Bill Mann et. al. on Monologue Discourse Structure

Interest in Monologue structure started with early work on computational text generation, or more informally "Why can't my expensive computer tell me what it knows?" Addressing text generation led to an interest in developing a view of the structure of natural monologue texts, especially small texts such as newspaper articles, letters and magazine abstracts. This led eventually to a series of reports and publications on Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST). The group that did this development was at University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (USC-ISI). As a topic, RST is represented by an RST website .

The development team for most of the work of creating RST consisted of Sandra A. Thompson, Christian M. I. M. Mattheson and me. Here is a list of reports and publications by this team.

The most representative published paper on RST is Mann, W. C., & Thompson, S. A. (1988). Rhetorical Structure Theory: Toward a functional theory of text organization. Text, 8(3), 243-281. When it was being prepared, based on a prior ISI report, we had to shorten it for publication at the insistence of the editor, primarily by deleting the following kinds of material:

  • review and credit to prior work,
  • explanations of examples,
  • a section on terminology,
  • Scanned images of all of the missing material (perhaps eventually all of the report) are here .

    That report, which was ISI/RS-87-190, indicated that it would appear in The Structure of Discourse , Livia Polanyi, ed., Ablex, 1987. However, that book never appeared. References to the internal technical report, and the erroneous reference to the Polanyi book, still appear in the literature from time to time. They should be replaced by a reference to the Text paper, possibly with reference to the added information linked above.


    There is a paper I wrote with Sandy Thompson on implicit communication arising from discourse structure. It was presented at the 7th International Pragmatics conference, July 2000. Click to download Toward a Theory of Reading Between the Lines: an exploration in discourse structure and implicit communication. It is in Word97 .doc (document) form. The PDF form is Reading Between the Lines (1.2 mb).

    There is also a paper that I wrote with Sandy Thompson on multiple views of the scientific status of RST. It was presented at the summer 2000 conference of the Society for Text and Discourse. The paper is now available: Full Paper: Two Views of RST . This is a Word6 (1993) file, readable almost correctly by later versions of Word. It has been published in the journal Verbum in French. The PDF form (in English) is Two Views of RST (1.7mb). A downloadable file of the handout that accompanied the presentation is here: Handout: Two Views of RST .