Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Fatal Theoretical Flaw And Misrepresenting Du Bois (1980)

Martin (1992: 142):
As noted in 3.1 above, first mentions of participants in discourse are commonly phoric.  Exophoric and homophoric first mention is quite common; parts and possessions are typically introduced via possessive Deictics; and bridging is favoured where the identity of a participant can be indirectly presumed.  As DuBois (1980:254) comments, "the definite article is the unmarked member of the pair.  When consciousness is not focussed on the task of introducing characters, it is the unmarked the which is uttered, whether or not the initial mention is in fact identifiable."  It may be that Dubois' data has been biassed in this way by its re-telling context — that of speakers recounting the plot of a short film they have just seen.  But it's certainly true that the principle of introducing participants phorically where possible is a very general one across a wide range of English texts.

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[1] To be clear, by this, Martin simply means that the first occurrence of an instantial participant is usually realised by a nominal group whose Deictic is realised by the definite article (phoric = Martin's presuming reference) rather than the indefinite article (non-phoric = Martin's presenting reference).

[2] It will be seen that, in Martin's model, where the identification is between participants, possessive Deictics wrongly identify possessors with possessions, as demonstrated by:
Jim gets a lot of things wrong, and so do his students.
Here Jim and his students, on Martin's model, are necessarily identified as the same participant. This demonstrates most clearly the absurd consequences that arise from mistaking nominal groups for reference items.

[3] As previously demonstrated, Martin's "bridging" confuses lexical cohesion with reference.

[4] On the one hand, this deliberately misrepresents Du Bois (1980: 254), whose view on the relative frequencies of definite and indefinite articles in this regard derives from a corpus of one million words: 
In either such case (premature introduction or late introduction), the initial mention receives the definite article instead of the expected indefinite article. This suggests that the definite article is the unmarked member of the pair. When consciousness is not focussed on the task of introducing characters, it is the unmarked the which is uttered, whether or not the initial mention is in fact identifiable. There are other reasons to consider the unmarked, among them sheer frequency. In a corpus of one million words of written English, the definite article was by far the most common word, with 69,971 occurrences; whereas the indefinite article (a ~ an) had only 26,984 occurrences (Kucera and Francis, 1967:5).
On the other hand, it should be pointed out that Martin adopted the same strategy as Du Bois (1980), in as much as the data for this chapter — text [3:88] (p147) — is a child's retelling of a published story.  A significant difference, however, is that, in almost every case in the chapter's exposition, Martin has ignored this text and instead used his own constructed examples involving characters from that text.

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