Information Structure, Discourse Structure and Grammatical Structure
  • ISSN 0774-5141
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9676
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In a recent paper, Biber and Gray (2010) provide empirical evidence for the dramatic increase of compressed structures in English academic writing over the last 100 years. According to their corpus findings, the grammatical complexity of academic writing displays a phrasal rather than clausal character, the corollary of which is a compressed rather than elaborated discourse style (the latter one being typical of spoken registers). Given this finding, the question arises as to how far the traditional view that information structure should be viewed as a single partition of information within a given utterance adequately accounts for genre-specific information packaging strategies. To provide an answer to this question, the current study sets out to explore and compare information structuring within what will be referred to here as ‘compression strategies’, namely the use of adverbial subordinate clauses, -ING constructions, and complex NP constructions across two different genres: the highly compressed genre of research article abstracts, and fiction. The findings reported here suggest that in more compressed discourse styles such as academic writing, there is a higher probability of encountering information structure partition not only at the clausal but also at the phrasal level. The present paper highlights the importance of genre variation as one predictor of variation in information structuring within constructions.


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