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King Saud University

College of languages and Translation

Text-linguistics for students of translation

Hand-out No.3
Cohesion in Arabic & English
Halliday and Hasan (1976) propose five main categories of cohesion. These categories and their sub-categories will be fully discussed under the following headings, respectively:
1. Reference 2. Substitution

3. Ellipsis 4. Conjunction

5. Lexical cohesion

1. Reference
Reference is a term used to refer to certain items which are not interpreted semantically in their own right but rather “make reference to something else for their interpretation”; by this they distinguish between semantic reference, i.e. the relationship between a word and what it points to in the real world, and reference as the relationship of identity which holds between two linguistic expressions.

Reference, in this sense, is a cohesive device that allows the reader/hearer to trace participants, events, entities, etc. in texts. In English, according to Halliday and Hasan, there are certain items that occur in the Nominal Group (NG) and have the property of reference. The structure of the nominal group is one of modification; it consists of a Head, with optional modifier. The modifying elements include some which precede the Head, known as ‘premodifiers’, and some which follow it, known as ‘postmodifiers’, as in:


The two high stone walls along the roadside...

The Head of the nominal group, in the above example, is the word ‘walls’; within the modifier, ‘the’ has the function of deictic, ‘two’ numerative, ‘high’ epithet, and ‘stone’ classifier, while ‘along the roadside’ is said to be a qualifier.

Halliday and Hasan believe that there are certain items in all languages that have the property of reference. In the English language, for example, these items are: personal, demonstrative, and comparative. These are presented as follows:


a. Three blind mice, three blind mice, see how they run!

See how they run.
b. Doctor Foster went to Gloucester in a shower of rain.

He stepped in the puddle right up to his middle and never went there again.
c. There were two wrens upon a tree. Another came, and there were three.

d. This is how to get the best result. You let the berries dry in the sun till all the moisture has gone out of them. Then you gather them up and chop them very fine.

e. For he is a jolly good fellow. And so say all of us.

(Halliday and Hasan, 1976: 17-32)

In (a), the pronoun ‘they’ refers back to the noun phrase ‘three blind mice’; in (b) the third person pronoun ‘he’ and the demonstrative pronoun ‘there’, in the second sentence, refer back respectively to the noun phrase ‘Dr. Foster’ and the noun ‘Gloucester’ in the first sentence of the same example. In (c), the term ‘another’, in the second sentence refers back to the noun ‘wrens’ expressed in the first one. In (d), the demonstrative pronoun ‘this’ points forward to the whole description that follows it. In example (e), the pronoun ‘he’ does not refer to any identity in the text, it refers only to an identity that is in the context of the situation. Although the text does not make it clear who the pronoun ‘he’ refers to, the participants in the speech occasion are able to identify the referent by the context in which the speech situation occurs. This type of reference is exophoric.

This kind of reference which has to be retrieved for full interpretation in this type of cohesion, is referred to as ‘referential meaning’, i.e. the identity of the particular thing or class of things that is being referred to. When the source of the necessary information is an item in the text itself, one is dealing with what is called endophora or ‘endophoric reference’. When the source of addition information is outside the text, in the context of situation, one is dealing with ‘exophoric reference’. Endophoric reference is divided into two types: first, anaphoric - when the information needed for the interpretation is in the preceding portion of the text. Second, cataphoric - when the information needed for the interpretation is to be found in the part of the text that follows. Examples 3:3a and 3:3d above represent the two types of the endophoric reference whereas example 3:3e the exophoric one.

Diagrammatically, the above-suggested types of reference can be related as in Figure 3.1 below.

[Situational] [Textual]

Exophora Endophora

[To preceding text] [To following text]

Anaphora Cataphora

1.1 Personal reference
Personal reference items are those items which refer to their referents by specifying their function in the speech situation, recognising speaker ‘first person’, addressee ‘second person’ and other participant ‘third person’. This can be spelt out as follows:

- Speaker only:

I, me, my, mine

- Addressee(s):

you, your, yours

- One other person:



he, him, his

she, her, hers

- Speaker and other person

we, us, our, ours

- Other person or object

they, them, their, theirs

- One object or piece of text:

it, it, its

- Generalised person

one, one’s

These pronouns can be further sub-classified in view of their function in the nominal group as follows:

(i) Personal pronouns as head:

I/me, you, he/him, she/her, it, we/us, they/them.

(ii) Possessive pronouns as head:

mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs.

(iii) Possessive determiners as deictic:

my, your, his, her, its, our, their.

The significant of the above pronouns, called by Halliday and Hasan the person system, is that “it is the means of referring to relevant persons and objects, making use of a small set of options centring around the particular nature of their relevance to the speech situation”.

Halliday and Hasan make a distinction between the above personal pronouns by differentiating the roles of persons in the communication process and all other entities. They call the former ‘speech roles’, speaker and addressee (I-me-my-mine, you-your-yours, we-us-our-ours), and the later ‘other roles’, third person forms. They believe that each of the above mentioned personal forms enter into the structure either as (a) participant in some process or (b) possessor of some entity. They explain that if the personal form is a participant, it falls into the class ‘noun’, subclass ‘pronoun’, and functions as head in the nominal group. Then, it has one form when that nominal group is the subject (I, you, we, etc.), but when the nominal group is not the subject it has a different forms, i.e. (me, you, us, etc.). Respectively, when the personal form is a possessor of some entity, it falls into the class of determiner and functions either as head (mine, yours, ours, etc.) or as modifier (my, your, our, etc.), as in:


I had a cat.

‘I’: Participant; Subject

Pronoun; Head


The cat pleased me.

‘me’: Participant; Non-subject

Pronoun; Head


Take mine.

‘mine’: Possessor

Determiner; Head


My plate’s empty.

‘my’: Possessor

Determiner; Modifier

Kataloq: kamri

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