Conf: Ted Sanders : ognitive Complexity in Discourse: On the modeling, acquisition and processing of discourse structure

alexis.nasr at LINGUIST.JUSSIEU.FR alexis.nasr at LINGUIST.JUSSIEU.FR
Fri Nov 7 16:00:08 UTC 2003

Le laboratoire LATTICE (UMR 8094, CNR-ENS) poursuit son cycle de
conférences dans le cadre de son séminaire,

Des langues au langage : modèles et théories à l'épreuve des faits

Données par des collègues de renommée internationale, ces conférences
s'inscrivent dans une perspective cognitive et sont donc destinées à
un public varié : linguistes, psychologues, informaticiens?

La prochaine conférence aura lieu le vendredi 28 novembre,
(10h30-12h30). Salle Cavaillès, ENS, 45 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris.

Cognitive Complexity in Discourse: On the modeling, acquisition and
processing of discourse structure

Ted Sanders
Utrecht institute of Linguistics UiL OTS
Universiteit Utrecht
Trans 10, NL - 3512 JK Utrecht
The Netherlands
Ted.Sanders at
Abstract :

Language users communicate through discourse. The constituting
property of discourse is that it shows connectedness. This
connectedness is a mental phenomenon: Language users make a coherent
representation of the discourse under consideration. The discourse
itself contains (more or less) overt signals that direct this
interpretation process.

I will substantiate these ideas in this presentation and focus on one
of the main ways in which discourse coherence manifests itself, namely
in coherence relations that establish the relationship between
discourse segments, such as Cause-Consequence and Contrast. These
relations are conceptual and they can, but need not, be made explicit
by linguistic markers, so-called connectives (because, so, however,
although) and lexical cue phrases (For that reason, As a result, On
the other hand).

I will present the outlines of a cognitive theory of coherence
relations, which accounts for the relationship between discourse as a
linguistic object and the mental representation people have or make of
it. Such an approach requires an interdisciplinary methodology. This
is illustrated with studies using both linguistic and psycholinguistic
research methods and data, varying from text analysis to on-line
processing and language acquisition.

Central issues are:

· What is the evidence for the idea of connectives and cue phrase as
'processing instructors'?

· How can relations be categorized?

· If the categorization of coherence relations has cognitive
significance, it should prove relevant in areas like discourse
processing and language acquisition. What evidence is there from these

Finally, I will investigate whether the evidence from these different
methods converges, by focusing on the notion of cognitive
complexity. Negative relations, for instance, are considered more
complex than positive ones. This linguistic analysis is corroborated
by cognitive studies: negative relations take more processing time and
children acquire them later. But how about causal relations?

Laure Sarda
ENS, 1 rue Maurice Arnoux
F-92120 Montrouge

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