Langston Psycholinguistics Lecture 8b (Discourse) Semantics and discourse
Discourse • Weighing less than three pounds, the human brain in its natural state resembles nothing so much as a soft, wrinkled walnut. Yet despite this inauspicious appearance, the human brain can store more information than all the libraries in the world. It is also responsible for our most primitive urges, our loftiest ideals, the way we think, even the reason why, on occasion, we don't think, but act instead. The workings of an organ capable of creating Hamlet, the Bill of Rights, and Hiroshima remain deeply mysterious.
Discourse • On the other hand, there may be portions of this task which can be formulated without reference to numerical relationships, i.e. in purely logical terms. Thus certain qualitative principles involving physiological response or nonresponse can be stated without recourse to numbers by merely stating qualitatively under what combinations of circumstances certain events are to take place and under what combinations they are not desired.
Discourse • Questions: • When you say you “understand” one of these passages, what do you have? What have you done? • Why does one seem easier to “understand” than the other?
Discourse • A text is more than words or sentences. The overall representation of the discourse requires integration across all levels. • What might the process look like?
Discourse • Kintsch & Van Dijk (1978): Basic discourse model. • Turn the text into propositions. • Arrange the propositions into a text base (local representation). • Form global concepts using world knowledge. • Form a macrostructure.
Discourse • Propositions: • (P1 (WANTS JOAN APPLE)) • P1: Proposition number. Can embed (e.g., (P2 (TIME:IN P1 YESTERDAY))). • WANTS: Relation. • JOAN APPLE: Arguments. • Not in language, rather concepts.
Discourse • Text base: Arrange the propositions into a local representation. • Sequence: • Read in a chunk (set of propositions that are roughly about the same thing; a sentence) • Try to connect to what's in working memory. • If no connection search long term memory. • If no connection, form an inference.
Discourse • Text base: Sequence: • Once you have a start, link all of the propositions in a chunk into a structure. • Choose what to retain in working memory. Choose the top 2-3 based on capacity, using a strategy. • “Leading edge” strategy: • Start at the top, take most recent from each level. • If you have an embedded proposition, take that too.
Discourse • Text base: Sequence: • Read in the next chunk and try to connect to what you have. • Repeat until finished.
Discourse • Text Sample: • In the request to canonize the "Frontier Priest," John Newman, Bishop of Philadelphia in the 19th century, two miracles were attributed to him in this century. In 1923, Eva Benassi, dying from peritonitis, dramatically recovered after her nurse prayed to the bishop.
Discourse • Propositional Analysis: • (P1 (REQUEST P2 P8)) • (P2 (CANONIZE P3)) • (P3 (ISA JOHN-NEWMAN FRONTIER-PRIEST)) • (P4 (ISA J-N BISHOP)) • (P5 (LOC:IN P4 PHILADELPHIA)) • (P6 (TIME:IN P4 19TH-CENTRY)) • (P7 (TWO MIRACLES)) • (P8 (ATTRIBUTED P7 J-N)) • (P9 (TIME:IN P8 THIS-CENTRY)) • *SENTENCE*
Discourse • Steps: • First sentence, connection not needed. • The tree is on the board… • Retain using leading edge, see the board… • Read the next chunk (flip slide)
Discourse • Propositional Analysis: • (P10 (TIME:IN P11 1923)) • (P11 (DYING EVA-BENASSI PERITONITIS)) • (P12 (DRAMATICALLY P13)) • (P13 (RECOVERED E-B)) • (P14 (AFTER P15 P13)) • (P15 (PRAYED NURSE BISHOP)) • *SENTENCE*
Discourse • Steps: • Connect: • No propositions in common. • Memory search finds P4. • Build tree (on board). • Choose what to retain…
Discourse • Form global concepts: The proposition used to build a chunk's structure is usually the global concept. Use that to take the next step. • Build a macrostructure: Make a tree connecting the chunks to unify your representation of the entire text.
Discourse • One obvious prediction is that some “violations” should be more harmful/easily detected than others. • Locally and globally consistent (each step is built in, plus a coherent theme). • Globally consistent (inferences required). • Locally consistent (problems at the macro level).
Discourse • Locally and globally consistent: • George wanted to run in a marathon. • Running requires a lot of energy, and this energy can come from carbohydrates. • Spaghetti has a lot of carbohydrates, so George learned how to make spaghetti. • Eating spaghetti helped George have the energy he needed to finish the marathon.
Discourse • Local inconsistencies: • Diane wanted to lose some weight. • She went to the garage to find her bike. • Diane's bike was broken and she couldn't afford a new one. • She went to the grocery store to buy grapefruit and yogurt.
Discourse • Globally inconsistent: • Tammy was standing inside the health spa waiting for her friend. • She had just completed an exhausting workout. • Tammy's workout usually included a half hour of aerobics and an hour of weight training. • Today, Tammy had doubled her aerobics time. • Tammy saw her friend and went into the health spa to greet her.
Discourse • Model notes: • The more times you keep a proposition in working memory, the more likely you are to remember it later. • Readability is a function of the text and the reader.
Discourse • Model notes: • We get all of the parts: • Levels of representation. • Working memory capacity. • Strategies. • Reader's knowledge.
Discourse • Model wrinkles: The model suggests a variety of important factors in discourse comprehension. We'll consider: • Working memory. • Strategies. • Reader knowledge. • Mental models (situation models).
Discourse • Working memory management: The trick in discourse comprehension is managing working memory load. • Measurement: Reading span. Read each sentence and decide if it is a legitimate English sentence, remember the last word of each sentence (in caps).
It was your significance in the suffering of the war that honored the TOAST.
Recall WORDS… • HUMAN • TOAST
The girl hesitated for a moment to eat the onions because her husband hated an OCEAN.
The man tripped and fell down the stairs, causing his knee to bleed BADLY.
Due to his gross inadequacies, his position as director was terminated ABRUPTLY.
Recall WORDS… • OCEAN • BADLY • ABRUPTLY
Recall WORDS… • HAT • WATER • ALL • WILL
After all he had not gone far, and some of his walking had been CIRCULAR.
The poor lady was thoroughly undoing that she was not too right to JUMP.
There had been no feelings for Laura because she went to California beside a CREEK.
In our predominantly right handed society, to lose one's right arm signifies a great LOSS.
Recall WORDS… • TOWELS • CIRCULAR • JUMP • CREEK • LOSS
Discourse • Working memory management: The trick in discourse comprehension is managing working memory load. • Measurement: Reading span. • Typically much smaller than 7 ± 2 (Daneman & Carpenter, 1980). • Storage + processing more taxing.
Discourse • Working memory management: • Given the memory limitation, how you use it is important. • Putting something in requires two sorts of activity. • Stealing mental energy to represent it (as long as you have some to work with). • Deleting something (what?) to make room.
Discourse • Working memory management: • Imagine this text: • The plate is on the table. • The spoon is left of the plate. • The fork is behind the spoon. • The cup is right of the fork.
Discourse • Working memory management: • Imagine this text (four propositions): • (P1 (ON TABLE PLATE)) • (P2 (LEFTOF PLATE SPOON)) • (P3 (BEHIND SPOON FORK)) • (P4 (RIGHTOF FORK CUP))