Approaches of J.S. Petofi and K. Brinker to the Study of the Text

Approaches of J.S. Petofi and K. Brinker to the Study of the Text

Other scholars view the modern level of text research in a somewhat different way. J. Petofi, for example, postulates the existence of two opposite trends in the scientific study of the text. The representatives of one trend consider a text as a unit, identical to a sentence, but of a somewhat bigger size; while the supporters of the other trend prefer a communicative pragmatic treatment of this notion, according to which a text is considered as a unit, that meets the recipient’s expectations. While discussing the perspectives of linguistics, J. Petofi emphasizes the vital necessity to consider the text (rather than the sentence) a central notion of syntax, and also insists on the addition of semantic and pragmatic analyses to the traditional syntactic description of linguistic phenomena.

K. Brinker also reveals two main-trends in linguistic text analysis.

The first trend (system-oriented), originated from structural linguistics and generative transformational grammar. As is generally known, in these disciplines a sentence is considered the highest linguistic unit. Structural linguistics: almost exclusively concentrates on the segmentation and classification, of language elements within a sentence. Generative transformational grammar defines its subject – linguistic competence – as the ability of the native speaker to form and understand a great amount of sentences; moreover, it looks like a system of rules, which underlies the process of production of a great number of sentences. With the development of Text Linguistics the fundamental re-evaluation of some propositions of traditional theory takes place: a text is recognized as the supreme and the most independent language unit, “a primary linguistic sign”.

Thus, the hierarchy of traditional language units (phoneme – morpheme – word – sentence) is supplemented by one more notion. In other words, the language system regulates not only the processes of word- and sentence formation, but text formation as well. However, the simple quantitative broadening of the traditional chain of language units does not lead to the qualitative change in the research methodology. New “Text Linguistics” similarly to traditional “sentence linguistics” is based on an obviously pronounced orientation on the analysis of the language system. Especially distinctly, the given tendency becomes apparent in some approaches, whose adherents” recognize “linear sequence of sentences linked by the relations of coherence” as the most important feature of a text.

Thus, under such circumstances, the sentence remains the main notion of Text Linguistics, and coherence is interpreted as a purely grammatical phenomenon.

The second trend (K. Brinker suggests it should be called “communicatively-oriented” text   linguistics)   appeared   at   the beginning of the 70-s. The representatives of this trend claim that it is not enough to describe a text as the isolated static object. In their opinion, texts are the integral part of the communicative situation: they are always included into some kind of a communicative process, where the speaker and the listener (correspondingly the writer and the reader) together with their social and situational characteristics represent the major factors.

This trend of Text Linguistics originated from pragmatics. A text is understood not just as a grammatically interdependent sequence of sentences, but also as a complex speech activity, with the help of which the speaker/the writer tries to establish a communicative connection with the listener/the reader. The communicative function gives the text the character of activity. That is why Text Linguistics should be engaged in the study of functioning of a text.

It’s not difficult to notice that the three above mentioned approaches (that of W. Hienemann, J. Petofi, and K. Brinker) have one feature in common: they all proceed from the fact that the pragmatic aspect is put in the foreground of modern linguistic research: linguistics becomes more and more “pragmatically-oriented”. That is why they consider the communicative-pragmatic approach to text description as one of the most topical. In their reasoning, some scholars go further and claim even that the development of Text Linguistics promoted the separation of pragmatics into an independent trend of linguistic research – pragma-linguistics. According to G.V. Kolshansky “pragmatic factor influences speech activity of a person”, and linguists cannot ignore this fact.