering and demonstrating how strong, and of what order, adequate theories of these intuitions
must be. Thus, Part I, which takes up the first of the abilities above, attempts to revise and strengthen current models of conjunction, extending them to handle successive sentence decisions. Part II subsequently attempts to develop a theory of expository performance to handle the larger discourse intuitions. Part I begins with a large corpus of grammatical , but unacceptable, successive sentence pairs. After moving first from strictly syntactic constraints through progressively stronger criteria, until reaching pragmatics and context, it makes the case that only a context-sensitive theory is

adequate to block the generation of sentence pairs with content
anomalies. However, as Part II argues, content relations between sentences in a discourse are not the only meaning relations of which a reader must be aware. Each utterance also has its own force, by which we know what a speaker intended to do in uttering what he has. Through examples I show that force considerations are ultimately prime in all acceptability decisions. Content analysis inaccurately predicts that if content meaning relations can be found between its successive sentence pairs the discourse comprised of the pairs will be acceptable, and if not, then the discourse will be anomalous. Nevertheless, texts with apparently anomalous content relations
between sentences may be acceptable, given certain performative intentions of the speaker, and texts which appear to be acceptable may fail on performative grounds. Part II also contains an analysis of the necessary organization and ordering of certain expository actions in written texts, given a speaker's expository intentions for his discourse as a whole. In particular, I look at the discourse
action of arguing, which obligatorily involves making a claim and giving reasons for belief, as well as the optional actions of making distinctions, explaining, admitting, contradicting, and others. In the final chapter, I bring

together the two parts of the thesis, showing that conjuncti or successive sentence relations must be consistent with a discourse's underlying performative structure, and are to some extent determined by that performative structure. / Arts, Faculty of / English, Department of / Graduate
Date January 1974
CreatorsDavison, Jack Robert
Source SetsUniversity of British Columbia
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeText, Thesis/Dissertation
RightsFor non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use

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