Indicators of Tension in Oral and Written Texts

Scholars traditionally linked the creation of the tension field with the hierarchic levels of the meaning of sentence elements (theme and rheme) and their suprasegmental characteristics [Amman, 1928: 3; Gabelentz, 1891: 357-358 Boost, 1964]. However, at the modern stage of the development of linguistics, it is no longer sufficient to study the tension field within a sentence. This phenomenon requires a considerable widening of the area of its study, i.e. its extrapolation in the textual dimension. Tension expressed by verbal and prosodic means in written and oral texts is closely related with the expression of the author's communicational intention, and accordingly, the information structure of these texts.

A written text is characterized by a three-layer (architectonic, verbal, graphemic-graphic) bathysmatic field. According to the dominance of the components of this field, an interpreter can single out aspects of text analysis: lexical, semantic, grammatical, derivational and graphemic-graphic. In ordinary texts all layers of the language are neutral. Each of them fulfils its function within he norm. As regards the so-called pointed texts, the agreement of layers of the bathysmatic field is disrupted in them, one or several of them dominate over the others [Purtseladze, 1998: 57-136]. In the written texts considered by the present author the tension field is pointed mostly by lexical-semantic and graphemic-graphic means, and in oral texts the function of the graphemic-graphic aspect of a written text in an oral text is fulfilled by prosody [Lyons, 1992: 24; Brinker, 1998: 47], which is a means of emphasizing communicationally significant segments of the text and an indicator of the boundaries of these segments.  Prosodic signals are of crucial importance for adequate understanding of an oral text, correct decoding of the meaning as well as its reproduction.

In an oral text prosody, together with verbal means, serves the distribution of tension in communicationally significant elements: its cumulation and neutralization. Prosody is a means of integration as well as delimitation of an oral text, an indicator of its semantics, tension and compositional structure [Mujiri, 2006: 72-79, 115-188].




Text is an object of, on the one hand, holistic and, on the other one, discretional study, as, on the one hand, it is integral and open, and, on the other one, it consists of discrete units, put together into a single whole. [Purtseladze, 1998: 17]. In order to identify regularities of distribution of tension with different degrees in the entire text and its segment, the present author carried out an auditory analysis, which included listening to the text by percipients, marking[1] degrees of pauses and prosodic parameters (stress, pause and melody) and segmentation of the text on this basis.

The auditory analysis has demonstrated that discrete units of an oral text are pause groups, the unity of which creates the semantic and intonational context of the text. The articulation of a speaker physiologically and pragmatically defines division of an oral text by pauses into communicational-prosodic segments - pause groups, which represent naturally separated units of an oral text, determined by the articulation, found between two (short and long) pauses. In audio-visual texts reception of tension is mostly based on the correct perception and decoding of phonetic-phonological phenomena, prosodic parameters. The role of prosody as an indicator of tension is especially dominant in audio-visual texts, not containing words at all, the perception of which is mainly based on acoustic effects. An excellent example is the audio-visual poem "schtzngrmm" by an outstanding representative of "concrete poetry" Ernst Jandl, which consists only of graphemes (minuscules). In this acoustic poem the author attaches greater significance to sounds than words. Obviously, he shares the view of F.T.Marinetti, a precursor of concrete poetry and the founder of Italian Futurism, that a word must be divided into resonant chords, noise, or transformed into an abstract expression of emotion and idea, as the acoustic aspect is a manifestation of the semantic one.


In the 32 lines of this poem more than two hundred letters occur, which at first glance may appear as complete nonsense. But the author of the poem containing letters is E.Jandl, the creator of a quite successful rap-opera, a follower of French Symbolism and German Dadaism, who thinks that in a language not only sense units, but sounding material also plays a significant function, According to Jandl, units of the sound system of a language have a meaning as well as an aesthetic value. He is aware that a sound poem produces special impression on a listener, therefore, he released the poem "schtzngrmm" as a record too. Upon hearing the first lines of this poetic text one recognizes although not a quite pleasant, yet an entirely clear German word "Schűtzengraben" ("trench"). Jandl removed all vowels from this word and turned it into a skeleton of consonants. Evidently, by means of vowel losses he wishes to point to the human losses in a trench, and by reducing vowels, characteristic of everyday German speech - to the disorderly speech which may be heard at a similarly disorderly place - in a trench. The tension, introduced at the beginning of the poem by the word "Schűtzengraben", intensifies especially in the second half of the poem, in which displaced, prolonged, reduced, occlusive-plosive, fricative, hushing consonants follow one another. Their voicing allows decoding the author's intention: the noise sieved from the word "Schűtzengraben" narrates about a war, fizzling of artillery detonators and bombs. Consonant repetitions, prolongations and in the third line of the poem the consonant "t" repeated four times produce the echo of shooting, At the end of the poem tension reaches its climax, as the continuous sound of shooting: t-t-t-t... is finished by the last chord of the poem, which sounds as the German word "tot" ("death"). The tension ends with this word. The charm of the poem lies in the polysemy of the semantics of the word "Schűtzengraben" and the material of the language - sounding consonants. This creates tension, which is reflected by prosody. The emergence of the tension field in the poem is marked by graphemes of the weakly stresses thematic content, whereas the segment expressing the idea of the poem (war, destroying life) is reflected by strong prosodic organization: frequency of super-strong stresses, super-long pauses and extraordinary configurations of melody.[2] The increase of the tension field in the poetic text is caused by the desire to guess the topical information, rheme/focus, as well as: equivocal segments, "left open" for the reader's interpretation, parallel recurrence and contrast of voiceless, occlusive-plosive, fricative and sonorous consonants, which on the level of expression is reflected by maximums of prosodic parameters.

