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LINGUIST List 24.144

Thu Jan 10 2013

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

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 09-Jan-2013
From: Choonkyu Lee <c.leeuu.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:
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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