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date: 24 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Discourse is the area of linguistics concerned with the aspects of language use that go beyond the sentence—and in particular, with the study of coherence and salience. In this chapter we present a few key theories of these phenomena. We distinguish between two main types of coherence: entity coherence, primarily established through anaphora; and relational coherence, expressed through connectives and other relational devices. Our discussion of anaphora and entity coherence covers the basic facts about anaphoric reference and introduces the dynamic approach to the semantics of anaphora implemented in theories such as Discourse Representation Theory, based on the notion of discourse model and its updates. With regards to relational coherence, we review some of the main claims about the relational structure of discourse—such as the claim that coherent discourses have a tree structure, or the right frontier hypothesis—and four main theoretical approaches: Rhetorical Structure Theory, Grosz and Sidner’s intentional structure theory, the inference-based approach developed by Hobbs and expanded in Segmented DRT, and the connective-based account. Finally we cover theories of local and global salience and its effects, including Gundel’s Activation Hierarchy theory and Grosz and Sidner’s theory of the local and global focus.

Keywords: coherence, salience, anaphora, discourse model, DRT, rhetorical structure, intentional structure, RST, SDRT, focus

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