Department of English and Literary Studies, University Of Calabar, Nigeria
English Language has been an important medium of the press for nearly 400 years. It is used not only in Nigeria as a second language, but in most countries of the world, and a quarter of the world’s periodicals is published in English. A speaker of English who hears or reads a passage of the language which is more than one sentence in length can normally decide without difficulty whether it forms a unified whole or it is just a collection of unrelated sentences. That a text is unified is achieved by the use of cohesive devices. Cohesion, therefore, is the glue that holds words that make a text together. This paper examines the use of cohesive devices in the editorials of Nigerian print media to achieve a meaningful whole and for effective communication. The paper derives its theoretical framework from Halliday and Hasan’s theory of cohesion. The data used for the analysis are editorials of Newswatch Magazine. The choice of the editorials of the Newswatch Magazine is informed by the ingenuity of the editors. The paper concludes from the findings above that Newswatch magazine tends to enjoy wide patronage from readers because of the fluent and lucid use of language by the editors. The editorials are highly coherent texts, as the Editors tend to make judicious use of all cohesive devices in hanging sentences together at varying frequencies of occurrences. It could, then, be suggested that teachers of English composition should encourage their students to read good magazines, and Newswatch should be one of them.
Keywords: cohesion devices, text, editorials, tie, magazines, linguistic features, sentences.
Language is not realized by some unconnected sentences but by varying number of utterances. The stretch of language may be spoken or written. Cohesion therefore is the glue that holds words together. In other words, if an essay is cohesive, it sticks together from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph. We can tie sentences or paragraphs together by using references and words called connective devices.
In Halliday’s (1985) scheme, meaning comes from functions of the language, the ideational (the argument or point of a text), the interpersonal (the relationship between the writer and the audience) and the textual function (the choice of language, including words and sentences). A text derives its thematic unity from “interdependent realization of ideational interpersonal and textual function" (Barbara, 1986). Such unity relies on how the news editor is able to put ideas together using cohesive devices. Halliday and Hasan (1976) contend that the main thing that determines whether a set of sentences does or does not constitute a text depends on the relationships which exist within and between the sentences that make up the text. That relationship creates what Halliday and Hasan (1976) refer to as texture. By texture, they mean the quality of a text which establishes its wholeness and unity rather than meaning. The wholeness and unity of a text are created by certain linguistic features present in the text or passage, which contribute to its total unity and which give it texture. The relationship which exists within these linguistic features, as they combine to contribute to unity and texture of a passage, is what Halliday and Hasan (1976) refer to as cohesion.
The essence of this study is to investigate the extent to which Halliday and Hasan (1976) model of cohesion (precisely cohesive devices) is used to achieve unity, meaning, understanding and readability, using Newswatch editorials as a case-study. Newswatch Magazine is a private magazine that is published in Nigeria and it is owned by a group of journalists who criticize government activities dispassionately. It is also a means of helping the readers improve their writing skills and especially analyze editorials. The paper investigates the extent to which news editors in the Newswatch use the textual resources of cohesion and cohesive devices to link ideas and arguments. It also reveals the most predominant cohesive devices that the editors characteristically tend to employ in the Newswatch editorials and examines the effect that cohesive devices use or lack of use have on the quality of news magazines produced.
According to Van Dijk (1985), cohesion is a concept that is associated with the surface making of coherence which signals the ties between sentences and the points being made. He points out that cohesion is only part of the convention of coherence for the elements of a text to be seen as “connected”, with or without overt linguistic connections between these elements. Widdowson (2000) defines cohesion in terms of the distinction that is made between the illocutionary act and the proposition. In his view, prepositions, when linked together, form a text, whereas illocutionary acts, when related to each other, create different kinds of “discourse”.
According to Halliday and Hasan (1976), as explained by Parvaz and Nodoushan (2006), cohesion and register enable users to create a text. Register is concerned with what a text means. It is defined by Halliday and Hasan (1976) as the set of semantic configuration that is typically associated with a particular class of context of situation and defines that substance of the text. Cohesion, as contrasted with register, is not concerned with what a text means, rather it refers to a set of meaning relations that exist within the text. These relations are not of the kind that link the components of a sentence, and they differ from sentential structure. The discovery of these meaning relations is crucial to their interpretation. For instance in the following text:
John bought a new pen.
