Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Inference Generation and Text Comprehension in Bilingual Children: A Case study/Die Maak Van Afleidings En Teksbegrip by Tweetalige Kinders: 'N Gevallestudie

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Inference Generation and Text Comprehension in Bilingual Children: A Case study/Die Maak Van Afleidings En Teksbegrip by Tweetalige Kinders: 'N Gevallestudie

Article excerpt

Introduction

In order to understand text, it is essential that comprehenders draw inferences, because generally a text can only provide a certain amount of essential information, which the recipients are required to expand with inferences. Inferences that serve to fill gaps identified in a text are generated through the use of different types of knowledge bases (Keenan, Baillet & Brown 1984; Kintsch & Van Dijk 1978; Van Dijk & Kintsch 1983). Elaborative inferences embellish and amplify written or aural text as well as visual stimuli. These inferences do not help a reader and/or listener achieve comprehension but rather lead to the establishment of a rich situation model.

There is an enormous number of inferences that comprehenders make; below we provide an overview of different types of inferences with the aim of positioning the subject of our current investigation within the research field.

Different types of inferences

There is hardly any consensus among researchers in psycholinguistics and discourse processing on the different types of inferences that readers, listeners or viewers make (Graesser, Singer & Trabasso 1994:374). Table 1 lists the most frequently cited distinctions between different types of inferences.

Graesser et al. (1994:371-372) as well as Pressley and Afflerbach (1995:46-48) compile a comprehensive, rather than exhaustive, account of different types of inferences. The categories that Graesser et al. (1994:371-372) recognise include text-connecting versus knowledge-based inferences on the one hand as well as local versus global inferences on the other hand. The general distinction between text-connecting and knowledge-based inferences is commonly accepted (e.g. Cain & Oakhill 1999). According to Cain and Oakhill (1999:490), text-connecting inferences involve the integration of textual information and are hence necessary to establish cohesion between sentences. Authors such as Barnes, Dennis and Haefele-Kalvaitis (1996:217-219), Calvo (2004:54) and Bowyer-Crane and Snowling (2005:19-21) adopt the more current terms of coherence versus elaborative inferences to differentiate between text-connecting and knowledge-based inferences, respectively, while Cromley and Azevedo (2007:312) develop yet an alternative set of terminology. They employ the terms text-to-text inferences and background-to-text inferences, which are equivalent to the coherence/text-connecting inferences and elaborative/gap-filling inferences, respectively.

Text-connecting inferences are needed to integrate single sentences into one cohesive textbase. Thus, they bridge gaps between different phrases and sentences on a linguistic level. A good example for a text-connecting inference is provided by Cromley and Azevedo (2007:312), who add anaphoric inferences as a sub-category of coherence and/or text-connecting and/or text-to-text inferences. Anaphoric inferences are needed to establish co-reference links among full phrases (Noun Phrases, Verb Phrases, Adjective Phrases), pro-forms and referents.

Knowledge-based inferences embellish story content and amplify a story's context. They provide a fuller representation of an event, but they are not central to textual cohesion (Barnes et al. 1996:219). Because these inferences are not necessary to achieve comprehension, they are normally influenced by the accessibility of knowledge. As a specific type of knowledge-based inferences, Cain and Oakhill recognise gap-filling inferences, which make use of information from outside the text (that is, from the reader's existing background knowledge). Knowledge-based inferences generally rely on the activation of a 'mediating idea' from the reader's world knowledge, without which a text may be experienced as disjointed. Graesser, Bertus and Magliano (1995:296) maintain that for knowledge-based inferences to be constructed an interaction between the textbase and long-term memory needs to be activated. …

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