24.144, Diss: Cognitive Science/ Comp Ling/ Discourse Analysis/ Pragmatics/ Psycholing/ Semantics/ Text/Corpus Ling/ English: Lee: 'The Mental Timeline in Discourse Organization and Processing'

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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-144. Thu Jan 10 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 24.144, Diss: Cognitive Science/ Comp Ling/ Discourse Analysis/ Pragmatics/ Psycholing/ Semantics/ Text/Corpus Ling/ English: Lee: 'The Mental Timeline in Discourse Organization and Processing'

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Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2013 11:05:13
From: Choonkyu Lee [c.lee at uu.nl]
Subject: The Mental Timeline in Discourse Organization and Processing

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Institution: Rutgers–New Brunswick 
Program: Cognitive Psychology 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2012 

Author: Choonkyu Lee

Dissertation Title: The Mental Timeline in Discourse Organization and Processing 

Dissertation URL:  http://mss3.libraries.rutgers.edu/dlr/showfed.php?pid=rutgers-lib:38901

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science
                     Computational Linguistics
                     Discourse Analysis
                     Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director(s):
Karin Stromswold

Dissertation Abstract:

Early language research has revealed important insights into the building blocks 
of language, such as morphosyntactic features and rules and truth-conditions of 
sentences. Once we situate language in real-life use, however, a wide range of 
factors come into play. Language interacts not only with the surrounding 
linguistic context but also with the situational context, our mental representation 
of content, and our background knowledge. The discourse-level interaction 
among linguistic and extralinguistic factors is relevant to both sides of the 
communication – the speaker, in choosing and organizing linguistic expressions, 
and the listener, in selecting among different possible structures and meanings 
for the linguistic input.

The question I address in this dissertation is 'how we keep track of time when we 
use language.' My specific interests are (1) whether story time in narrative 
discourse is one of the critical dimensions that are dynamically updated as 
discourse progresses, and (2) how fine-grained our time representation is for 
discourse – whether it is simply an ordering of temporal points and intervals for 
the events and states described in the discourse, or a timeline where duration is 
preserved in greater detail.

In order to elaborate on these issues, I discuss results from my narrative 
production experiment and my narrative comprehension experiment. In the 
production study, based on wordless picture books, two kinds of linguistic 
expressions were found much more frequently after longer intervals in story time 
compared to shorter intervals: (1) explicit temporal marking with lexical or 
phrasal markers of topic time (e.g., when, the next morning, etc.); and (2) proper 
names in referring back to previously mentioned characters. In the 
comprehension study, based on short 'two-minute mysteries,' longer duration in 
temporal adverbials in the stories tended to lead to longer reading times.

I conclude that magnitudes such as duration in story content are preserved in our 
linguistic encoding and have observable impact on our linguistic decoding, and 
extend the situation-model framework of discourse comprehension (van Dijk & 
Kintsch, 1983; Zwaan, 1999) to discourse production. My findings thus support 
an account of communication as alignment of situation models (Pickering & 
Garrod, 2006).

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