He put it in his school bag.
The interpretation of the elements “he” and “it” is dependent on the lexical items John and Pen. So, cohesion is the semantic relation that is set up between these elements. Similarly, De Beaugrande and Dresssler (1981) see cohesion in terms of the components of the surface text that are mutually connected with a sequence. They proposed a model of cohesion based on the notion of “continuity of occurrence”. It is aimed at showing how the concept of cohesion can be applied to abstract grammars such as semantic network models of information processing in a text. They observed that cohesion is characterized as the “sticking together” of syntax in communication. Halliday and Hasan (1976) see cohesion as a semantic relation. But like all components of semantic systems, it is realized through the lexical grammatical system, and some forms of cohesion through vocabulary. They insist that cohesion is a nonstructural text-forming relation, because they are semantic relation and not necessarily syntactically defined in terms of their structural position in the sentence. They classified cohesion into five relations: reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction and lexical cohesion. They further classified the first four under the leading grammatical cohesion, because they involve syntactic items. For instance, the definite article can signal identity of reference with something referred to earlier in a text. Halliday and Hasan (1976) state that references are expressions which refer to other words in the text for their interpretation. For instance:
Mary said she will get herself a new dress next week, but she has already done that.
Here “she’’ refers to Mary and “done that’’ refers to "get herself a new dress’’.
In the example above, the source of the interpretation of “she’’ is within the text, so it is endophoric. Exophoric reference refers to items within the text and the implied term can be interpreted by reference to items within the text. If the implicit term follows its referent, the cohesive tie is said to be anaphoric. Exophoric reference contrasts with endophoric reference in that the implicit term can only be interpreted by reference to the context of situation. For instance:
That’s a good idea.
In this case, it will be necessary to refer to the sentence to know the situation in which this was overheard, in order to understand what “was a good idea”. Exophoric reference is likely to be present in a situation where participants have a shared reservation of experience. Exophoric reference does not contribute to integration of the text. The term tie is used to refer to a pair of cohesively related items; if one element of a text cannot be interpreted without reference to another element, cohesion is said to exist. For instance:
My uncle is coming from Enugu tomorrow. I will meet him at the airport.
The word “him’’ in the above example presupposes “uncle’’ for its interpretation. This provides cohesion in the two sentences. Each word by itself cannot have cohesive force but relies upon its relation with the other words. Halliday and Hasan (1976) see substitution as a relation where one linguistic item takes the place of substitutes of another in a text. Verbal substitution involves, so, substituting for a positive clause and not for a negative clause. For instance:
Has every one arrived? I hope not.
Ellipsis is similar to substitution but in the above example, it is being substituted by nothing. Like substitution, verbal and clausal ellipsis may occur. An example of clausal ellipsis:
Who took my pen?
Joy Abba did.
In the above example, the expression “my pen” has been ellipted and it is being substituted by the verb “did”
Conjunction is a specific device for linking one sentence to another. It specifies the way in which what is to be followed is systematically connected with what has gone before. Halliday and Hasan (1976) assert that “conjunction elements are cohesive not in themselves but directly by the virtue of their specific meaning”. They state that conjunction and adverbs may fulfill this function and that group is divided into additive, adversative, causal and temporal conjunction.
Lexical cohesion is defined as the cohesive effect achieved by the selection of the vocabulary and refers to the use of the same or similar related words in successive sentences (Halliday and Hasan, 1976). There are two types of lexical cohesion: reiteration and collocation. Reiteration may be a situation in which a word is repeated in a sentence severally. Collocation is a habitual company in which words keep (Firth, 1957).
Cohesion in English presents a detailed system for analyzing cohesive relationship within a text (Halliday and Hasan, 1976). According to this source, the unit of analysis for cohesion is the cohesive tie. One simple example of a cohesive tie is the pronoun and its antecedent ties and other cohesive devices which may occur within a single sentence, but they may also occur across sentences. Cohesive devices among sentences therefore are those which contribute most strongly to creating a unified text. Cohesive elements can be words or sentence structures and may or may not be adjacent to another in a text. These devices, which are already discussed, are found in a text as particular features that have in common the property of signaling that the interpretation of a passage on question depends on “something else”, if that something else is verbally explicit than there is cohesion. The study by Judith (1986) shows how mature readers make use of cohesion in a text and that increasing the number of cohesive devices can improve reader’s comprehension.
