James Deese has also developed a system for describing the structure of text. He calls his method dependency analysis. As with other systems, this one too relies on a linguistic interpretation as the basis for describing the structure of the text. Dependency analysis attempts to make the organization of the text explicit by breaking the sentences down into their component propositions and arranging these in an outline according to the semantic and syntactic dependencies among the propositions. Arranging the propositions according to their semantic and syntactic dependencies then produces a hierarchy which follows the organization of the information as it might appear in a taxonomy of the subject. In following the organization of the information as it appears in the text, dependency analysis is similar to Meyer's system.
Dependency analysis follows the conventions of outlining in presenting the information from the text. Propositions in a sentence which are contrastive are made subordinate to the base proposition in that sentence and parallel to each other in the base outline. It often happens that elements with different degrees of grammatical complexity are contrastive. For example, in the sentence "The armed man who held up the bank got away," the adjective armed and the relative clause are contrastive because they both modify man, and so they would be made parallel in the outline:
x. The man got away
x.1. armed (man)
x.2. (man) who held up the bank
Dependency analysis makes explicit both the microstructure and the macrostructure of a text. Describing the microstructure is the easier and more reliable aspect of the analysis since this involves the detransformation of a sentence into its component propositions, and linguistic intuitions on this level are reasonably consistent. For example, in this sentence, "The big, black dog bit the boy," native speakers of English would agree that both big and black refer to the dog, and their equivalent function then makes them parallel to each other and subordinate to the proposition, "The dog bit the boy."
Thus the microstructure of the text is relatively easy to discern, while the description of the larger segments of the text relies more heavily on intuitive judgments which cannot always be referenced to explicit linguistic structures. The reader must make a judgment about when a writer is changing his focus or line of argument; and it is sometimes hard to say whether a particular proposition is an elaboration of a preceding subject, a transition from one subject to another, or the definite beginning of a new phase of the discourse.
Dependency analysis is based on the recognition that the description of sentences produced by Chomsky's generative transformational grammar and the analysis of sentences and paragraphs described by Christensen and Christensen in A New Rhetoric are complementary. Chomsky's grammar shows how a kernel sentence may be expanded repeatedly by the application of a finite number of rules to produce predictable structures bearing the same grammatical relations without regard for semantic content. Therefore his grammar constitutes a rigorous formalism.
The application of the generative transformational rules also shows that the inherent structure of any sentence is a hierarchy. The kernel sentence is the superordinate to which any or all of the transformational rules may be applied to produce syntactic units that are embedded within or otherwise appended to the kernel sentence. These syntactic units are subordinate to the kernel sentence, and with the insertion of semantic content are interpreted as comments on the meaning of the base proposition in the surface sentence.
In contrast to Chomsky's analysis of how sentences are generated in deep structure, and his application of formal rules to account for the process, the structural analysis that Christensen and Christensen apply to surface sentences is based on an interpretation of their meaning and is therefore intuitive rather than formal. The commonality shared by Chomsky's method of sentence generation and the structural descriptions of sentences produced by Christensen and Christensen is that both reveal the hierarchical structure of language that is not immediately apparent in its linear flow as seen on the page or heard over time. Christensen and Christensen use the language of traditional grammar to identify sentence elements that elaborate meaning. They illustrate how the addition of modifiers results in a hierarchical structure. The following example taken from A New Rhetoric was written by William Faulkner and shows how he uses absolutes and verb phrases to build a multilevel sentence.
1. So once more he stood on dry land . . .
2. he and he woman standing on the empty levee, (Absolute)
3. the sleeping child wrapped in the faded tunic (Absolute)
3. the grapevine painter still wrapped about the convict's wrist, (Absolute)
3. watching the steamboat . . . crawl onward up the platter-like reach of vacant water,
4. burnished more and more to copper, (Verb Phrase)
4. its trailing smoke roiling in slow copper-edged gouts, (Absolute)
5. thinning out along the water, (Verb Phrase)
5. fading, (Verb Phrase)
5. slinking away across the vast serene desolation, (Verb Phrase)
4. the boat growing smaller and smaller until it did not seem to crawl at all but to stand stationary in the airy substanceless sunset, (Absolute)
5. dissolving into nothing like a pellet of floating mud. (Verb Phrase)
But Christensen and Christensen also show how the intuitive analysis of a single sentence to reveal its structure can also be applied to a multi-sentence discourse to show how sentences build upon one another to create a hierarchical structure. The sentences that add comments are subordinate to the sentences that they comment upon. Here is an example that Christensen and Christensen take from "Language" by William G. Moulton.
