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Discourse markers and the structure of intertextual relations of medium length Qur'anic suras: the case of Sūrat Ṭā Hā / Salwa El-Awa
Structural Dividers in the Qur’an
Swansea University Author: Salwa El-Awa
In this essay, I analyze the use of discourse markers as a structuring tool. I then investigate the function of this particular structuring tool in one medium-length Qur’anic chapter, Sūrat Ṭāhā (Q 20). I divide the text of Sūrat Ṭāhā into sections and subsections based on topic shifts. I then ident...
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In this essay, I analyze the use of discourse markers as a structuring tool. I then investigate the function of this particular structuring tool in one medium-length Qur’anic chapter, Sūrat Ṭāhā (Q 20). I divide the text of Sūrat Ṭāhā into sections and subsections based on topic shifts. I then identify certain words at the onset of these smaller discourse/text units and argue that their meaning and function in the text is that of a discourse marker. I conclude that discourse markers are used regularly in Sūrat Ṭāhā. They are used in various parts of the text and operate in a variety of ways to indicate local and global textual relations. However, they do not always indicate specific relations between segments of the text. Discourse markers in this surah operate on various planes of text. They indicate different categories of textual relations when they occur between sentences and when they occur between sections. Signalling certain textual or discourse relations is not their only function. In fact, they tend to create a broad sense of continuity rather than constrained connectivity. One of the most common functions of discourse markers in Sūrat Ṭāhā is to mark transitions between topics and to indicate continuity through topics and across clear topic shifts, rather than indicating a specific interpretation of the relationship between topics. This finding should help shift scholarly attention from its current focus on identifying a specific, predetermined, theme-based structure for multiple-topic surahs (ring or chiastic structures, for example) into a new, unprescriptive understanding of the inter-relations between those topics. This new understanding would indicate general continuity within a loose structure that could, for textual purposes determined by the text-producer and by the text’s multiple functionality, be intentionally ambiguous and unspecific.
Discourse Markers, Arabic Linguistics, Pragmatic Markers, Qur'anic Text, Qur'anic Language, Qur'anic Linguistics, Text Structure, Qur’an, structure, textual relations, cohesion, discourse markers, mysterious letters.