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Thematic subjecthood and cognitive constraints on discourse structures

Garrod, S., and Sanford, A.J. (1988) Thematic subjecthood and cognitive constraints on discourse structures. Journal of Pragmatics, 12 (5-6). pp. 519-534. ISSN 0378-2166

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Abstract

In narratives throughout the world it is possible to distinguish between two types of character: the Thematic Subjects of the narrative and the subsidiary characters. This paper presents the argument that the distinction reflects a fundamental cognitive constraint on how writers and readers can represent information about different characters in a story. A number of experimental studies are cited which suggest that Thematic Subjects are represented and processed in a quite different way from other characters in narrative. The difference seems to reflect the fact that such characters are held in the focus of the reader's attention and this in turn has consequences for how information about them is mentally represented. To this extent the structure of narrative seems to reflect constraints on the structure of mental representations used in a variety of cognitive activities.

Item Type:Article
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s):Sanford, Prof Anthony and Garrod, Prof Simon
Authors: Garrod, S., and Sanford, A.J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Journal of Pragmatics
ISSN:0378-2166
Published Online:18 July 2002

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