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The Grammar of Genres and Styles

From Discrete to Non-Discrete Units

Ed. by Legallois, Dominique / Charnois, Thierry / Larjavaara, Meri

Series:Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs [TiLSM] 320

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April 2018
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Towards a topological grammar of genres and styles: a way to combine paradigmatic quantitative analysis with a syntagmatic approach

Longrée, Dominique / Mellet, Sylvie


We analyze a corpus of classical Latin texts, comprising various literary genres and authors. Two Correspondence Analyses (CA) are based on discrete units (used by Biber 2006). The first one represents the distances between the main works in the classical Latin corpus according to the parts of speech used in the different texts, the second according to the distribution of verb tenses and moods. The paradigmatic approach is efficient for automatically classifying the texts, but provides little new information for the linguist or philologist. We therefore assess the impact on genre characterization of taking the integration of the parts of speech (POS) and grammatical categories in syntactic structures (the syntagmatic approach) into account. However, even when the syntactic dimension is taken into consideration, this method does not really account for the sequential structure of the text’s linearity. Moreover, the choice of the syntactic structures studied depends upon the knowledge already acquired by the Latinist and their detection is always supervised. We therefore propose the new concept of motif in order to handle the different tokens of a given structure and to model them in a single pattern whose identification is based on its unified text dynamics function, disregarding surface variations. As a general pattern, the motif is able to characterize a genre; but its different realizations or tokens may be specific to different authors in a given genre. This claim is exemplified by a contrastive analysis of the style of two Latin historians who both lived at the close of the classical literary period, Caesar and Tacitus. In order to contribute to the discussion herein about what makes a “Grammar of Genres and Styles”, we would like to submit a methodological study based on textual analysis whose aim is to identify formal criteria for distinguishing between different discursive genres or authors’ styles and characterizing them according to their linguistic properties and textual dynamics1. In our previous work, we have used methods relying not only on a paradigmatic, quantitative analysis but also on syntagmatic approaches: sequences (Longree and Luong 2003, 2005), text segmentations (Longree, Luong, and Mellet 2004, 2006; Longree and Mellet 2007), neighbourhoods (Mellet and Barthelemy, 2007; Luong, Julliard, Mellet and Longree, 2007; Barthelemy, Longree, Luong, and Mellet 2009) and bursts (Longree, Luong, and Mellet 2008; Longree and Mellet 2016). This work has led to a theoretical proposal to consider the text as a topological space and to introduce a new analytical unit that we call the “motif” (Longree, Luong and Mellet 2008; Mellet and Longree 2009, 2012; Longree and Mellet 2013, 2014). With this methodological background in mind, we would like to assess here the benefits and limitations of both approaches - paradigmatic and syntagmatic - in the characterization of textual genres and author’s styles.

Citation Information

Dominique Longrée, Sylvie Mellet (2018). Towards a topological grammar of genres and styles: a way to combine paradigmatic quantitative analysis with a syntagmatic approach. In Dominique Legallois, Thierry Charnois, Meri Larjavaara (Eds.), The Grammar of Genres and Styles: From Discrete to Non-Discrete Units (pp. 140–163). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110595864-007

Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110595864

Online ISBN: 9783110595864

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/BostonGet Permission

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