1. Linguistics has been described as being, at one and the same time, the most scientific of the humanities and the most humanistic of the sciences.
2. In both theory and practice it shares elements of many other disciplines, even though it cannot be neatly classified with any one of them.
3. With the natural sciences it shares the method of observation, classification, and generalization, and the search for countable units and describable structures.
3. With the social sciences it shares an interest in group behaviour as revealed through the actions of individuals.
3. and with the humanities it shares an interest in the uniquely human, in language as a phenomenon which distinguishes man as "the talking animal" most sharply from all other living beings.
In this simple paragraph, the Christensen and Christensen analysis shows that the sentences create a hierarchy with three levels. Like Christensen and Christensen, Deese combines the informal detransformation of sentences into their grammatical constituents and also shows how the sentences in a discourse comment on one another. The difference is that Deese combines the two levels of analysis to create a single representation of a discourse while producing a more detailed breakdown of each sentence into its grammatical constituents. The application of dependency analysis to the paragraph on linguistics yields the following result:
1. Linguistics has been described as being, (two things)
1.1. at one and the same time,
1.2. the most scientific of the humanities
1.3. and the most humanistic of the sciences.
1.3.1. it shares elements,
18.104.22.168. In both theory and practice
22.214.171.124. of many other disciplines
126.96.36.199. even though it cannot be classified
188.8.131.52.2. with any one of them.
184.108.40.206.3. it shares (things)
220.127.116.11.3.1. with the natural sciences
18.104.22.168.3.2. the method of observation
22.214.171.124.3.3. (the method of)classification
126.96.36.199.3.4. (the method of)generalization
188.8.131.52.3.5. and the search for (things)
184.108.40.206.3.5.2. and describable structures.
220.127.116.11.4. it shares
18.104.22.168.4.1. With the social sciences
22.214.171.124.4.2. an interest (in something)as revealed
126.96.36.199.4.2.1. in group behaviour (in a way)
188.8.131.52.4.2.2. through the actions of individuals.
184.108.40.206.5. and it shares
220.127.116.11.5.1. with the humanities
18.104.22.168.5.2. an interest in the uniquely human,
22.214.171.124.5.2.1. in language
126.96.36.199.5.2.1.as a phenomenon
188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206. which distinguishes man as "the talking animal" (in ways)
220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.1. most sharply
22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.2. from all other living beings.
By the intuitive identification of the constituent propositions that might be formally accounted for through the application of Chomsky's transformational generative rules, dependency analysis gives a finer grained analysis of a sentence than does Christensen and Christensen's method. But it follows their lead by showing how the coordinate and subordinate relations among sentences may also be analyzed to reveal the hierarchical structure of the discourse. The extent to which the resulting outline approximates a strong hierarchy is a direct indication of the relative coherence of the discourse. A strong hierarchy is one where the relations among all the propositions is clear, and the outline does not reveal omissions, redundancies, or the misplacement of propositions. All discourse tends toward a strong hierarchy.
Although Deese's dependency analysis is an intuitively based method of discourse analysis rather than a formalism, it has practical value as a tool for the analysis of both written and verbal discourse as he demonstrates in Thought into Speech: The Psychology of a Language.
In summary, dependency analysis makes the structure of the text explicit by utilizing informal rules for identifying prepositional units and for relating these units to expose larger structures. Its purpose is not to impose a formal order on the information in the text, but to describe the way the information in the text is presented. It is a description of linguistic rather than psychological structures, and does not pretend to be formalism.
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