I know the definition of cohesion (which was described deeply in Halliday and Hasan's famous book, "Cohesion in English", or shortly summarized in wiki).

If I understand correctly, the aim of cohesion is to connect sentences together and make them as a "Text". But is it possible to find cohesion inside of a sentence?

For example: A) Which book you want? B) I want the red one. Here, "one" is a substitution (more precisely, noun substitution). But what about here: I want the red book and the blue one. Should we consider this "one" as cohesion? Even if it is used in the same sentence?

  • 1
    Note, that the first sentence in the Wiki article you refer to says: "Cohesion is the grammatical and lexical linking within a text or sentence that holds a text together and gives it meaning." Naturally, what you give as an example is cohesion, and it can be within a sentence. By the way, some sentences are much longer than many texts, they both need cohesion.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 19:56

2 Answers 2


You identified a problem with the current theory of syntax. You can also ask your question another way: Is text subject to the same syntactic relationship we find within a sentence? Which indeed many early text linguists did.

But both are wrong questions. Sentence is not a very good unit of description in language because it is an artifact of a particular kind of writing. Which is why many linguists would just stop at a clause and treat everything else as text. In that sense, any multiclausal sentences are just text and anything that keeps them together is a cohesive device (e.g. connectives, concatenation). If you look closely, the only way you can reliably identify a sentence is by the presence of a capital letter and a full stop. Even intonation patterns don't do it for longer sentences - which is why raising the pitch at the end of a really really long question sounds unnatural.

But looking at your example, you're really asking about the clause. Here you're dealing with both coordination, substitution and co-reference. There's no reason not to think of them as cohesive devices in this context, as well. People generally don't talk about the 'cohesion of a clause' but if the text consists of a single clause, it still has to be cohesive. In fact, even a text consisting of a single word has some cohesion. "There!" refers to an external place. "Duck!" refers to a situation. Etc.

  • I for one think the distinction between sentence and clause is important for syntactic theory. Without that distinction, distinguishing between matrix clauses and subordinate clauses becomes more nebulous. The distinction between coordination and subordination also becomes less distinct without the sentence unit. In the area of information structure, the topic-comment distinction becomes problematic without the sentence. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 17:14
  • @TimOsborne No question that the concept of a sentence is useful for many things. But sentence still is not a fundamental unit of language as such. So concepts like subordination only make sense within sentences. But I don't see how topic-comment would depend on the sentence? It works just as well at the level of a phrase or clause. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 21:19
  • Given the sentence "Fred left before Susan arrived", we might acknowledge two topics, one for each clause. But the whole utterance appears to be more about "Fred" than about "Susan". If one is acknowledging the sentence unit, one can say that "Fred" is the sentence topic and thus more prominent than "Susan", since "Susan" is merely a clause topic. Aspects of binding seem to be sensitive to sentence topics as opposed to just clause topics. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 21:52

I think "semantic in a sentence" is the same of what you called "cohesion in the sentence". Based on some linguistic books such as "Falk", semantic has two types: semantic in the word, and semantic in the sentence. p.s. Please let me know if you get your answer. yours, Zahra

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