Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Discourse models

When a speaker sets out to convey a piece of information, she assumes her addressee already possesses a certain model of the world (i.e. Cognitive Representation) which is what the speaker wishes to influence. The successful conveyance of information, therefore, requires the speaker to perpetually update their assumptions concerning the current cognitive state of the addressee's discourse model as the speech progresses. In other words, the speaker must constantly speculate about what information is already a part of the hearer's Cognitive Representation during the course of speaking. Information that is assumed to be known or cognitively available at the time of speech is termed 'given information'. Alternatively, the information added to that Cognitive Representation is regarded as 'new information.'—Joshua Westbury, "Left Dislocation in Biblical Hebrew: A Cognitive Linguistic Account" (PhD diss., University of Stellenbosch, 2014), pages 34–35

<idle musing>
That assumes, of course, that both sides really want to listen to each other. I suspect what we are seeing in society of late is a breakdown of this model...
</idle musing>


Helma said...

You can violently disagree, even on first principles, and still abide by the Given-New Contract! The difference in reaction would be that between "Huh?" (Given-New Contract violated) and "You are unAmerican" (I don't agree with your politics one bit).

jps said...

True. But I wonder if people are even listening anymore enough to get to the point that they can even say that much : (

The way people run over others in conversation (if you can call it that!) makes me wonder...

But, I understand your point.