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Textual structure and segmentation in online documents

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Chapter Summary

Despite the flexibility of the electronic medium, the computer screen itself puts constraints on the shape of the discourse accessed through it. The effects are likely to show up in longer documents, where the communication strategies relied on for the printed page would need to be modified and/or supplemented. This paper describes a comparative study of structural units in print and electronic documents (p-texts taken from AUS-ICE, and e-texts from a new corpus of electronic documents (EDOC), a selection of hypertexts that were “digitally born”, i.e. published first in electronic form). The study focuses on segmentation and local structures in a matched sample of e-texts and p-texts from two genres of prose (informational and instructional). The findings point to more explicit marking of local structures in e-texts, with much more regular use of sections and multilevel headings. In the electronic medium lists are a more important aspect of text structure and paragraphs less so.



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