n Literator : Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies - Register-analysis as a means for eliciting the meaning of literary texts : research article




Register-analysis as a means for eliciting the meaning of literary texts

Intuitive reading of a literary text does not enable one to understand howthe text means. For that purpose one needs a suitable semantic theory.This article proposes such a theory, based on the concept of register asmeaning-potential. Situation-types have semiotic properties, which set upexpectations of the kind of meaning likely in that kind of situation, andthose expectations constitute the meaning-potential of the situation, that isthe register, which is realised in whatever texts are actually uttered there.So register determines meaning; and register is determined by situationtype,which can be precisely defined by means of categories of (discourse-)situation. Five such categories are put forward. Their application constitutesregister-analysis. The process is demonstrated on a literary text; andit is claimed that an intuitive, practical-criticism-type analysis could not beas clear, precise and comprehensive as a register-analysis. And the coherenttheory of meaning which supplies the categories also provides aconsistent, defined metalanguage to work in. So register-analysis offers asignificant advance on intuitive reading.


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