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Article

Rossana De Angelis

The concept of “text” is ambiguous: it can identify at the same time a concrete reality and an abstract one. Indeed, text presents itself both as an empirical object subject to analysis and an abstract object constructed by the analysis itself. This duplicity characterizes the development of the concept in the 20th century. According to different theories of language, there are also different understandings of “text”: a restricted use as written text, an extensive use as written and spoken text, and an expanded use as any written, verbal, gestural, or visual manifestation. The concept of “text” also presupposes two other concepts: from a generative point of view, it involves a proceeding by which something becomes a text (textualization); from an interpretative point of view, it involves a proceeding by which something can be interpreted as a text (textuality). In textual linguistics, “text” is considered at the same time as an abstract object, issued from a specific theoretical approach, and a concrete object, a linguistic phenomenon starting the process of analysis. In textual linguistics, textuality presents as a global quality of text issued from the interlacing of the sentences composing it. In linguistics, the definition of textuality depends on the definition of text. For instance, M. A. K. Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan define textuality through the concepts of “cohesion” and “coherence.” Cohesion is a necessary condition of textuality, because it enables text to be perceived as a whole, but it’s not sufficient to explain it. In fact, to be interpreted as a whole, the elements composing the text need to be coherent to each other. But according to Robert-Alain De Beaugrande and Wolfgang Ulrich Dressler, cohesion and coherence are only two of the seven principles of textuality (the other five being intentionality, acceptability, informativity, situationality, and intertextuality). Textual pragmatics deals with a more complex problem: that of the text conceived as an empirical object. Here the text is presented as a unit captured in a communication process, “a communicative unit.” Considered from a pragmatic point of view, every single unit composing a text constitutes an instruction for meaning. Since the 1970s, analyzing connections between texts and contexts, textual pragmatics, has been an important source of inspiration for textual semiotics. In semiotics, the theory of language proposed by Louis T. Hjelmslev, the concept of “text” is conceived above all as a process and a “relational hierarchy.” Furthermore, according to Hjelmslev, textuality consists in the idea of “mutual dependencies,” composing a whole which makes the text an “absolute totality” to be interpreted by readers and analyzed by linguists. Since texts are composed of a network of connections at both local and global levels, their analyses depend on the possibility to reconstruct the relation between global and local dimensions. For this reason, François Rastier suggests that in order to capture the meaning of a text, the semantic analysis must identify semantic forms at different semantic levels. So textuality comes from the articulation between the semantic and phemic forms (content and expression), and from the semantic and phemic roots from which the forms emerge. Textuality allows the reader to identify the interpretative paths through which to understand the text. This complex dynamic is at the foundation of this idea of textuality. Now that digital texts are available, researchers have developed several methods and tools to exploit such digital texts and discourse, representing at the same time different approaches to meaning. Text Mining is based on a simple principle: the identification and processing of textual contents to extract knowledge. By using digital tools, the intra-textual and inter-textual links can be visualized on the screen, as lists or tables of results, which permits the analysis of the occurrences and frequency of certain textual elements composing the digital texts. So, another idea of text is visible to the linguist: not the classical one according to the culture of printed texts, but a new one typical of the culture of digital texts, and their textuality.

Article

Harry Lönnroth

Philology—from the Greek words philologi’ā < philos “friend” and logos “word”—is a multi-faceted field of scholarship within the humanities which in its widest sense focuses on questions of time, history, and literature—with language as the common denominator. Philology is both an academic discipline—there is classical philology, Romance philology, Scandinavian philology, etc.—and a scholarly perspective on language, literature, and culture. The roots of philology go back all the way to the Library of Alexandria, Egypt, where philology began to evolve into a field of scholarship around 300 bce. In Alexandria, the foundations of philology were laid for centuries to come, for example as regards one of its major branches, textual criticism. A characteristic feature of philology past and present is that it focuses on texts in time from an interdisciplinary point of view, which is why philology as an umbrella term is relevant for many fields of scholarship in the 21st century. According to a traditional definition, a philologist is interested in the relationship between language and culture, and by means of language, he or she aims to understand the characteristics of the culture the language reflects. From this point of view, language is mainly a medium. In the analysis of (mostly very old) texts, a philologist often crosses disciplinary borders of different kinds—anthropology, archaeology, ethnology, folkloristics, history, etc.—and makes use of other special fields within manuscript studies, such as codicology (the archaeology of the book), diplomatics (the analysis of documents), paleography (the study of handwriting), philigranology (watermarks), and sphragistics (seals). For a philologist, texts and their languages and contents bear witness to past times, and the philologist’s perspective is often a wide one. The expertise of a philologist is the ability to analyze texts in their cultural-historical contexts, not only from a linguistic perspective (which is a prerequisite for a deep understanding of a text), but also from a cultural and historical perspective, and to explain the role of a text in its cultural-historical setting. In the course of history, philologists have made several contributions to our knowledge of ancient and medieval texts and writing, for example. In the 2010s, the focus in philology is for example on the so-called New Philology or Material Philology and digital philology, but the core of philology remains the same: philology is the art of reading slowly.