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Text & Talk

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies

Ed. by Sarangi, Srikant

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Volume 36, Issue 1


Visualizing structural “inverted pyramids” in English news discourse across levels

Hongxin Zhang / Haitao Liu
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Linguistics, Zhejiang University, No. 866 Yuhangtang Road, Hangzhou, CN-310058, China
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Published Online: 2016-03-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2016-0005


Drawing on an analogy between discourse and syntactic trees, this paper chooses 359 Wall Street Journal articles with multiple paragraphs from the Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) Discourse Treebank, and converts each discourse tree into three additional dependency ones, at discourse, paragraph and sentence levels, with exclusively elementary discourse units of clauses, sentences and paragraphs, respectively. It empirically tests and visually presents the genre-specific “summary+details” or “inverted pyramid” structuring of news discourse. It further extends the idea of inverted pyramid structuring to the paragraph and sentence levels. It proves that the body of the report also has a similar schematic top-down installment organization with macro-propositions on top. It also visually and statistically presents the rhetorical structures at sentence level, which differ to some extent from grammatical structures. Operated in line with the compositionality criterion and hierarchy principle of RST, the converted trees provide unique analytical advantages and constitute new research prospects.

Keywords: news schema; inverted pyramid; text structure; Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST)


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About the article

Hongxin Zhang

Hongxin Zhang is a lecturer and PhD candidate at Zhejiang University, China. Her research interests include quantitative linguistics, discourse analysis and dependency grammar. Her recent work has been published in Journal of Linguistics, Journal of Quantitative Linguistics and Glottometrics.

Haitao Liu

Haitao Liu is a Qiushi distinguished Professor of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at Zhejiang University and Chair professor of linguistics at Ningbo Institute of Technology. His research interests include text analysis, quantitative linguistics and language complex networks. He is the author of 150+ scientific publications about language and linguistics, more than 40 publications indexed within the Web of Science.

Published Online: 2016-03-09

Published in Print: 2016-01-01

Funding: This work was supported by the Department of Education of Zhejiang Province, China (Grant No. Y201223584); and the National Social Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 11&ZD188).

Citation Information: Text & Talk, Volume 36, Issue 1, Pages 89–110, ISSN (Online) 1860-7349, ISSN (Print) 1860-7330, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2016-0005.

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