Language Matters - Cohesion and Coherence (1)

Cohesion and coherence - what do the terms mean, and what's the difference between them? This introductory video (originally part of our Delta Module One course) will give you an overview of the area.

Click on the link below to listen to the presentation (approx 28 mins):

Coherence and Cohesion

Follow Up Reading

From the University of Cambridge

From the EAP Foundation

From ELT Concourse

From An ELT GlossaryCohesion and Coherence   Reference and substitution   Ellipsis

Test Your Understanding: Identifying Cohesive Ties

Look at the following extract from a novel (Camilla Läckberg, The Preacher, Harper Collins) : 

Sweat made the sheet stick to her body. Erika tossed and turned in bed, but it was impossible to find a comfortable position. The bright summer night didn't make it any easier to sleep, and for the thousandth time she made a mental note to buy some blackout curtains to hang up, or rather to persuade Patrick to do it.

It drove her crazy that he could sleep so contentedly next to her. How dare he lie there snoring when she lay awake night after night? She gave him a little poke in the hope that he'd wake up. He didn't budge. She poked a little harder. He grunted, pulled the covers up, and turned his back to her.

 (Camilla Läckberg, The Preacher, Harper Collins)

Identify the grammatical and lexical items in the second paragraph which create cohesion.  Then scroll down to compare your own analysis and the suggested answers.

Suggested answer - cohesive ties in the second paragraph:


1. Grammatical cohesion - Reference

a) Anaphoric reference :

i) 3rd person personal pronouns and possessive determiners used to refer to Patrick (he x5 subject pronoun; him object pronoun; his –possessive determiner) and Erica (shesubject pronoun; her x3 – object pronoun )

ii) adverb of place there used to refer to the bed.

b) Cataphoric reference  

 Subject pronoun it used to refer forward to the clause that he could sleep so contentedly


2. Grammatical cohesion - Ellipsis

i) harder (ellipted : than the first time) The use of the comparative indicates to the reader that the concept has been expressed earlier.

ii) the covers  (ellipted : of the bed) : use of definite article indicating shared knowledge allows the reader to infer which covers must be indicated.

iii) He – ellipted in the second and third of the co-ordinated clauses: He grunted, (he - ellipted) pulled the covers up, and (he - ellipted) turned his back to her.  Follows the rule that anything at the beginning of a consecutive co-ordinated clause which is the same as an element in the same position in the first clause (here the subject he) may be ellipted


3. Lexical cohesion 

i) Words in the lexical field of sleep and sleeplessness : sleep, snore, lie awake, wake up

ii) Connective expressions used to indicate the relationship between the propositions in the text:

  • When : subordinating conjunction – sequencer. Here indicates the simultaneity of the two events.
  • And : co-ordinating conjunction which indicates a relationship of addition - here, of three consecutive events.

iii) Repetition of the same words but with a different word class : a little poke = indefinite article + adjective + noun  / poked … a little (harder)  = verb + quantifier