Coherence in text and hypertext
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19-10-2010, 03:57 PM



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Coherence in text and hypertext


Abstract:

The concept of text coherence was developed for linear text, i.e. text of sequentially
organized content. The present article addresses to what extent this concept
can be applied to hypertext. Following the introduction (section 1), I will define
different aspects of text coherence (section 2). I will then explain the importance
of the sequential order of text constituents for coherence-building, as explored by
empirical studies on text comprehension (section 3). Section 4 discusses how
hypertext-specific forms of reading affect the processes of coherence-building
and coherence-design. Section 5 explores how the new challenges of hypertext
comprehension may be met by hypertext-specific coherence cues. A summary
and outlook is included (section 6).
1. Introduction
Coherence is a key concept of text linguistics. Many definitions of "text" include
coherence as a necessary feature. Coherence is especially relevant to the research
on text comprehension and text clarity: Authors should design a text in such a
way that the addressee may detect the relationships linking individual text constituents
and thus may build a coherent mental model of the text's content. This
guideline is particularly valid in the context of knowledge transfer and learning.
It is largely independent of the choice of medium and thus applies equally to the
new writing/reading technology known as "hypertext".
However, a number of important differences between text and hypertext exist,
affecting how a reader constructs a coherent mental text representation while
reading ("coherence-building").1 Therefore, it is unclear to what extent the
knowledge on processes of coherence-building, which was gained using sequential
text, applies to non-sequential hypertext. Which of the findings may be directly
applied to or adapted for hypertext? Where do we need entirely new concepts
and strategies? In addressing these issues, I will focus my analysis on text
and hypertext used in the context of knowledge transfer. Regardless of the actual
medium, in knowledge transfer the author intends to support the reader, as best as
possible, in arriving at coherent knowledge structures. Hyperfiction applications,
which represent a form of literary experiment with the new technology, oftenfollow different motives and will therefore be excluded from the following considerations
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