Definition and Examples of Text Linguistics

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Text linguistics is a branch of linguistics concerned with the description and analysis of extended texts (either spoken or written) in communicative contexts. Sometimes spelled as one word, textlinguistics (after the German Textlinguistik).

  • In some ways, notes David Crystal, text linguistics "overlaps considerably with . . . discourse analysis and some linguists see very little difference between them" (Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, 2008).

Examples and Observations

"In recent years, the study of texts has become a defining feature of a branch of linguistics referred to (especially in Europe) as textlinguistics, and 'text' here has central theoretical status. Texts are seen as language units which have a definable communicative function, characterized by such principles as cohesion, coherence and informativeness, which can be used to provide a formal definition of what constitutes their textuality or texture. On the basis of these principles, texts are classified into text types, or genres, such as road signs, news reports, poems, conversations, etc. . . . Some linguists make a distinction between the notions of 'text,' viewed as a physical product, and 'discourse,' viewed as a dynamic process of expression and interpretation, whose function and mode of operation can be investigated using psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic, as well as linguistic, techniques."
(David Crystal, Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, 6th ed. Blackwell, 2008)

Seven Principles of Textuality

"[The] seven principles of textuality: cohesion, coherence, intentionality, acceptability, informativity, situationality, and intertextuality, demonstrate how richly every text is connected to your knowledge of world and society, even a telephone directory. Since the appearance of the Introduction to Text Linguistics [by Robert de Beaugrande and Wolfgang Dressler] in 1981, which used these principles as its framework, we need to emphasize that they designate the major modes of connectedness and not (as some studies assumed) the linguistic features of text-artifacts nor the borderline between 'texts' versus 'non-texts' (c.f. II.106ff, 110). The principles apply wherever an artifact is 'textualized,' even if someone judges the results 'incoherent,' 'unintentional,' 'unacceptable,' and so on. Such judgments indicate that the text is not appropriate (suitable to the occasion), or efficient (easy to handle), or effective (helpful for the goal) (I.21); but it is still a text. Usually, disturbances or irregularities are discounted or at worst construed as signals of spontaneity, stress, overload, ignorance, and so on, and not as a loss or a denial of textuality."
(Robert De Beaugrande, "Getting Started." New Foundations for a Science of Text and Discourse: Cognition, Communication, and the Freedom of Access to Knowledge and Society. Ablex, 1997)

Definitions of Text

"Crucial to the establishment of any functional variety is the definition of text and the criteria that have been used to delimit one functional variety from another. Some text-linguists (Swales 1990; Bhatia 1993; Biber 1995) do not specifically define 'text/a text' but their criteria for text analysis imply that they are following a formal/structural approach, namely, that a text is a unit larger than a sentence (clause), in fact it is a combination of a number of sentences (clauses) or a number of elements of structure, each made of one or more sentences (clauses). In such cases, the criteria for distinguishing between two texts are the presence and/or absence of elements of structure or types of sentences, clauses, words, and even morphemes such as -ed, -ing, -en in the two texts. Whether texts are analyzed in terms of some elements of structure or a number of sentences (clauses) that can then be broken down into smaller units, a top-down analysis, or in terms of smaller units such as morphemes and words that can be put together to build the larger unit of text, a bottom-up analysis, we are still dealing with a formal/structural theory and approach to text analysis."

(Mohsen Ghadessy, "Textual Features and Contextual Factors for Register Identification." Text and Context in Functional Linguistics, ed. by Mohsen Ghadessy. John Benjamins, 1999)

Discourse Grammar

"An area of investigation within text linguistics, discourse grammar involves the analysis and presentation of grammatical regularities that overlap sentences in texts. In contrast to the pragmatically oriented direction of text linguistics, discourse grammar departs from a grammatical concept of text that is analogous to 'sentence.' The object of investigation is primarily the phenomenon of cohesion, thus the syntactic-morphological connecting of texts by textphoric, recurrence, and connective."

(Hadumod Bussmann, Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics. Translated and edited by Gregory P. Trauth and Kerstin Kazzazi. Routledge, 1996)

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Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Text Linguistics." ThoughtCo, Jan. 29, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, January 29). Definition and Examples of Text Linguistics. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Text Linguistics." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).