Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Hall, Dennis R.

Author's Keywords

Language arts; Teacher education; Linguistics; Higher education


English language--Rhetoric--Study and teaching


Within the discipline of rhetoric and composition, the notion of coherence possesses the status of sine qua non, yet this notion has been treated unevenly or been taken for granted, much as the process of composing itself was taken for granted for the better part of this century. This practice has occurred for the following reasons: coherence is the "unmarked" condition of speech, and by transfer, also the "unmarked" condition of writing; the surface language of a composition has traditionally been the focus for solving any problems of coherence; and, collateral disciplines have not been sufficiently drawn upon in understanding the global nature of those elements which cohere a successful composition. The author posits that virtually all cohering elements fall within three global categories, linguistic, cognitive, or contextually salient, and, moreover, that these cohering elements occur on a continuum that extends from the explicit to the implicit. The linguistic category includes co-reference, repetition, anaphora, cataphora, and ellipsis. The cognitive category includes the given/new relationship, Gestalt, parallel distributed processing, and central cognitive processes. The contextually salient category includes warrants, register, central metaphors, sociological models, and epistemological frames. Such an approach redistributes the burden of our understanding coherence from the surface language of a composition to a tripartite focus, including not only surface language, but also elements beneath it and beyond it, thus providing a manageable framework for the analysis of coherence, commonly recognized as the most essential quality of any composition. The study concludes with implications this approach has for the teaching of composition and rhetoric in the college classroom.