For SFL, a text can be defined as “a unit of language in use” (Halliday & Hasan, 1976, p. 1) and is distinguished from non-text by the two-fold concept of unity: unity of structure and unity of texture (Halliday & Hasan, 1985). This can also be termed as coherence and cohesion.
Cohesion is concerned with how the text ties together internally and is formed when one element of a text is dependent for its interpretation on another (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). Without it the surface features of a text may not relate to each other and it is thus central to the way in which text is produced and comprehended. According to Halliday & Hasan (1976), cohesion can be divided into grammatical and lexical cohesion.
Grammatical cohesion consists of:
- cohesion between messages, or the system of CONJUNCTION (e.g. but, so)
- cohesion in meaning, or REFERENCE (e.g. he, she, this)
- cohesion in wording, which consists of ELLIPSIS (e.g. Yes, I am [O]) and SUBSTITUTION (e.g. one, some, no)
Lexical cohesion also consists of three parts:
- elaborating which may also be divided into:
- identity, which consists of REPETITION (e.g. bear – bear) and SYNONYMY (e.g. sound – noise)
- attribution, or HYPONOMY (e.g. tree – oak)
- extending, or MERONYMY (e.g. tree – trunk)
- enhancing, or COLLOCATION (e.g. smoke – fire)
Here are some examples with the cohesion underlined.
John walked to town, because he wanted some fried chicken.
John lives near the park. He often goes there.
Types of reference
- Exophoric – refers to outside the text
John borrowed some money from me.
2. Endophoric – refers to within the text
a. Anaphoric – refers back to previous text
I saw John. I asked him for the money.
b. Cataphoric – refers forward to text
This will surprise you. He paid me back!
Most of the students had an ice-cream but Eva didn’t
have an ice-cream.
John loves fried chicken. He has some every day.
John ran to the shop and then he ran home.
Synonymy / Hyponomy / Meronymy
Eva walked to town and strolled around the park.
She looked up at the autumn trees. The oaks had a beautiful colour.
She climbed up a tree and sat on the branch.
It was hot. John was sweating.
Here is an example of cohesion in a sports text:
Halliday, M., & Hasan, R. (1976). Cohesion in English: Longman.
Halliday, M., & Hasan, R. (1985). Language, context, and text: Aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective: Deakin University Press.