Topic Continuity in Discourse

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Topic Continuity in Discourse
Topic Continuity in Discourse.jpg
AuthorTalmy Givón
SeriesTypological Studies in Language
Subject pragmatics
Genre nonfiction
Publisher John Benjamins
Publication date
ISBN 90-272-2867-1
OCLC 10313658
LC Class P302 .T66x 1983

Topic Continuity in Discourse—subtitled A Quantitative Cross Language Study—is a book edited by Talmy Givón, with contributions by himself and other experts in various languages. It is part of the series Typological Studies in Language (a supplement series to the academic journal Studies in Language ) and was published by John Benjamins in 1983.


The book presents a cross-linguistic hierarchy of natural language "syntactic coding of topic accessibility" (including, for example, discourse participant prominence). [1] Givón describes the aim of the research, documented in the book, as "the rather ambitious goal ... to define, in a preliminary but cross-linguistically stable fashion, the basic principles of iconicity underlying the syntactic coding of the topic identification domain." [2]

Givón's starting point was his previously published (1978, 1979, 1981 and 1982) one-dimensional scale. As listed by him, from "most continuous/accessible topic" to "most discontinuous/inaccessible topic" this was as follows: [1]

The language specific studies provided in the book are on Japanese, Amharic, Ute, Biblical Hebrew, Latin-American Spanish, written English, spoken English, Hausa and Chamorro. The data from these languages were analysed according to a common methodology, explained by Givón in the introduction to the book, and agreed upon by all the other contributors. The methodology involved quantitative measurements, which although statistical, were designed to be repeatable and applicable to any language.

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 Givón (1983): 17.
  2. Givón (1983): 18, emphasis original.


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