Noun Phrases in British Travel Texts : A Corpus-Based Study
Abstract: This study is a corpus-based investigation of the structure and variation of noun phrases in three types of British texts on tourism and travel. Based on their publishing formats, the corpus texts are divided into three Text categories: tourist brochures, newspaper feature articles dealing with travel and tourism, and travel guides. The aim of the study is to find and account for patterns of variation in the noun phrase structure in the light of an interplay of various linguistic and extra-linguistic factors.The three types of publication investigated all deal with descriptions of tourist destinations. These texts are all basically descriptive in nature, and I argue that they are characterized by a more or less high degree of information density. One of the major purposes of the study is to account for how the problems of a relatively high degree of information density have been solved in the three Text categories. Two of the main hypotheses presented in the study are that the publication format itself has an influence on the complexity of the noun phrase, and that the varying communicative purposes of the texts examined influence the noun phrase structure. Apart from Text category, the variation in noun phrase structure is investigated for two other text dependent variables. I argue that the position of the noun phrase in the text has an influence on the noun phrase structure. This is seen in the portion of text in which the noun phrase occurs and the level of technicality of the subject matter. It is assumed that noun phrases which occur in the central text sections are structurally more complex than those found in more peripheral text portions. Furthermore, I expect the noun phrases whose subject matter is most closely related to tourism and travel to be more heavily modified than NPs with a more general content. The results of the study indicate that the structure of the noun phrases varies depending on Text category. It is shown that travel guides have the most complex noun phrases, followed by tourist brochures and travel articles. In travel articles, a large proportion of the noun phrases are simple, to a great extent depending on a very large share of noun phrases with pronominal heads. As regards postmodifier types, it is shown that travel guides favour phrasal postmodification whereas finite relative clauses are particularly frequent in travel articles. These findings can be accounted for in the light of differences in the communicative purposes. The tourist brochures investigated generally have noun phrase patterns of an intermediate complexity. Furthermore, the position of the noun phrase, both as regards placement and subject matter, is seen to have a clear influence on the complexity of the noun phrase. Noun phrases that are found in the portions of the texts dealing with the description of destinations and sights of interest are generally more heavily modified compared to those found in sections giving additional practical information. Likewise, the noun phrases whose subject matter is most closely related to the description of sights of interest typically have complex types of modification, especially in the form of clausal postmodifiers. Noun phrases whose subject matter refers to more technical aspects tend to be modified by means of premodifiers and/or more compact phrasal postmodifiers. It is also found that the incidence of noun phrases functioning as independent clauses is particularly high in the portions of text detailing additional practical information. The very high degree of information density in these sections is effectively handled by means of compact noun phrases postmodified by chains of nominal and prepositional modifiers.
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