Constructionalists view language comprehension as an interactive process between the text and the person using the text. They assume that meaning does not exist in the text but become available to the reader as a result of his own contribution. Language users employ text in comprehension as a set of guidelines to the active recreation of meaning (Parvaz and Nodoushan, 2006). Jonz (1987), in his explanation of the advantage of adopting a constructionist view, says that "one is able to speculate on the structure of language knowledge and on the various stages in the acquisition of such structures, as well as their application to the cognitive task involved in comprehending".
The editorial is a writing that seeks to inform and lead the public opinion by interpreting current news and pointing out its significance. Based on this, an editorial has to be informative and timely. This is to say that editorials are about the issues at stake. It deals with the stand of the newspaper or magazine on a particular issue and is always confined to the editorial column. The editorial is known as a “leader”. An editorial on an issue must stand on one side of the argument. A newspaper or magazine expresses its own opinion about the ragging issue in the editorial column. Any other page is for other people or organizations, therefore the editorial can be said to be a voice through which the media is heard on a topical issue.
This study is based on Halliday and Hasan (1976) model of cohesion. Therefore, the main theoretical framework is Halliday and Hasan’s theory of cohesion. Cohesion, according to this source, is categorized into two broad types: lexical and grammatical. Reference, conjunction and ellipsis are classified under the heading grammatical cohesion because they involve syntactic terms. Lexical cohesion on the other hand, refers to the use of the same similar or related words in successive sentences. Halliday and Hasan (1976) point out that the distinction between the two is one of degree and that conjunction is on the broader line being grammatical but with a lexical component.
Halliday and Hasan emphasized that cohesion is a semantic relation but is realized through the lexico-grammatical system. Central to Halliday and Hasan’s (1976) approach to the analysis of cohesion is the concept of tie. The term tie is used to refer to a pair of cohesively related items. Hasan (1985) further explains that the term refers to a relation between two lexical items which are referred to as members. This source points out that cohesion is more complicated than it is often viewed, because any sentence may have more than one tie and again the presupposed item may not be in the immediately preceding sentence. The identification of the presupposed item may have to be obtained through an immediate cohesive element. This type of tie, according to Halliday and Hasan, is called “a mediate tie”. The mediating item may be the same as the presupposing item if the later were one personal pronoun. For instance, it might be another form of pronoun or another type of cohesive element altogether. Therefore, an immediate tie is one which the presupposed item is in the immediately preceding sentence. If the distance between the two items is several sentences, the tie is called remote tie. The mediated item may not be the same as the presupposing item.
Under data presentation, we shall present the data and demonstrate how cohesion is used to achieve coherence in the Newswatch Magazine. Our choice of this magazine is based on the ingenuity of the editors and the effective use of cohesive devices in the selected editorials. Here the work of cohesive devices in context will be effectively illustrated. In the editorials, clear expressions are emphasized. The virtue of using cohesive devices in writing to achieve clarity is extolled. In presenting the data, only the headlines of the editorials to be analysed and their respective dates of publication are given below. All the editorials selected for this analysis are from Newswatch. As earlier stated in the abstract, the choice of these editorials was based on the cohesive devices that the author found in them after a careful reading of the issues of the magazine that were published within the first half of that year.
1. “Adedibu: The man behind the Ibadan 'Coup” - Jan. 30, 2006
2. “Third term agenda: The Final Plot” - Feb. 27, 2006
3. "Mantu, Obj’s Points man, his Controversial ideals" - Mar. 13, 2006
4. “Ngige: The road down the valley” - Mar. 27, 2006
5. "Mua’zu under EFCC probe" - Apr. 3, 2006
6. "The Dirty Schemers Inside OBJ’s Kitchen Cabinet” - Apr. 17, 2006
7. "3rd Term doomed" - May 15, 2006
We present here the editorial of April, 17 2006, as it was published in the magazine. This will be followed by an illustrative discussion of the cohesive devices in the excerpt.
