what is the difference between coherence and cohesion?

The difference between coherence and cohesion?

Cohesion and coherence

What is the difference between coherence and cohesion?

Broadly speaking, coherence and cohesion refer to the way a text is organized so that it can hold together. In a coherent text, ideas flow meaningfully and logically by using grammatical and lexical cohesive devices.

The following sections try to define and provide examples of coherence and cohesion. We will also deal with how productive skills involve structuring discourse so that speakers or writers convey meaningful messages.

What is the difference between coherence and cohesion?

What is coherence?

Coherence is what makes a text semantically meaningful. In a coherent text, ideas are logically connected to produce meaning. It is what makes the ideas in a discourse logical and consistent. It should be noted that coherence is closely related to cohesion.

The linguistic features that make a text coherent are classified under the concept of cohesion.

What is cohesion?

Literally, according to LEXICO, cohesions means:

The action or fact of forming a united whole as in “The work at present lacks cohesion”.

In physics, cohesion means:

The sticking together of particles of the same substance.

In applied linguistics, cohesion refers to the formal and semantic features of a text. In other words, it is the grammatical and lexical linking that holds a text together and gives it meaning. Cohesion is related to the broader concept of coherence defined above.

There are two types of cohesion: lexical and grammatical.

Examples of cohesion

  • Lexical cohesion
    • This refers to the meaningful relations between sentence elements. This involves the repetition of the same word or use of a synonym, hyponym, meronym, or antonym. Here are some examples:
      • Repetition: “Birds are beautiful. Everybody likes birds.”
      • Synonymy: “Paul saw a snake under the mattress. The serpent is going to bite somebody.”
      • Hyponymy: “I saw a cat. The animal was very hungry and looked ill.”
      • Meronymy: “He stopped the car and changed the tire.”
      • Antonymy: “Old movies are boring, the new ones are much better.”
  • Grammatical cohesion
    • This is related to the grammatical relations between text elements. Here are some examples:
      • Anaphora (e.g. Jane was brilliant. She got the best score)
      • Cataphora (e.g. Here he comes our hero. Please, welcome John.)
      • Ellipsis (e.g. A: Where are you going? B: To dance.)
      • Substitution (e.g. A: Which T-shirt would you like? B: I would like the pink one.”)
      • Conjunctions: (e.g. “We agree on the principle but disagree on the method.” “He didn’t come because he’s sick.”)

Structuring discourse

Discourse structure refers to the way in which a whole text is organized. Teaching productive skills involves training the learners to structure their discourse so that it can fulfill its communicative purpose. Cohesive devices and discourse markers are used to organize written and spoken discourse.

Cohesive devices and discourse markers

Speakers and writers often use different devices to structure their discourse. These devices connect what they are saying to what they have said before, and to what they are going to say so that their overall message looks coherent and cohesive.

These devices can take different forms:

  • In spoken discourse, they are called discourse markers, because they mark out the beginning of a new ‘instance’ of discourse. These include well, oh, so, anyway, etc.
  • In written text, cohesive devices are used to create cohesion. This helps the text stick together, linking previous ideas with subsequent ones so that they can flow naturally. Examples of such cohesive devices are the use of linking words (e.g. because, but, however, nevertheless, moreover, etc…)

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