The continuity of topics in journal and travel texts
A discourse functional perspective
Following a functional view of topic as a discourse, cognitive and contextually-referential notion, independent of special language-systematic coding (Cornish 2004), this paper aims to study topic continuity strategies (Givón 1983, 1995; Dik 1997) in news items and tourist brochures. The empirical analysis carried out reveals that the two subgenres show different relative frequencies of linguistic resources for maintaining topic continuity. While in the news items the use of active voice (25.4%) and anaphoric proforms (20.4%) are the prototypical strategies for topic continuity, in the tourist brochures nominals preceded by definite articles, possessives or demonstratives (24.1%), and proper nouns (12.3%) are the most commonly used resource for maintaining a topical referent alive in the discourse. From a lexico-grammatical perspective significant differences have also been established in the utilization of zero anaphora and nominalizations (the latter being found only in the news items). From a syntactic point of view, the use of relative clauses and passive structures is also distinct in the two text types. Inversions and imperative clauses are exclusive to the tourist brochures. The use of specific linguistic strategies and their different frequencies seem to be basically determined both by the emphasis or semantic prominence the writer wishes to give to the informative segment he is referring to, and by the particular communicative purpose of each of the two subgenres under study.
Published online: 13 April 2006
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