Most governments, all over the world, have kitchen cabinets . The kitchen cabinet is an informal but powerful organ of governance . The members are eyes and ears of the president . They do the dirty and the noble jobs for the man or the woman in the highest political stool in the land . They are men and women of great influence . They not only look after the leader’s welfare, they seek to protect their own interest, those of their friends and geopolitical communities too . In doing so, they resort to all sorts of tactics, the noble and not so noble . They scheme to get the “big man” or the big woman to tow their line . In most places, the leaders are usually a prisoner of their own kitchen cabinet . President Olusegun Obasanjo has a kitchen cabinet. They help to think and act for him . But who are they? What is their background? How do they operate and how much influence do they have on the president who believes he is always right one hundred percent on all issues? . Again, what kind of thing do they tell the president? What is their role in the infamous campaign for the actualization of the term third agenda for Obasanjo . These and more are the issues examined in this week’s cover story written by Mauren Chigbo, General Editor . It is titled: The Dirty Schemers inside OBJ’s kitchen cabinet .
In sentence 2, the presupposing item, “kitchen cabinet” is a lexical cohesion, preceding the presupposed item, “kitchen cabinet” in sentence 1. In sentence 4, “they” is a reference, referring to the “members” in sentence 3. Also, in sentence 4, we have another reference, “The man or woman in the highest political stool” referring to “The president”. In sentence 5, the word “They” refers to the “kitchen cabinet” in sentence 2 and “man and woman” (lexical cohesion) still points back at “the man or woman” in the preceding sentence.
In sentence 6, “They” is a reference which refers to ‘’the kitchen cabinet’’ in sentence 2. The expression ‘’leaders welfare’’ is a near synonym of “the president”. The pronoun ‘’they’’ and the expression ‘’their own’’ all refer to ‘’the kitchen cabinet’’. The reference ‘’so’’ in sentence 7 substitutes “protest their own interest” in sentence 6. The expression ’’Big man or big woman’’ which functions as reference points to ’’the president’’ in sentence 3 and the pronoun ’’their’’ refers to ‘’the kitchen cabinet’’. The expression ‘’most places’’ in sentences 9 is a lexical cohesion and a near synonym of “all over the world” in sentence 1.The phrase ‘’The leader’’ and the proper noun ‘’Olusegun Obasanjo’’ are lexical cohesion and synonyms of “president” in sentence 3. In Sentence 11 the phrase ‘’Thinks and acts for him’’ refer to “the ears and eyes of the president”.
In Sentence 12 the conjunction “But” is used to create pause in the process of telling the reader who the kitchen cabinet members are and their duty to the president. It creates a kind of doubt about the cabinet members and creates a way of questioning their duties. The questions ‘’But who are they’’? and ‘’What is their background’’ refer to ‘’the kitchen cabinet’’. Also the pronouns ‘’they’’ and ‘’their’’ in the sentence are all reference cohesion, referring to the “kitchen cabinet”. He in the sentence refers to “the president”. The conjunction ‘’Again’’ in sentence 12 creates a link between sentence 12 and 13. That is to say that the questions asked in sentence 12 still continue in sentence 13 which is also a different paragraph. This means that cohesion has the ability to link ideas from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph. The interrogative pronoun ‘’What’’ in sentence 14 functions as lexical cohesion and lexical repetition of what is in sentence 13. The pronoun ‘’These’’ in Sentence 15 refers to the entire editorial and other stories or issues examined in the cover story. ‘’This week’s cover story’’ is an exophoric reference which refers to Newswatch and the abbreviations OBJ’s is a lexical cohesion which repeats “Obasanjo” and ‘’Kitchen cabinet’’ in sentence 2.
The aim of using one of the eight editorials selected for analysis in this paper is to introduce the function of cohesion in Nigerian magazine editorials. A detailed analysis including stylo-statistic analysis of cohesive types and the number of cohesive ties per text shall be done in the next section. So far we have presented the function of cohesion in context as represented in the text 6 editorial. Here, we find that there is virtually no sentence that does not contain one or two cohesive ties or even more. These cohesive ties are used either to refer back to preceding sentences or the following sentence. The function of cohesion in context is to achieve coherence in a text. To achieve coherence, there must be a kind of link, repetition, conjunction, ellipsis and reference from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph.
