Towards a comparison of cohesive reference in English and German

System and text


  • Kerstin Kunz Universität des Saarlandes
  • Erich Steiner Universität des Saarlandes



discourse analysis, linguistics, comparison of cohesive reference


The present study is concerned with contrasts in cohesion between English and German, with a special focus on the investigation of cohesive reference. Employing system-based as well as corpus-based methods, we are adding a contrastive to the hitherto dominating monolingual perspectives. Methodologically, we are furthermore attempting to complement the pre-existing system-based accounts with an empirical text-based approach. The paper starts with an overview of different approaches to cohesion, situating and clarifying our own concepts. We then look in more detail at the conceptualizations of cohesive reference and its subcategories before discussing the cohesive resources systemically available in the two language systems for the creation of personal and demonstrative reference. We finally present some preliminary findings from our corpus-linguistic study. These not only test some initial hypotheses derived from the systemic comparison, but also reveal some interesting tendencies with respect to textual frequency and function in the two languages, the registers investigated, and in originals compared to translations. Our study aims at conceptual clarifications, systemic comparisons and some initial textual evidence that may be valuable for basic research as well as language teaching and translator training.

Author Biographies

Kerstin Kunz, Universität des Saarlandes

Kerstin Kunz holds a diploma in translating and finished her PhD studies on English and German Nominal Coreference in October 2009. Currently, she is a researcher and lecturer at the Dept. of Applied Linguistics, Translation and Interpreting at Saarland University. She has been teaching various seminars in contrastive text linguistics and translations studies and courses in translation and has been working in projects concerned with eLearning, properties of translation and register variation. At present, she is involved in the project GECCo (German English Contrasts in Cohesion).

Erich Steiner, Universität des Saarlandes

Erich Steiner, born 1954 in Heidelberg (Germany), studied English and German Philology in Freiburg and Saarbrücken, with extended periods in Cardiff, Reading and London while doing research for his PhD in English Linguistics. He has held posts in Saarbrücken, Luxembourg and Darmstadt. Since 1990, he has been Chair of English Linguistics and Translation Studies, Department of Applied Linguistics, Translating and Interpreting, University of Saarland, Saarbrücken. His major research interests include Functional Linguistics, Translation Theory and Comparative Linguistics, as well as Computational Linguistics. He has attracted major research projects from the Europaean Union (ESPRIT/ FRAMEWORK, LEONARDO, MINERVA) and from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG/ German Research Coucil). He has been Visiting Professor at Rice University in Houston, Texas (1986), Visiting Professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (1988), Socrates Lecturer at Dublin City University (1998), and Visiting Professor several times at the University of Sydney, Macquarie University Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney, as well as the Universities Oslo and Hong Kong Polytechnic University over the past 15 years.


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How to Cite

Kunz, K., & Steiner, E. (2012). Towards a comparison of cohesive reference in English and German: System and text. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 6(1-3), 219–251.



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