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Christina Y. Bethin, ed. American Contributions to the 14th International Congress of Slavists, Ohrid, September 2008. Vol. 1: Linguistics. Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 161–80. Syntax Meets Discourse: Subordination in Slavic Lenore A. Grenoble 1. The Hierarchical Organization of Discourse Fundamental to the study of discourse is the fact that any coherent text is not simply a linear series of utterances, but rather is hierarchically organized. It is structured on at least two levels, a macro or global level and a micro or local level. Macro-level units can be correspondingly hierarchically organized into larger, more global-level units, as seen in longer stretches of discourse. Information structure similarly operates on at least two levels, a global thematic level and a more local topic level, analogous to the hierarchical organization. In fact, of course, the two are deeply interrelated and devices such as macro-level thematic framing, micro-level topic and comment, and foregrounding and backgrounding, all help to create and maintain discourse structures. Evidence from cognitive studies on the processing of discourse supports these claims. For example, Morrow (1985) demonstrates that the interpretation of anaphora resolution is affected by the distinction between main and subordinate clauses together with information about the main story protagonist. Similarly, in a study of the retelling of a non-verbal cartoon, Tomlin (1985) found that speakers reported main, plot-advancing events in main clauses and less important events in subordinate clauses, which further suggests that main clauses are more salient than subordinate ones. In addition to the implications this has for the cognitive processing of discourse, it strongly suggests that main clauses are the center of focus. These phenomena point to what has been called discourse directionality (van Kuppevelt 1996), dominance (Grosz and Sidner 1986), or nuclearity in Rhetorical Structure Theory (Mann and Thompson 1988; Matthiessen and Thompson 1988). All approaches are based on the observation that a discourse consists of more than a set of utterances or sentences which are simply strung together; instead the hierarchical relationship which obtains between them can be seen as one of a nucleus versus satellite , whereby the nucleus is more prominent, salient, or functionally dominant and the satellite is related to it but in some way subservient. (Other theories refer to this as a distinction between core and peripheral relations.) Directionality refers more specifically to the fact that the discourse, or a segment of it, is aimed at some goal; it is a recursive property assigned to higher-order and lower-order discourse relations which are assumed to be realized by explicit or implicit topic-forming questions. In this the- 162 LENORE A. GRENOBLE ory, lower-order subordinate structures are analyzed as answers to questions which define global discourse topic (van Kuppevelt 1996: 363–65). Despite differences in these approaches, they share the observation that some parts of the text are subservient to others and that this hierarchical relationship is fundamental to discourse structure. The use of topic-setting sentences can serve as a preliminary illustration of the hierarchical structure of connected discourse. First, the beginning or opening sentence of a text or paragraph introduces the main theme or idea of that paragraph. A title can serve a similar purpose for a text in its entirety. Consider the first line of Text 1 (see [11] for the full text): (1) !"# $ %&'$()*+" $ ,)&)%' -"&./01.2 #./)3/. " 4&'$)0,)%("/ 5) "3'(" 6"#)/*'(. This line shows presentational word order; it is the absolute first line of this text (which is embedded in a cookbook; it tells a brief story but introduces the joy of eating octopus). An opening sentence such as (1) is a linguistic feeder (van Kuppevelt 1996: 378) and is used to initiate or re-initiate the construction of a topic in discourse. This process must be initiated when the context is empty, or (in van Kuppevelt’s framework) when no more questions are induced by the preceding context. A linguistic feeder may be a single sentence, e.g., the opening sentence of a discourse, or it may be a larger discourse unit. In this particular example, it introduces the time, place, and main protagonist of the story, and so serves as a superordinate framing device. Syntax can have a major impact on how a linguistic feeder frames the discourse. Example (2) is the first line of Text 3 (see [14] below) and thus functions as a title but syntactically is the first part of a conditional clause: (2) 7*#" $8 *'9: 1.5:+(.#"… This is the first part of a conditional...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780893578572
Print ISBN
9780893573577
MARC Record
OCLC
705869940
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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