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Title: Presupposition and the processing of literary texts
Author: Arko, Joseph
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2006
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The integration of linguistics and literature in this thesis departs theoretically and methodologically from the Stylistics and Cognitive Poetics interdisciplinary motivated by Roman Jakobson and the Prague Structuralists. The basic intuition about presupposition in this thesis is that it refers either to information assumed by the speaker to be held in the mind of the hearer, or to information assumed by interlocutors to be in the common ground of discourse. Either of these views of the presupposition makes the relation acquire all the features of linguistic underdeterminacy and therefore requiring interpersonal negotiation, background assumptions and cultural knowledge to be fixed. There are therefore two intertwining objectives for this inquiry: (i) to study the pragmatic category of presupposition as it operates in the ordinary processes of literary communication; and (ii) to study literary communication as part of social communication. My methodology is empirical: tracking readers’ use of their presuppositions as they create contexts which allow them to make sense of the texts they read. This is done under experimental conditions and during interviews. I use naturalistic texts from different cultural backgrounds, and collect data from adult readers, who, like the texts, are from different cultural backgrounds. Subjects read one text which shares their own cultural background and then another which is from a foreign cultural background. The data analysis accounts for both textual and reader characteristics. The procedures I adopt highlight variations in processing strategy and meaning representations which can be associated with variations in the cultural background of either the text or the reader. The analysis confirms the prediction of the crucial role of cultural background in the interpretation of texts. It is however clear from the results that readers need to master a range of processing strategies to be able to take advantage of their cultural presuppositions to construct higher levels of meaning representation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available