According to Kilborn and Kriei (1999), we can tie sentences or paragraphs by repeating certain key words from one sentence to the next or from one paragraph to the next. This repetition of key words also helps to emphasize the main idea of a piece of writing. Another way of tying sentences and paragraphs together involves using reference words that point back to an idea mentioned previously. Among the many reference words that can be used to tie one sentence to another or one paragraph to another are words like this, these, those, such and that. These reference words should not be used by themselves but should be combined with the important words and phrases from the previous sentences or paragraphs (Ashipu, 2010) as in the following example:
…It is a grand plot involving virtually all but four governors. The governors supporting it are under instruction to provide the logistics that would ensure that the crowd at the public hearing… are predominantly those in favour of the agenda. They are to provide transportation and accommodation for those who will attend from their states, feed them and even pay them allowances.
Our cover story this week is about all these and more. At the end of this public hearing which is taking place this week, there will be a “People’s verdict…’’ (Newswatch Feb. 2006).
In the paragraph above, the underlined words are reference words. These reference words not only help to bring sentences and paragraphs together but also emphasize the main ideas.
This section presents the analysis of cohesion in the texts which make up this study. Representative samples of texts from the editorials were used to discuss incidence of cohesion in the texts in the editorials. The aim is to present the main cohesive types which tend to occur in Nigeria News Magazine editorials, with particular reference to editorial in Newswatch Magazine. In this study, any element (grammatical or lexical) or item that functions to bring two sentences together is considered a “tie”. The sentence following the preceding sentence is examined for any possible elements or items that help to link the sentence together. The process is carried out for all sentences and paragraph in the editorials.
The discussion of the analysis of cohesion is presented in three stages. First, a summary of the frequency of occurrence of the cohesive types is presented in a tabular form as below. Secondly, randomly selected texts are numbered serially. Thirdly, a table representing the pattern of cohesion in the text is provided. The table contains information on sentence number, cohesive item, cohesive types, presupposed and presupposing items. Therefore, a discussion of the pattern of cohesion in the sample text is provided.
Table 1: Number of cohesive ties per text.
As the table above has shown, a total of 306 cohesive ties were identified in the eight editorials analysed in the study. With a total of 104 sentences, the eight editorials have an average of 3 ties per sentence. The table shows that all five cohesion types are used to hang sentences in the editorials together. It further shows that reference and lexical cohesion are the main cohesive ties used in hanging sentences together in the text analysed. Lexical cohesion with 144 ties or 47% has a slight edge over reference cohesion with 143 ties or 46% frequency of occurrence. Substitution, ellipsis and conjunction, though available in the text, occurred with almost negligible frequencies, only 6 instances or 2% of substitution, 3 instances or 1% of ellipsis and 10 instances or 3.3% of conjunction cohesive ties were identified in the texts analysed.
Bauchi state has joined the growing league of states currently under the search light of the ECONOMIC and FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISION (EFCC) . Some indigenes of the state are unhappy with way state funds are being managed by Ahmadu Mua’zu, Governor of the state and have protested to EFCC . They don’t stop there . They went to an Abuja High Court to seek that it compels the EFCC to probe Mua’zu . The allegations against Mua’zu are many and very weighty . But his defence, part of which is contained in the documents submitted to EFCC and copies of which were given to Newswatch also appear credible . What we have done in this story is to play the role of a good reporter in the cherished tradition of Newswatch . We have given ample opportunities to both parties to state their cases and who you believe after reading this story is entirely your own choice . The story is titled: Mua’zu under EFCC probe written by Tobs Agbaegbu, our Abuja Bareau Chief .
