Causality and Subjectivity in discourse and cognition; Evidence from cross-linguistic analyses, acquisition and processing

Ted Sanders - Department of Languages, Literature and Communication, Utrecht institute of Linguistics OTS, Utrecht University

Causality and Subjectivity in discourse and cognition; Evidence from cross-linguistic analyses, acquisition and processing

Ted Sanders
Department of Languages, Literature and Communication, Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS
Utrecht University

Discourse coherence can be characterized in terms of the relations that hold between clauses: coherence relations. Languages of the world provide their speakers with means to indicate causal relationships. Causal relations between discourse segments can be expressed by connectives and lexical cue phrases, such as because, since, so and As a result. What is the system behind the use of these connectives in languages like English, French, Dutch and German? How can we describe these systems in a cognitively plausible way? How do children acquire this connective system? And what is the role of these causal relations and connectives in discourse processing? Causality and Subjectivity are considered salient categorizing principles. My central claim is that, together, these principles account for causal coherence and connective use, and play a pivotal role in explaining discourse representation. This hypothesis is tested in three ways, exploring (i) the cross-linguistic use of connectives in spoken and written discourse, (ii) the order in which children acquire connectives, and (iii) the role of coherence relations and connectives in on-line discourse processing, as it becomes evident from eye-tracking studies. Together, these lines of research constitute the research strategy of converging evidence. I will argue why such a strategy is crucial to modern research on language and cognition.

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