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LINGUIST List 24.344

Sun Jan 20 2013

Diss: Cognitive Science/ Psycholing/ Semantics: Dery: 'Scene-Salience-Driven Effects in Discourse Processing'

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

Date: 19-Jan-2013
From: Jeruen Dery <jeruen.derygmail.com>
Subject: Scene-Salience-Driven Effects in Discourse Processing
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Institution: University at Buffalo
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Jeruen E Dery

Dissertation Title: Scene-Salience-Driven Effects in Discourse Processing

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science

Dissertation Director:
Gail Mauner
Jean-Pierre Koenig
David Zubin
Douglas Roland

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation provides a coherence-driven psycholinguistic model of
discourse production and comprehension. From the perspective of
production, I examine several factors that narrators rely on to produce
coherent discourse. These factors, which I call scene salience, are
tested in a series of discourse production experiments. These
experiments reveal how differences in scene salience influence what
narrators decide to mention next during narrative production. Two
dimensions of scene salience are tested: expected temporariness in
states and event complexity. My production experiments additionally
show that patterns of temporal update observed in discourse are side-
effects of deeper discourse-level processes, contrary to what most
theories of temporal interpretation assume.

From a comprehension perspective, I examine how scene salience
affects processes of integration in narrative comprehension. The
experimental results support a more active view of discourse
comprehension than what is commonly assumed. My experiments
support the view that in constructing a mental representation of the
unfolding narrative, readers activate prior knowledge associated with
the situation being described, and generate expectations about how
the narrative will unfold. Readers generate expectations about 1) what
may happen next, and 2) when it may happen. I also explore the
relationship between scene salience and prior knowledge, as well as
their effects on discourse integration.

Overall, this dissertation integrates psycholinguistic research on
discourse processing with the coherence-based approach taken in
artificial intelligence and formal semantics. The scene-salience-driven
model of discourse production and comprehension that I introduce here
provides a way of explaining how narrators make sure the narratives
they produce are felicitous and not random, as well as how
comprehenders construct and update their mental representations of
the unfolding narrative.

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