The textual coherence is a term that refers to relations of meaning between individual units (sentences or propositions) of a text. These allow a text to be logically and semantically consistent. This property is studied in the areas of text linguistics.
Textual coherence arises from the relationship between the underlying ideas of a text, along with the logical organization and development of those texts. It is one of the two qualities that give unity and purpose to a written or spoken text (the other is cohesion), and it is achieved with an adequate structuring and organization of the content.
In this sense, there are a series of mechanisms that serve to provide the text with the necessary coherence. Some of these mechanisms include, for example, maintaining a chronological sequence or presenting information in a logical way.
Thus, textual coherence refers to the way in which the individual components of a text are connected so that it makes sense to the recipient, rather than being a random sequence of sentences and clauses.
Textual coherence implies a clear presentation of the information in a way that facilitates its understanding. This is divided into two categories: local coherence and global coherence.
Local textual consistency
According to the definition of textual linguistics, local coherence exists between proximate parts of the text; that is, between two consecutive segments of speech.
Now, if a broader definition is considered, local coherence occurs between two semiotic neighbors in general (for example, between a figure and its title). This coherence is materialized if the interlocutor (or reader) can connect a sentence with the information in the previous sentence.
On the other hand, this type of coherence operates in the syntactic (structure) and semantic (meaning) realms. For example, word repetitions, paraphrases, and pronouns can connect one independent clause to another.
In this way, each sentence is built from the sentence that precedes it; this establishes a well-marked sense of local coherence.
Global textual consistency
For its part, global coherence defines the link between the constituents of the text, since it is mediated by the global issue addressed in the document.
In this sense, sentences must do much more than relate to each other locally. Each one has to develop the topic as a whole, thus contributing to the overall coherence of the text.
Thus, a text is coherent in the global scope if all its sentences can be related to its macrostructure or mental model of the text.
For example, a text with a clear structure (cause and effect, problem-solution or chronological sequence) helps to create a mental scheme of its content and facilitate its understanding.
In short, global consistency refers to the big picture. The main ideas should cover the entire text so that the interlocutors are aware of the global nature of the material and can follow the ideas without getting confused.
Here are fragments of the literary essay La llama doble , by Octavio Paz. These will serve to exemplify some textual coherence strategies.
“It is not surprising that Plato has condemned physical love. However, he did not condemn reproduction. In The Banquet, he calls the desire to procreate divine: it is the desire for immortality ”.
In the first three sentences of this first fragment, the local textual coherence is appreciated in the choice of phrases that are semantically related: physical love, reproduction and desire to procreate.
Likewise, all three maintain the reference: Plato. Although it is not explicitly mentioned that The Banquet is a work of his authorship, this is inferred from the reading.
The first sentence is declarative: “it is not strange that (…)”, but this is followed by a contrast: “however (…)”; and the third presents an example to validate its argument. All these resources are connecting each sentence with the previous one, guiding the reader in their comprehension process.
“True, the children of the soul, the ideas, are better than the children of the flesh; however, in Laws he exalts bodily reproduction ”.
The words of Paz, in this fragment, remain within the same semantic range: “children of the soul”, “children of the flesh”, “bodily reproduction”.
Similarly, the discursive construction is maintained on the same reference: Plato, his ideas and his works. In this case, another of his productions is mentioned: The laws .
Furthermore, he repeats the idea of the contradiction between condemning physical love and exalting bodily reproduction. The implication is that the latter is not possible without the former.
“The reason: it is a political duty to engender citizens and women who are capable of ensuring the continuity of life in the city.”
This fragment connects with the previous sentence, being an explanation of why Plato defends human reproduction. The sentences also maintain textual coherence: engender, continuity of life.
“Apart from this ethical and political consideration, Plato clearly perceived the panic side of love, its connection with the world of animal sexuality and wanted to break it.”
As in the entire text, the continuous allusions to (physical) love and reproduction are maintained (the phrase “panic side” refers to Pan, the Greek god of fertility and male sexuality).
In this way, it is observed how the thematic unit and the argumentative sequence throughout the essay endow it with the necessary textual coherence in the global sphere.
“He was consistent with himself and with his vision of the world … But there is an insurmountable contradiction in the Platonic conception of eroticism: without the body and the desire that ignites in the lover, there is no ascent towards the archetypes.”
In this last fragment, the logical consequence of Paz’s argument is presented: Plato’s contradiction about his ideas of physical love and reproduction as human need.
In all this syntactic and semantic framework, both local and global coherence are evidenced.
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