Sunday, March 10, 2013

89. Cohesion and Coherence

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Now, these are two terms everybody is afraid of: how are you going to prove that your line of thought is coherent if you don’t express your ideas one after the other while following a pattern?

But wait: whose pattern is it? Is it yours, in the sense that it unfolds in the same order as in your mother tongue? Well – no. It will be – again – a superordinate rule which requires Word Order according to the rules of English (in this case) and the elements that make information meaningful. To cut a long story short: if you choose to express the ideas at random, as they occur to you through a kind of ‘automatic dictation’ disregarding what an English pattern asks for, your final text will make no sense, or it will finally mean something else than you intended to convey.

Then again, there is a kind of ‘sticking together’ of the elements you use in every sentence /utterance which makes it understandable and ensures that what you expressed at the beginning of the sentence is consistent with all the other elements. Let’s say you refer to a film you’ve seen recently. It would be, in very schematic terms, something like:

‘I’ve just seen a very good film starring Javier Bardem. It is called ‘Biutiful’, and it is the gripping story of a man living in Barcelona, the father of two children. His ability to talk to THE DEAD makes people invite him at wakes and funerals so that he may pass on messages to them from THE RECENTLY DECEASED.’

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Of course you may go on and on; or you may re-write the text taking care of each structure and expanding, or compressing it. The better you are at handling each structure, the easier it will be for you to say exactly what you mean.

Still, looking back at the paragraph above, you may notice that quite a few of the words have been highlighted. Follow the colours, or else the marking pattern and you’ll see what I mean. What enters first is resumed later at a point which makes it useful and meaningful.
On this particular occasion, let’s have a look at those small words with big meanings that represented the title of the previous post. When you have studied the table, you may pass on to practice and then check in the key: