Discourse Analysis - Already but Not Yet

yochanan bitan-buth ButhFam at compuserve.com
Wed Aug 2 12:32:58 EDT 2000

cindy egrayen:
>But then, I have a bias towards starting from the bottom and going up.  I 
>think that top-down analysis is more limited and less objective. 

While I'm not sure that top-down (e.g. "label macro units and show
structure of episodes and paragraphs") is necessarily less-objective, I
would agree with Cindy in a more bottom up approach. For a linguistic
reason. Texts are communicated one word at a time, they are linearized.
Someone quoted Stephen Levinson in a recent email to the same effect, and
again I agree. We process and reevaluate global hypotheses as we meet the
little units of a text.

The goal of a Greek student, or any language student, should be to
recognize the little processing signals that a language uses so that they
too may process a text 'on the fly'. As a written text we may certainly
reread, but we should be aware that the signals were developed in a
language for immediate processing and hypothesis setting. 

Things like DE versus KAI, AORIST vs IMPERFECT, finite verb versus
participle, fronted word orders, delayed orders, (and 'split' word orders),
overdifferentiation/underdifferentiation of participant reference, etc..
These are the nuts and bolts of DA that build up and organize units,
subjects and salient/thematic information. On a parallel track, the
'explicit' text gets interpreted through a 'relevance theory' filter of
communicative expectations and assumptions into a fuller "interpretation",
which allows comparison with then-contemporary literature. thus, "DA
(functional version) standing on one leg." (in the Hebrew sense, `al regel
aHat=in a nutshell)

Randall Buth
Chair, Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages
Jerusalem University College

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