The total number of sentences in the sample is 9. The two predominant cohesion types in the text are reference and lexical cohesion. Two main types of reference cohesion can be identified in the text. They are personal reference and demonstrative reference. The personal reference items are mainly personal pronouns, e.g. they (S3, S4), we (S7, S8), you (S5, S8). Others are possessive pronouns: his (S6), your (S8), our (S9). Reference cohesion is also achieved by the use of the definite article “the” to modify the noun, thus marking out as reference item, e.g. the (S2), the (S8), etc. Demonstrative reference items identified in the text include ‘’there’’ (S3) and ‘’this story’’ (S7). However, most reference cohesion items are exophoric, referring not necessarily to items in the text but to the realities outside the text. Such items include Newswatch (S6), we (S7,S8), to refer anaphorically to Newswatch (S6), you (S8) to refer to the reader and our (S9) to refer to the Newswatch magazine organization. Lexical cohesion is achieved mainly by means of lexical repetition, e.g. EFCC (S2, S4, S6, S9), Mua’zu (S4,S5), Newsawatch (S7). Other forms of lexical cohesion identified in the text include near-synonyms or equivalences, e.g. state, for Bauchi state (S2), defence/allegations (S6), etc.
Two instances of conjunction cohesion were identified in the text, involving the use of the adversative “But” to express a contrast in relation between S6 and S5 thereby enabling the sentence to hang together as units of the text. No substitution cohesive relation was identified in this text, due perhaps to the overall low level of occurrence of cohesive type in the text analysed. The low level of ellipsis, conjunction and substitution cohesion types in the editorials is usually short and brief and would not ordinarily permit the use of such devices on a scale. Besides, ellipsis and substitution in particular are cohesive devices that are more frequently found in spoken than in written discourse.
The analysis of the sample text above has shown that cohesion is a function of the text and that the lexical, references, substitution, ellipsis and conjunction cohesion choices made in the creation of text are a function of the context and situation of the discourse in the text (Cook, 2009). Therefore, as the analysis shows, two cohesion types --lexical and reference-- are dominant in the editorials examined in this paper. The choice and distribution of the dominant items in the text are constrained by factors such as purpose, audience and medium of discourse and the structure of information in the text. This agrees with the view by Halliday and Hasan (1979) that most discourses are well organized.
The analysis reveals that two cohesive types, namely lexical and reference cohesion are the major forms of cohesion used to hang sentences together in the editorials analysed. Of these ties, lexical cohesion was found to be slightly higher in terms of frequency of occurrence than reference cohesion. It was observed that lexical repetition items were the key words in the title of the stories on which the editorials were written. Similarly, it was observed that most of the reference cohesion items in the text were personal reference items which either involve referring to the key words by means of personal and/or demonstrative pronouns. The analysis also reveals that most of the reference cohesion items were exophoric, relating items in the text to realities outside the text.
The result of the analysis suggests that news editorials are highly coherent texts as they tend to make use of all cohesive devices in hanging sentences together, albeit at varying degrees or frequencies of occurrence. But more importantly, the analysis reveals that two major types of cohesion are mainly used on almost equal terms to achieve cohesion in the editorials. This may be partly due to the fact that Nigerian news magazine editorials often discuss political issues and the role that politicians play in the political process. As a result, the political actors and the issues they generate tend to form the focus of discourse and hence the key words upon which sentences are linked together in texts.
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Ashipu, K. B. C. (2012). Cohesive Devices in Nigerian Media Discourse: A Study of Newswatch Magazine. Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism, Online(open-access), e70081912. doi:10.7392/Research.70081912
Ashipu, K. B. C. “Cohesive Devices in Nigerian Media Discourse: A Study of Newswatch Magazine.” Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism Online.open-access (2012): e70081912.
Ashipu, K. B. C. “Cohesive Devices in Nigerian Media Discourse: A Study of Newswatch Magazine.” Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism Online, no. open-access: e70081912. http://www.open-science-repository.com/cohesive-devices-in-nigerian-media-discourse-a-study-of-newswatch-magazine.html.
Ashipu, K.B.C., 2012. Cohesive Devices in Nigerian Media Discourse: A Study of Newswatch Magazine. Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism, Online(open-access), p.e70081912. Available at: http://www.open-science-repository.com/cohesive-devices-in-nigerian-media-discourse-a-study-of-newswatch-magazine.html.
1. Ashipu, K. B. C. Cohesive Devices in Nigerian Media Discourse: A Study of Newswatch Magazine. Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism Online, e70081912 (2012).
1. K. B. C. Ashipu, Cohesive Devices in Nigerian Media Discourse: A Study of Newswatch Magazine, Open Science Repository Communication and Journalism Online, e70081912 (2012).
Research registered in the DOI resolution system as: 10.7392/Research.70081912.