Roehampton or SIL Either/Or

CWestf5155 at CWestf5155 at
Mon Aug 7 03:21:59 EDT 2000

In a message dated 8/6/00 3:42:45 PM Mountain Daylight Time, 
c.s.bartholomew at writes:

 I was exploring the question of thematic cohesion with reference to
  Mk 9:38-41, how it fits into the semantic structure of Mk 9:30-50 when
 after several days of pondering this I pulled Levinshon* off the shelf and
 took another look at section 17 "Boundary Features." The first two pages of
 this section reads like 95 theses prepared to be nailed on the door at
 Roehampton. Levinshon cites a litany of scholars including Beekman,  Callow
 & Callow, Tomlin, and Givon in support for the notion that paragraph level
 discourse structure is Semantically indicated and that formal language
 features are only a secondary and somewhat unreliable indication of
 paragraph level boundaries. Levinshon really drives this point home with
 force and then spends the rest of the chapter explaining how to evaluate the
 validity of formal language feature evidence which supports the paragraph
 boundaries that have already been determined by Semantic Structural
 How does this differ from the Roehampton approach? Jeffrey Reed* in
 addressing textual cohesion introduces the concept of Semantic Chains.
 Semantic Chains look superficially like they might be part of what others
 call Semantic Structural analysis. But I don't think this is the case. Reed
 ties Semantic Chains directly to formal language feature evidence such as
 lexical patterns, co-referential pronominal pointers (dexis) and so forth.
 Because he ties his semantic analysis to formal language feature evidence,
 what might appear to be high level analysis is really just more low level
 Levinshon* has liberated us from the bondage of "Semantic Chains"  by
 proclaiming that we must look first to the Semantic Structure ( this is
 called "Notional Structure" in some SIL authors). This is the discourse
 level which contains the ideational structure of the text. The key point is
 that Levinshon does not define Semantic Structure in terms of  formal
 language feature evidence. This appears to be a point at which Roehampton
 and SIL become an Either/Or.
 There appears to be a very fundamental difference between the SIL school and
 the Roehampton school when it comes to do how  questions about Semantic
 Structure are formulated.


The Roehampton school reflects M. A. K. Halliday and Systemic Linguistics--a 
major presupposition is meaning is expressed in the form and structure of 
language.  I think that I could say further, there is no divorce between 
semantics, structure & formal features.  The battle cry of the Systemic 
Linguists is: 'Trust the text!'  I like that.  

The Roehampton-based group that has published books or articles on DA 
(Porter, Reed, Martin-Asensio, O'Donnell, Black and I) will all reflect this 
commitment to formal features, but all will not have the same model, and 
there is a lot of freedom to disagree (as long as one does it well). So I 
really caution you to not take, for instance, my suggestions or model as the 
'official view'.

While we're on the subject, I think that Reed's summary of discourse analysis 
in his Philippians study is short and sweet, and relatively coherent.  I 
recommend it.

I have great respect for the scholars in the SIL school, and have benefitted 
and will benefit from their work.  But there is a difference because of the 
linguistic influences and presuppositions.  That's why I keep listing them as 
separate schools.

By the by, I always think that 'paragraph level', should always be used with 
caution--when we have these discussions of where to break or where to indent, 
we run close to confusing the translation with the text.  I think that paying 
attention to formal features means following the cues the author gives us, 
and creating our kind of paragraph breaks wasn't the same kind of concern 
then as now.  

Cindy Westfall
PhD Student, Roehampton

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