The audio-visual poem by Ernst Jandl "lichtung" has an ironic-merry connotation and dialogic colouring. The author as if is speaking to his addressee, conveys his message by semantic, phonological and acoustic elements and offers the reader/listener a creative interpretation of these poetic constructions.

In this small poetic text the source of the creation of tension is the parallel perception of the literal and figurative meanings of the poem. The poem is linked with ht political reality of Germany and includes a wide range of hints. The title "lichtung" denotes a meadow, a bare place in a forest, and the stem of the word "licht" means "light". The change of the initial letter "l" of the title to "r" results in the word "Richtung" denoting "direction". At the time of hearing the poem all the three meanings of the title, deliberately formulated wrongly by the author, are activated. The comic effect in the poem is created not only by the ignoring of the linguistic postulate of sound distinctness, but by moving of minuscule consonants "l"  and "r" to the right and to the left, which requires from the reader guessing the idea of the poem. At first glance, the author seems to offer the banal content: "What a mistake if some people think that the right and the left are impossible to confuse". However, taking into account the political situation of Germany at that time, the poem and its title can be interpreted in a different way. E.g. 1.The poem was published in 1966, when right-wing and left-wing parties got close and changed political directions; 2.Extremism has deplorable consequences, no matter whether these extremists share the right-wing or the left-wing ideology, etc. The lexically-phonetically represented title of the poem (lichtung) is "open" for any interpretation of the reader: from a forest meadow (lichtung) at light (licht) the direction of the road (richtung) is easier seen. The main pint is which direction one chooses. Tension in the poem is introduced by the title having a contrast connotation (lichtung-richtung), the weakly stressed thematic element: "manche" and formal elements of rhythm and meters. Segments expressing the idea of the poem, in which the phonemic principle is broken, are represented prosodically: by super-strong stresses, extraordinary melody and super-long pauses.





As in the above-mentioned as well as in other poems analyzed by the present author, which are not considered here due to the limited volume of the paper, tension field is closely linked with the triad of the functional perspective: theme → transmission ("transition") → rheme / focus are prosodically reflected on three levels: 1) within a pause group; 2) within a sentence and 3) at the text level. In the thematic pause group of the initial utterance of the poem tension is created, which is reflected by low prosodic parameters: zero or weak stress, equal or slightly rising melody. The cataphoric tone of the melody causes in the listener tense expectation of the following information. In the next, transmissive pause groups the degree of stress intensifies, the melody acquires a more rising direction




and level to the final, focus pause group, before which almost always a pause occurs. Evidently, deictic tones of the melody and the pause, which are called focus pause by the present author, are found before a communicationally significant focus in order to prepare the listener in advance, to give him sufficient time for full-fledged perception of the significant (focus) information of the text. In the focus the maximum of the accents and melodic peaks reach the zenith. The gathering of the melody tones and their extraordinary configuration, as well as a super-long pause found after the focus, indicate the finishing of the tension field. 

Different degrees of pause and stress parameters and melody configurations, in each utterance and in the entire text create a linear picture, extended in a wavy manner, in which each prosodic rising in a rheme/focus pause group is preceded by the low degree of prosodic parameters in thematic or transmissive segments, which is finally followed by the prosodic manifestation of the communicationally significant information, signaled by the focus. Every deviation from the norm of the functionality of prosodic means of a text (pause, stress and melody) is perceived as emphasizing of the idea of the text, manifestation of the communicationally significant element of the text, which is determined by the intention of the author of the text, the communicational-pragmatic purpose. (#3)

In the analysis of the written texts given below attention is focused on tension expressed by verbal means. Tension in the majority of the considered texts is created at the beginning of the text.  E.g. The beginning of a story by Evelyn Schlag ("Rilke's Favorite Poem") causes in the listener tense expectation of the following information, as it is uncertain what the author has in mind, abandonment of a woman by a man or a metaphor linked with a life situation.

