Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Frank P. Parker


This dissertation attempts to show the utility of discourse analysis for professional writing. The articles collected here fall into three categories: Chapter One provides an overview of the need for a discourse analysis approach in writing research; Chapters Two and Three demonstrate applications of Speech Act Theory to problems in tone; and Chapters Four, Five and Six suggest the role that cohesion and coherence play in professional writing. Chapter One notes that, with the emphasis on process, discourse based research has largely fallen out of favor with writing specialists. Despite this lack of enthusiasm, this chapter demonstrates the importance of discourse knowledge in the writing process of expert writers and suggests areas of discourse research which could enhance writing pedagogy. Chapters Two and Three begin with the observation that advice about tone is often too vague and unprincipled to truly benefit novice writers. Chapter Two illustrates that advice about the use of syntactic positioning of pronouns for manipulating tone (called the you-perspective) can be better understood by looking at two types of speech acts: directives and commissives. Chapter Three demonstrates that advice about the use of explanations in refusal letters (called negative messages) can be better understood by examining the felicity conditions on the speech act of refusing, also taken from Speech Act Theory. Chapters Four, Five and Six explore theories of cohesion and coherence and their importance in enhancing the quality of professional writing. Chapter Four notes that current theories of cohesion are inadequate for describing well-written professional texts and proposes a Repetition theory of cohesion based on perceptual principles. Two types of repetition are distinguished: semantic and formal. Chapter Five illustrates the variety of formal cohesive devices used in professional writing, but which are excluded from current theories of cohesion. Finally, Chapter Six explores the distinction between cohesion and coherence. A Fulfillment theory of coherence is proposed. Two coherence conditions on cohesion (i.e., repetition) are also proposed: the Redundancy Condition on semantic cohesion and the Similarity Condition on formal cohesion.