Coherence: Information structure

  1. A. Complete the sentences according to the information in the text.
  2. A. Read the additional texts with interesting facts about Canada and discuss this information with your partner.
  3. A. Study the information below and do the task after it.
  4. After reading the text, prove the idea that suspension structures are the safest among bridgeworks
  5. B. Read the information and say if you were right in your guesses.
  6. B. Say whether the following statements are true, false or there is no information on the subject of the text.
  7. C. Answer questions to the text. Make up a dialogue on the basis of this information.
In analyzing the information structure of an English sentence, it is possible to distinguish between what is familiar or given information on the one hand, and unfamiliar or new information on the other. As the terms suggest, familiar or given information is information that the writer assumes that the reader already knows. New information, however, is assumed to be unknown. Since, logically speaking, new information is more important than given information, it deserves more emphasis, and the most common place for it is therefore at the end of the sentence, because that is the 'natural' place of emphasis - also called the focus - of an English sentence. The given information, on the other hand, is placed first in the sentence. This main principle of information structure has important consequences for the coherence of texts.
Compare the information flow in the following two sets of sentences: given information new information 1. The winners of the English language contest were asked to leave their name and address. given inf. new inf. They would be sent invitations to visit London. given inf. new inf. 2. The winners of the English language contest were asked to leave their name and address. new inf. given inf. Invitations to visit London would be sent to them.
It is the information structure of the second sentence in each case which is of interest here. In the first example 'They' is given information because the reader knows from the contents of the previous sentence who 'they' are. What is then said about them (that they will be sent invitations etc.) is new information. Sentence 2 in the second set of sentences starts with the new information instead. Despite the simple contents, it is nevertheless a little more difficult to follow the information flow here. It is easy to imagine how much more difficult it will be to follow the information flow in more complicated texts if the standard rule of information structure is violated.

Task 1. [individually, then in pairs]

a) Read the passage below. Highlight given information and new information in each sentence.

G       A subfield of I/O psychology is personnel psychology. The issues of hiring, assigning, and promoting people are dealt with by personnel psychologists. If you have ever been given a test while applying for a job, it is likely that an I/O or personnel psychologist designed it. 40 percent of small companies give employment tests as part of the job selection process and that about 60 percent of large companies use some testing in selection as surveys have found. Most companies that use tests as part of the selection process do not disqualify people solely on the basis of their test performance, so if you are not a good test taker, do not despair.

b) Rewrite the passage to make it more coherent by trying to apply the standard information structure rule to each sentence.


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Discourse markers | Approaching the text: Using prior knowledge and making predictions | Exploring the Text: In-depth reading | ACADEMIC VOCABULARY | Word Families | Word Choice: Synonyms | Оценивать | Sit (for), show, administer, perform, run, set, confirm, take, undergo, carry out, conduct, reveal | PsychologIcal terminology | DISCUSSION |

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