Global coherence, narrative structure, and expectations of relevance

Unger, Dr. Christoph (2002) Global coherence, narrative structure, and expectations of relevance. [Conference Paper] (Unpublished)

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A topic for both literary studies and discourse analysis is the global structure of texts. Studies of global text structure have largely been focused on narrative structure, where a major strand of research has been devoted to the role which grounding (sometimes called information staging or foreground-background articulation) has for discourse structuring. It is often claimed that grounding is an important aspect of the notion of global coherence, that the overt realisation of grounding effects in texts depend on their genre and that this is generally reflected in the verbal system of natural languages (e.g. Caenepeel 1995; Hooper 1998; Hopper 1979; Fleischmann 1985; 1990; Longacre 1983; 1989). However, the notions of foreground and background are notoriously vague. In this paper I will argue for an alternative account of grounding effects based on the relevance-theoretic claim that the fine-tuning of the addressee's expectations of relevance is an essential part of the on-line processing of complex ostensive stimuli such as texts (Unger 2001). Linguistic and non-linguistic clues can be used to point the addressee to gradations in information grounding within a text in ways which far extend the coding resources of natural languages. This account may provide an explanatory account for Gumperz' (1992) "contextualization clues" and thus open up a new line of interdisciplinary interaction of relevance-theoretic pragmatics with some strands of research in ethnomethodology. It also suggests the idea that the emergence of literary form may be facilitated by the relevance-orientedness of cognition and communication which suggests that the more clues the communicator can give for fine-tuning the addressee's expectation of relevance in complex stimuli, the better chance of successful communication he has, which in turn motivates the use of communicative clues far beyond the coding resources of given natural languages as well as adherence to cultural conventions regarding the form of texts.

Item Type:Conference Paper
Keywords:relevance, relevance theory, narrative, narrative structure, information grounding, foreground, background, global coherence, ostensive stimuli, complex ostensive stimuli
Subjects:Linguistics > Pragmatics
ID Code:5440
Deposited By:Unger, Dr. Christoph
Deposited On:06 Mar 2007
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:56

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