Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A three-dimensional understanding of communicative language ability 4/7

4.3 Mindreading ability

4.3.1 Theory of Mind

According to Baron-Cohen (1997), Theory of Mind is an ability to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own, and, with that understanding, to explain and predict others' behavior.

Young children (under 3 or 4 years old) and autistic persons seem to lack Theory of Mind.

-> Theory of Mind is a basis of interpersonal communication.

4.3.2 Relevance Theory

"Given the particular nature and difficulty of the task, the general mind-reading hypothesis is implausible." "[Comprehension] might involve a sub-module of the mind-reading module, an automatic application of a relevance-based procedure to ostensive stimuli, and in particular to linguistic utterances." (Sperber and Wilson, 2002, pp.20-21)

The First, or Cognitive, Principle of Relevance:
"Human cognition is geared to the maximization of relevance."

"The relevance of an input for an individual at a given time is a positive function of the cognitive benefits that he would gain from processing it, and a negative function of the processing effort needed to achieve these benefits. (Sperber and Wilson 2002, p. 14)

In other words: The more benefit, the better: the less effort, the better. Strike a balance between the benefit and the effort for relevance.

The Second, or Communicative, Principle of Relevance
"Every utterance conveys a presumption of its own relevance."

Presumption of relevance

"The utterance is presumed to be the most relevant one compatible with the speaker's abilities and preferences, and at least relevant enough to be worth the hearer's attention." (Sperber and Wilson, 1986/1995, pp. 266-78. Emphasis added).

->Unlike the "knowledge of language" (Chomsky 1986), a speaker can increase her relevance by learning to do so. A better speaker can make a speech that produces more benefit with less effort on the part of the listener.

4.3.3 Mindreading ability

->Mindreading ability in communication is to anticipate other's mind and to infer the intention of the other successfully.

Mindreading ability in linguistic communication

->Mindreading ability in speaking and writing is for the speaker/writer to anticipate the listener's/reader's mind and to arrange words as the listener/reader would understand well, not as the speaker/writer would like to arrange.

->Mindreading ability in listening and reading is for the listener/reader to anticipate the speaker's/writer's mind and to understand his utterance as he meant it to be, not as the listener/reader would like to understand.

No comments: