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Processing Patterns of Focusing – An Experimental Study on Pragmatic Scales Triggered by the Spanish Focus Operator incluso

Cruz Rubio, Adriana

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In communication, individuals do not attribute the same informative value to the different elements that constitute an utterance. Hence, individuals not only consider what they want to communicate, they also consider the mental state of the addressee. They organize the discourse in a determined way in order to generate a relevant ostensive stimulus that could be felicitously integrated in the common ground by the addressee (cfr. Sperber and Wilson 1995 [1986], Lambrecht 1994:XIII, Krifka 2008:245, Portolés 2010:283-284). Thus, it can also be assumed that not all utterances present the same processing effort. Consequently, languages have elements that allow to regulate this cognitive effort. Elements with procedural meaning, such as focus operators can precisely fulfill this regulation-effect. They restrict the inferential processes in an accessible context due to their morphosyntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties and guide the addressee to the intended communicated assumption, while optimizing the processing effort (cfr. Sperber and Wilson 1995 [1986], Blakemore 1987, 2002, Portolés 2001 [1998], Wilson and Sperber 2002). Due to its procedural meaning the Spanish inclusive focus operator incluso evokes a specific information structure and thereby regulates the processing effort of utterances: it informatively highlights an element of the paradigm as the most relevant element in a specific and accessible context. The instruction of the focus operator conventionally triggers a contrastive relation between focus and alternative and leads to the interpretation of a scalar implicature (cfr. Rooth 1985, 1996, König 1991:10, Portolés 2007, 2010, 2011, DPDE online) The aim of the experimental study presented in this dissertation is to examine whether different focusing structures (marked by the Spanish focus operator incluso) evoke different cognitive patterns during processing (via an online eye tracking study), and whether they trigger different comprehension strategies (via an offline comprehension test). More specifically, the study aimed to analyze: a) if there exist correlations between the morphosyntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties of the focus operator incluso and the informative structure of the utterance, b) how the focus operator affects the implicated elements of the focusing operation, and c) to what extend the presence of incluso determines the recovery of inferences. Therefore, different linguistic variables are considered that enable to analysis to what extent processing patterns and comprehension strategies differ, if a focus operator is present or absent in an utterance, if the position of the focus operator is prepositional or postpositional in relation to the focus element, or if the conceptual meaning and the procedural meaning are co- or anti-oriented to the common ground of the reader. Additionally, these three linguistic variables are analyzed in three different informative structures regarding the alternative information: implicit alternative, explicit single alternative and explicit complex alternative. In line with the findings of the study, it can be argued that different syntactical, semantical and informative alterations generate different processing structures. In relation to focus marking, the general results reflect that a marked focusing structure never demands more processing effort than the same utterance without procedural device. Further, the position of the focus operator regarding the focus element is strictly correlated with the processing of focusing structures. In this regard, it is argued that the more common and frequent the focus operator position is, the lower the processing effort. At last, the degree of informativity produces an impact in the processing of these types of structures. The co-orientation of conceptual and procedural information regarding the common ground accelerates processing. Any conflict between the two meanings result in a conflict-resolution strategy in which an accommodation attempt is conducted. In terms of comprehension, it can be concluded that the rigidity of the procedural mark leads to an interpretation of a conventional scalar implicature, and that a focus operator becomes indispensable for the construction of contrastive relations.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Loureda, Prof. Dr. Óscar
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date of thesis defense: 23 October 2019
Date Deposited: 11 Aug 2020 07:26
Date: 2020
Faculties / Institutes: Neuphilologische Fakultät > Institut für Übersetzen und Dolmetschen
Subjects: 400 Linguistics
Controlled Keywords: Diskursmarker, Focus, Diskurs, Kognition, Kommunikation
Uncontrolled Keywords: Eye-tracking, Sprachverarbeitung, Accommodation, experimentelle Pragmatik, Fokus, Alternativen
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