Millimeter für Millimeter verließ er sie. Sie konnte nicht glauben, dass er sich so von ihr lossagte. Seinem Drang vorwärts so in den Rücken fiel, ihn zurücklockte mit irgendwelchen für sie nicht  hörbaren Versprechungen. Langsam, vorsichtig, wie um ihren Argwohn nicht zu wecken, zog er sich zurück, gab er ihr Terrain frei. Er stahl sich hinaus. Sie hatte ihm die ganze Zeit in die Augen gesehen, aber er untersrellte ihr eine schläfrige Wehrlosigkeit, tat so als habe er ihre Zustimmung, als wünsche auch sie, dass sie wieder nur aus sich allein bestehe. Es schien, als seien ihm die Argumente ausgegangen - er hatte in ihr gehämmert und gepocht, er hatte sie überschwemmt mit wortlosen Schwüren, und nun zog er sich zurück, um sich wieder zu sammeln...

 (Schlag, 1995:7)

The means of creating tension in the text are: the use of a metaphor (Seinem Drang vorwärts in den Rücken fallen), ambiguous phrases (Argumente ausgegangen, gehämmert und gepocht, überschwemmt...) parentheses, cataphoric pronouns, represented one after another in sentences, different length of sentences, ellipses, etc., which serve to cumulate tension in a separate word, as well as in a sentence and the text.

The following text title" "Abschied von der Grande Dame" evokes in the listener tense expectation and a question as to who the text may be about. Tension is increased at the beginning of the text by the cataphoric use of an anaphoric word (pronoun, definite article, etc.) and the quite late naming of the "object of discussion", as a result of which in the listener interest and motivation intensifies to continue reading the text more attentively.

Abschied von der Grande Dame

Der Kaiser von Japan war entzückt von ihr, auch der Sultan von Brunei lobte ihre inneren Werte. Und Mick Jagger, John Travolta, Peter Ustinov und David Bowie waren von dem Charme der alternden, aber immer großartig aussehenden Dame fasziniert. Die Rede ist von „Queen Elizabeth 2". Nein nicht von der englischen Königin, diesmal läuft ihr die „Grande Dame der Ozeane" den aristokratischen Rang ab.

(Franziska Trost in Sonntagsbeilage der Kronenzeitung, 12.01.03, S. 44)

The journalist by the use of various lexical means creates in the listener false impression as if a high society lady is implied. Only upon hearing the end of the text one learns that not Elisabeth II but a ship is implied in the text.

The following text title: Das große S im kleinen Österreich contains a contrast, which leads to the creation of tension. The text begins with the pronoun "er", which also is in contrast relation with the words: gute Österreicher and Zugereister.. When reading the lexemes (er kam, begleitet er) it may be concluded that a person is implied, although the words linked with it (Symbol, gefälscht) evoke an association of an object. Upon reading the next sentence the addressee's expectation to get correct information again dashes, as already decease (schöne Leich) is mentioned. In the final part of the text the "object of discussion" is described metaphorically. Tension increases and is neutralized only after naming the rheme-focus word: Schilling:

Das große S im kleinen Österreich

Er war, wie so viele gute Österreicher, ein Zugereister. Er kam 1924, zur Zeit der Hyperinflation. Seither begleitet er die Geschichte und Geschicke der Republik. Er wurde zum Symbol des wirtschaftswunders, wurde nur selten gefälscht, und nun gibt es eine schöne Leich. Ein Nachruf auf den Schilling.

(Die Presse. Spectrum.7./8./9.Dez. 2001:1)

It is clear from the above-mentioned that the first part of the title is the theme of the text, which is also mentioned at the beginning of the text. The text theme, which governs the text, is entropic and requires from participants of communication specification, expression of a position, which creates tension before the introduction of the rheme / focus.

Thus, indicators of tension in written and oral texts are verbal and prosodic means. Verbal means for the creation of tension are: metaphor, equivocal perception of a word or a phrase, cataphoric pronouns, as well as parentheses, different length of sentences, etc. The appearance of tension at the beginning of a text is caused by the text title, containing a contrast, the cataphoric use of an anaphoric word and uncertainty who or what the "object of discussion" of the text is. Tension is reflected by prosodic parameters in the idea of the poem and segments linked with it, which require the author's specification or the reader's interpretation. The intensification of tension and, accordingly, prosodic parameters, is also characteristic of: formal elements of rhythm and metrics, parallel recurrence, and contrast. Verbal and prosodic means creating tension simultaneously fulfill in a text delimitation and integration functions. They separate and at the same time connect text segments with different degrees of communicational significance and represent a guarantor of the text discreteness and coherence.

[1] Sequence and methods of conducting auditory analysis are described in detail in the monograph (Mujiri, 2006: 98-115)

[2] =  weakly and strongly rising melody;   =falling melody;  =   equal melody; x=  super-short pause; | =  short pause; || =   long pause; ||| =    super-long pause; /// =   strong stress; // =  medium stress; / =   weak stress.


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