Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Praise God for short-term memory

The essence of the comprehension process is described by Kintsch (1998: 93) as follows: “We comprehend a text, understand something, by building a mental model. To do so we must form connections between things that were previously disparate: the ideas expressed in the text and relevant prior knowledge.” A reader builds a mental representation of the text in the form of a network of propositions derived from the text and stores it in long-term memory. As the reader proceeds through a text, a proposition is constructed corresponding to each sentence and stored in short-term working memory. After the sentence processing is completed, the proposition representing the sentence is copied to long-term memory and linked to the textual representation already stored there. Furthermore, additional propositions, drawn from the reader’s knowledge and experience, are added to the representation and linked to the sentence representation. These propositions include, for example, bridging inferences regarding referring expressions in the text, inferences about causal connections between sentences in the text, and elaborative inferences that fill in details unspecified in the text (Kintsch 1998: 188–99).

As the reader moves on to the next sentence, the central information contained in the previous sentence is retained in short-term memory in order to aid in comprehending the next sentence. All of the propositions in the text representation directly linked to the information in short-term memory, including inferred information, are in long-term working memory and can be quickly and easily converted to activated information. In short, when reading a sentence, the gist of the previous sentence is activated and information inferred from or directly linked to the previous sentence is accessible.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, pages 95–96 (emphasis original)

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