Grounding in Text Structure

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The last three decades have witnessed a burgeoning interest in the phenomenon of grounding, or the foreground–background structure in text. The vast literature on this phenomenon has nevertheless shown a great deal of theoretical confusion: definitions have been imprecise and various levels of description conflated. This paper explains the phenomenon of grounding and shows its place among several other text structures. It posits that grounding is a semantic property of text, distinct from other semantic properties such as coherence and from the cognitive, non-textual level of information. In addition, the paper distinguishes the foreground–background structure from its manifestations on other levels such as discursive and syntactic, thus distinguishing grounding from the more or less prominent ways in which it is signalled. In this regard, the paper examines the influence of grounding on text (hierarchical) structure exemplified by the occurrence of foregrounding and backgrounding operations and by the occasional inclusion of textual propositions that are not (directly) related to what has preceded.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2002

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