The Integration Functions of Topic Chains in Chinese Discourse
The topic chain, one of the essential organization devices in Chinese discourse, is highlighted by the use of many co-referential zero forms. Although the topic chain has been realized to play an important role in organizing discourse, few attempts have been made to explore how the topic chain forms an integrated and meaningful unit and facilitates discourse organization, which are called the “integration functions” of the topic chain in this paper. This study, based on a comprehensive review of topic chain studies, re-examines the core characteristics of the topic chain. After this, the integration functions of the topic chain are analysed from internal and external levels. The topic chain itself can manage its internally different clauses to form a cohesive, meaningful and unified unit. At this stage, this paper clearly demonstrates why so much information within a topic chain is assembled into such a compact structure. At the discourse level, one topic chain can associate with other topic chains or non-chain constructions to establish textual coherence. Making use of zero anaphora, co-reference, cognitive orders and other non-morph-syntactic devices, the topic chain can combine different discourse units together to construct Chinese discourse. The study provides a systematic and well-developed account of the integration functions for the topic chain, which is significant for a deeper understanding of the nature of the topic chain and how discourse coherence is established in Chinese.
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