Text World Theory: An Introduction

Text World Theory: An Introduction

Text World Theory: An Introduction

Text World Theory: An Introduction


Text World Theory is a cognitive model of all human discourse processing. In this introductory textbook, Joanna Gavins sets out a usable framework for understanding mental representations. Text World Theory is explained using naturally occurring texts and real situations, including literary works, advertising discourse, the language of lonely hearts, horoscopes, route directions, cookery books and song lyrics. The book will therefore enable students, teachers and researchers to make practical use of the text-world framework in a wide range of linguistic and literary contexts.


• An accessible and enabling course book which includes suggestions for exploration and further reading.

• Draws on linguistics, cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, poetics and stylistics, and will be attractive to students and researchers working in all of these disciplines.

• Each chapter provides a reader-friendly introduction to an aspect of Text World Theory and includes at least two practical applications of these ideas to real discourse examples.


Old cockerel seeks hen to scratch around new pastures. Ex-farmer, 57,
seeks lady, 45–55, without ties to move to Hants/Dorset & develop a
natural, self-sufficient lifestyle. SE. Call 0905 123 4567. Voicebox

'Soulmates', The Guardian, 15 January 2005

It is highly unlikely that your first intention when opening this book was to find yourself an old cockerel with whom to settle down in Dorset. Nevertheless, having now read his advertisement, you will have formed in your mind a particular impression of this lonely heart seeking a hen. Likewise, the first intention of Old Cockerel (let us call him) is unlikely to have been to make contact with the readers of Text World Theory: An Introduction. Nevertheless, he has succeeded in communicating, however indirectly, a picture of his needs to you. In the limited number of words available to him, he has been careful to specify his age (57), occupation (ex-farmer), and geographical location (South East England). Each of these linguistic details enables Old Cockerel's intended audience (of single female Guardian readers aged 45–55) to construct a picture of him in their minds despite being separated from him in both time and space. It is a mental picture which Old Cockerel hopes will be sufficiently impressive to attract a response from his ideal mate. To help him achieve success, he employs poetic devices alongside the personal details he provides. Most obvious, of course, is the farming metaphor which extends throughout the advertisement and through which he chooses to present himself as an 'old cockerel', his potential mate as a 'hen', and their new life together on the south coast of England as a 'scratch around new pastures'. Further metaphors can also be found in his request that his respondents be 'without ties' and in his promise of a 'natural' future lifestyle. Finally, both the literal and metaphorical features of Old Cockerel's advertisement are presented in a style which readers familiar with lonely-hearts columns might expect from this type of communication:

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