I am not sure if this is the place for such a question, but if I am wrong, please do not get offended.

I am reading their book and wonder why they didn't include wh- words like relative pronouns or relative adverbs in relative clauses as cohesive elements.I believe there are cohesive ties such as those like "reference" between the nouns and these wh-words initializing the modifying clauses. Although they state that sentence structure itself is a cohesive unit, they did analyze cohesive ties within sentence boundaries, which means my assumption that their exclusion of this part is because these are part of sentence structure does not hold.

I may have missed important information which seems obvious to others or I may have misunderstood their work. I believe if my proposal works they may have long done so. I guess there are reasons for them not doing so. However, I didn't find their explicit grounds for exclusion of this part.

Great thoughts welcome!

  • 2
    Hi ! Welcome to EL&U! Whose book are you reading (you did not say)? What is the title. Can you give some example sentences? Thanks :) Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 20:25
  • Please follow Araucaria's suggestions.
    – ab2
    Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 3:02
  • Sorry for late reply! Here is the book information: Cohesion in English (English Language Series) Paperback – 3 May 1976 by M.A.K. Halliday (Author), Ruqaiya Hasan (Author) Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 12:30

1 Answer 1


The usual view among linguists, these days, is that nouns do not have reference, but rather the noun phrases (NP) that nouns occur inside have reference. The relationship between a relative NP inside a relative clause and the NP containing the relative clause is one of coreference. They refer to the same entity.

For instance, in

[NP a dog [R [NP which] barks] ]

the relative NP "which" and the NP "a dog which barks" refer to the same object, but the relationship between "dog" and "barks" is that they are both predicated of this object, or one could say that "dog" and "barks" are attributes of the same object.

Two sorts of cohesiveness are involved: having the same reference and being predicated of the same thing.

  • Are you saying that the head of NP "dog" and the relative pronoun "which" co-refers to each other? If so, can we say the relative pronouns 'which' has reference to "dog"? Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 12:46
  • Reference is one type of cohesion in Halliday and Hasan (1976), which greatly identifies with pronouns. If you agree with there is reference between "dog" and "which", do you think we can put "which" into reference category? Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 12:50
  • As for reference to objects, I believe they didn't include existential or external reference into cohesion of the text. They believe reference to physical objects like "dog" in real life does not contribute greatly to the cohesion of text. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 12:53
  • No, I do not say that "dog" in the example has reference. I specifically denied that nouns have reference. Please read it again -- I worded my answer carefully, and I meant exactly what I said.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 13:03
  • Oh, if my reply implies that I didn't read it carefully, I am sorry for that. I have read it several times. My understanding is basically based on "The relationship between a relative NP inside a relative clause and the NP containing the relative clause is one of coreference. " It is a bit hard to understand without reading the example below. However, if I stop reading the words below the example, I guess I understand it the way it is? Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 13:12

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