A Discourse Analysis of First CorinthiansRalph Bruce Terry
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CHAPTER III

MACROSEGMENTATION, MACROSTRUCTURE, AND THEME

Methodology

The presupposition behind the search for macrostructures is that, for any given well-structured discourse, there exists an overall idea that the author of the text has in mind as he produces it. To the extent that the text is well-formed, that controlling idea is reproduced in the mind of the receiver as he reads or listens to the text. It is the macrostructure which is identified when a person gives a brief summary of the discourse. Where a text contains several loosely related discourses, each discourse will have its own macrostructure.

Van Dijk has suggested four procedures for isolating the macrostructure of a given discourse (1977, 144-146). The first may be called attributive deletion, in which attributes and other less important parts of the text are irrecoverably deleted. The second may be called predictive deletion, in which information is deleted that is inductively recoverable. The third may be called simple generalization, in which information is grouped and replaced by a more generic term. The fourth may be called integration, in which descriptions of processes are combined into a more general term, which entails all of the processes.

Ideally, such a procedure should yield something like the thesis of the discourse, which most readers would intuitively arrive at by reading the discourse. For a lengthy discourse, however, this procedure can be quite tedious. With this in mind, a shortcut proposed by Robert Longacre can be taken (1990a). Longacre has noted that the most important material for any given discourse is usually encoded in a given mode and/or tense. A chain of these tenses he calls mainline (storyline in narrative; themeline in other texttypes). For example, in Greek narrative text, the storyline is usually given in the aorist tense. For hortatory text, the themeline is marked by the imperative (and other methods of encoding command forms).

In this study, the following methodology has been chosen for determining the macrostructure. First, the text was divided into its major sections using both conceptual (topical) and grammatical (syntactic) concerns. Next, hortatory forms (imperative, hortatory subjunctive, and statements containing words such as appeal and ought) were identified for each section. Third, using topic sentences, key words, and the hortatory themeline, the key ideas were abstracted from the text. Then, these were reduced to macrostructural statements for each section. Finally, an attempt was made to combine these macrostructures into one overall macrostructure.

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