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Chapter 7

Chapter 7 Reading Notes.odt

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Todd Ferretti

READING NOTES Chapter 7: DISCOURSE COMPREHENSIONAND MEMORY Main Points • Connected discourse is coherent if its sentences can be related to one other • These relationships exist both on local and global levels • Comprehenders use a variety of strategies to understand discourse in a coherent manner ◦ These strategies are related to assumptions about the use of given and new information • We represent discourse memory in three different ways: ◦ Asurface representation, a propositional representation, and a situational model • Comprehension of the global structure of discourse is guided by schemata, which are structures in semantic memory that depict the general sequences of events Comprehension of Discourse Local and Global Discourse Structure • Comprehension of connected discourse depends less on the meanings of the individual sentences than on their arrangement • It is entirely possible for a group of meaningful sentences to be thrown together in a way that makes no sense at all • The local structure / microstructure is the relationship between individual sentences in the discourse • Texts also have a global structure / macrostructure and it is our knowledge of the structure corresponding to birthdays that enable us to comprehend and remember the shorter passage (see p. 159) ◦ Both levels of structure contribute to the coherence of a context, the degree to which different parts (words, sentences, paragraphs) of a text are connected to one another Cohesion • Categories of Cohesion ◦ One type of cohesion is called reference ▪ Reference is the semantic relation whereby information needed for the interpretation of one item is found elsewhere in the text • e.g.) we use pronouns such as she, he, it, is, her to refer to earlier items ▪ Demonstratives include: • The, this, that and those • They all have the same purpose ◦ In substitution, we replace one lexical item with another as an alternative to repeating the first ▪ e.g.) one substitutes for my computer (My computer is too slow. I need a new one) ◦ Ellipsis is a form of cohesion that is a special case of substitution in which we “substitute” one phrase with nothing ▪ I wish I had more talent. My sister has a lot more than I do ▪ The word talent could have been repeated after more but the repetition is assumed ◦ In conjunctive cohesion, we express a relationship between phrases or sentence by using conjunctions such as and, or, but, yet and so ▪ e.g.) Melissa is looking for a job, so she flunked out of school ◦ In lexical cohesion, a tie is made between one sentence or phrase by virtue of the lexical relationships between certain words in a sentence ▪ I saw a boy win the spelling bee. The (boy, lad, child) was delighted afterward • Anaphoric and Cataphoric Reference ◦ In all of these examples (page 161), cohesion consists of relating some current expression to one encountered earlier, this is called anaphoric reference ◦ When we use an expression to refer back to something previously mentioned in discourse, the referring expression is called an anaphor, and the previous referent is called an antecedent ◦ We sometimes use referring expressions to point forward, which is called cataphoric reference ▪ e.g.) This in “This is how you do it. You let the herbs dry and then grind them in the food processor.” ◦ The distance between antecedent and anaphor may cause a burden on the working memory, the father the distance, the more strain it puts Strategies Used to Establish Coherence • Given information refers to the information an author or speaker assumes the reader or listener already knows, where as new information is information that the comprehended is assumed not to know ◦ e.g.) (7) It was Steve who robbed the bank. (8) It was the bank that Steve robbed. ▪ Sentence 7 assumes that readers already know that the bank was robbed (the given information) but did not know who did it (the new information) ▪ Sentence 8 assumes that readers know that Steve robbed something but not what it was he robbed • Given/ New strategy is a model of sentence integration ◦ Readers or listeners assume that authors will refer to information that readers already know or can identify and to use new information to link concepts together ◦ The process of understanding a sentence in discourse context consists of three subprocesses or stages: • 1. Identifying the given and new information in the current sentence • 2. Finding the antecedent in memory for the given information • 3. Attaching the new information to this spot in memory ◦ Sentences that mark new information with no antecedent should pose comprehension difficulties • Direct Matching ◦ The simplest case is surely in which the given information in the target sentence directly matches an antecedent in the context sentence ▪ (9) We got some beer out of the trunk ▪ (8) The beer was warm. • In comprehending the target sentence, we first divide it into given and new information • The definite article the marks beer as given and was warm as new ◦ We then search our memory for a previous reference to beer and find it in the context sentence ◦ Finally, we attach the information that the beer was warm to the previously stored information ◦ Matches of underlying concepts previously introduced into the discourse ◦ Finding antecedent is linked more to finding concepts rather than a specific word • Bridging ◦ In some cases, we do not have a direct antecedent for the given information but can still tie the sentences together ◦ Target sentences that require bridges take longer to comprehend than those for which there a is a direct match of antecedents ◦ It takes longer than direct matching ◦ Makes inferences that bridge two concepts together • Reinstating Old Information ◦ Direct antecedents do not require us to bridge ◦ Things in the foreground are easier to access ◦ Things in the background require more mental power to recall ◦ Reinstatement increases comprehension time ◦ Read passages on page 164 • Identifying New Topics of Discourse ◦ Given/new strategy and direct matching if antecedent readily available ◦ Form bridges when we believe author intends for us to find relationship between context and target if not explicitly stated ◦ Reinstatements likely to happen when we believe author forgot to create link between target and context ◦ All these strategies assume there is an antecedent or previous information ◦ Stage 3 of the given/new strategy seeks to build on existing information ▪ Hierarchical structure builds on what we know by adding new information Role of Working Memory • Limited resources of working memory are allocated to processing certain tasks and to store the results of these tasks ◦ Trade offs between the two, cannot perform both satisfactory if they both require a lot of resources • Working memory along with background of individual of individual influences discourse comprehension Memory For Discourse • Three distinct levels: ◦ The surface representational is the level in which we remember exact words that we have encountered ▪ Surface or verbatim form of sentence is only stored in working memory until meaning is found, then taken out and replaced with next sentence ▪ We can remember surface or verbatim form of sentence if sentences are distinctive and easily separable form rest of discourse ◦ Second, we construct a propositional representation of the discourse, which specifies the meaning apart from the exact words used ▪ Deep structure ▪ The number of propositions influences the time it takes to read a passage ▪ We remember propositional structure, not verbal representation in our episodic emmory ▪ Inferences and Propositional Representations • Inferences are intrinsic to discourse structure • Implicit propositions restore coherence when explicit propositions are not stated • Ability to restore discourse requires knowing how to make connections as well as detecting when inferences need to be drawn ◦ We must see a gap before we need to fill it • We automatically draw inferences when: ◦ Inference must be necessary to make text coherent ◦ Information which inference is based must be easily accessible (through explicit statement in text or general knowledge) • When we draw inferences, implicit and explicit propositions are stored alongside one another • Explicit propositions have faster verification times if they're tested immediately ◦ If delayed, no difference between explicit and implicit test as surface
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