Professor Paul Werth and Text World Theory – drs. L. E. Kemp

Professor Paul Werth. Courtesy of UvA History Collection
Professor Paul Werth.
Courtesy of UvA History Collection

Paul Werth (1942–1995) was Professor of English Linguistics from 1986 until his death. Of his many contributions to linguistics, one of his most significant was Text World Theory. Although Werth appreciated the generative approach in linguistics, he postulated that explanations for linguistic behavior could be found in text linguistics. His book Focus, Coherence and Emphasis detailed “mechanism which maps coherence onto language form” (Werth 1999: xi) and his inaugural speech, “Towards a more human approach to linguistics”, expressed his concern for a broader perspective for linguistic analysis.

While at the UvA, Werth wrote Text Worlds: Representing Conceptual Space in Discourse, which was published posthumously in 1999. His Text World Theory offers a deictic analysis of texts with a cognitive slant in its use of mental representations and epistemology. Work on Text World Theory has been continued primarily by Dr Joanna Gavins (Sheffield University), who wrote Text World Theory. An Introduction (2007) and hosts a website on Text World Theory. The theory is still very much alive today, being mostly applied to reveal the inter-relations of text worlds in prose.