AG Textkohärenz und Textverstehen bei Erwachsenen und Kindern

AG 3 (cooperation of different workshops), organized as part of the Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS) to be held in Göttingen, Germany, February 23-25, 2011

Organizers: Angelika Becker / Dagmar Bittner / Natalia Gagarina / Nadja Kühn / Milena Kühnast / Renate Musan

Referential expressions and text coherence at the onset of school age
Dagmar Bittner / Nadja Kühn (ZAS Berlin)

Children when starting school are expected to produce and comprehend complex texts. Psycholinguists, however, argue that children have not fully acquired the target range and functions of discourse cohesive means up to the age of 8 or even later. Considerably heterogeneous claims have been made on when children acquire which knowledge and capabilities.

At the same time, we are faced with big variation in types of investigated discourse and research methods. Considering referential expressions (RE), there is, for instance, a debate on when and how children comprehend the discourse functions of definite vs. indefinite noun phrases. Experimental research (e.g. Schafer & de Viliers 2000) and studies of narrative data (e.g. Hickmann 2003) report an overuse of definite noun phrases until the age of 7. In contrast, studies of spontaneous speech do not report replacement of indefinite by definite noun phrases. Further on, experimental and narrative studies propose that children up to age 5 do not make anaphoric use of RE (e.g. Karmiloff-Smith 1979, 1985). According to these studies, definite noun phrases and demonstrative pronouns are used only deictically. This is mainly explained by deficits in theory of mind: young children are not able to take into account perspective and knowledge of their communication partners. Contrary to this, studies of pre-linguistic children (Tomasello 2009, Carpenter 2009) and early spontaneous speech (Matthews et al. 2006, Bittner 2007) found that children, to some extent, build a representation of their partner’s cognitive status and interact appropriately.

Focussing on RE, the AG aims at discussing how to integrate the different results and perspectives to a realistic picture of children’s knowledge on means of text coherence at the onset of school time.

Discourse coherence and pronominal anaphora in language acquisition
Natalia Gagarina / Milena Kühnast (ZAS Berlin)

There is a consensus that children acquire the basics of grammar by age three – three and a half. There is much controversy in the question, at what age and how do children acquire mechanisms of discourse coherence, namely, pronominal anaphora, temporal coherence and parallelism. On the one hand, it is suggested that some of these devices are acquired already by age three to four (Bamberg 1987, Guelzow and Gagarina 2007), on the other hand, the acquisition of these devices is documented after age nine (Karmiloff-Smith 1985, Umsworth 2008).

The proposed workshop aims at establishing the age (and phases) in the acquisition of anaphoric pronominal reference and its interaction with the other coherence mechanisms. In examining the mechanisms guiding the use of pronominal anaphora researchers address such properties of antecedents as grammatical and thematic roles. Alternatively, pronominal forms and the strategies for their interpretation as discourse anaphora may be explained as contingent on the general coherence strategy of a discourse segment. In other words, the mental model of the situation and the morpho-syntactic means for its establishment influence anaphora resolution preferences. A situation description involving a telic predicate biases the general discourse expectation towards the goal/result of the action and promotes co-reference establishment to non-subject referents. Parallelism between depicted event structures endorses as a general coherence mechanism an analogous co-reference establishment strategy - pronominal forms are resolved to antecedents exhibiting the same grammatical roles. The acquisition of devices providing discourse coherence requires that children consider various properties of discourse structure and mayor mechanisms of coherence establishment such as resemblance, contiguity in time and space and causality.

In the proposed workshop we explore these issues and address the specific questions: At what age do children use the structural and temporal characteristics of depicted events in order to generate coherent discourse? Do children exploit parallelism for reference assignment between pronominal anaphora and antecedents? What devices of discourse coherence in the production and comprehension show (a)symmetry?

Relationale Textkohärenz und Textverstehen
Renate Musan / Angelika Becker (Universität Osnabrück)

Relationale Textkohärenz stellt ein Wesensmerkmal von Texten dar. Zwischen aufeinanderfolgenden Textaussagen und größeren Textabschnitten bestehen Kohärenzrelationen, u.a. kausaler, temporaler und adversativer Art. Kohärenzrelationen können im Text implizit bleiben oder durch eine Vielzahl sprachlicher Mittel explizit markiert werden, insbesondere durch Konnektoren wie beispielsweise aber, weil oder daher. Ob implizit oder explizit – beim Textverstehen müssen intendierte Kohärenzrelationen vom Textrezipienten mental hergestellt werden, damit ein möglichst "richtiges" und "tiefes" Textverständnis, also eine angemessene Repräsentation des im Text vermittelten Sachkomplexes, aufgebaut werden kann.

Gegenstand der AG ist das Verstehen von Kohärenzrelationen aus semantischer, textlinguistischer und psycholinguistischer Sicht. Einerseits können semantische Fragen wie die Lesartenbreite von konnexionsstiftenden Mitteln oder die Bedingungen für Lesartenpräferenzen angesprochen werden. Andererseits sind Ergebnisse und Methoden der empirischen  Textverstehensforschung einschlägig. Sie betreffen Untersuchungsgebiete wie den Einfluss von Implizitheit/Explizitheit der Markierung auf die Verstehensgüte oder Zusammenhänge zwischen dem Verstehen von Kohärenzrelationen und Faktoren wie etwa Hintergrundwissen oder Textschwierigkeit. Diese Fragen sind zum Beispiel für die Einschätzung der Qualität von Sachtexten in Schulbüchern von unmittelbarer Relevanz. Weiterhin stellt sich die noch wenig untersuchte Frage nach der Entwicklung der Verstehensfähigkeit von Kohärenzrelationen in der Erstsprache und in der Zweitsprache. Damit richtet sich die AG sowohl an Semantiker und Textlinguisten als auch an empirisch ausgerichtete Textrezeptionsforscher.