Cognitive Processes in Comprehension

Cognitive Processes in Comprehension

Cognitive Processes in Comprehension

Cognitive Processes in Comprehension

Excerpt

Teun A. van Dijk

University of Amsterdam

This paper outlines a theory of macro-structures within a larger framework of a model of cognitive information processing. We will focus on semantic structures and processes of discourse comprehension; in particular, we will formulate the macro-roles underlying the global interpretation of discourse. Although the focus is on discourse comprehension, the basic principles of macro-processing also are valid for other cognitive domains, such as vision, action, thinking, and problem solving.

The notion of macro-structure is introduced as a partial explication of such notions as 'schema' or 'plan' as they are currently used in cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence. Semantic macro-structures will be distinguished from other kinds of 'schematic' structures of discourse, such as narrative super-structures. Finally, we will elucidate the relationship between macro-structures and frames.

In linguistics, macro-structures have been postulated in order to account for the 'global meaning' of discourse such as it is intuitively assigned in terms of the 'topic' or 'theme' of a discourse or conversation. The assumption is that these notions cannot be accounted for in terms of current logical, linguistic, and cognitive semantics for isolated sentences or sequences of sentences. In disciplines such as rhetorics and narrative theory, macro-structures may constitute the semantic basis for specific categories and roles. For instance, the setting of a narrative should be defined at a macro-level of analysis and cannot be defined in terms of individual sentences (or their underlying propositions). Similarly, well- known categories such as 'premise' and 'conclusion' in an argument also operate . . .

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