Back to list

Detail of contribution

Auteur: Martha RUDKA

Co-Auteur(s): Adriana CRUZ RUBIO, Universität Heidelberg, Germany

Experimental notes about information structure: focus particles in Spanish and German

Abstract/Résumé: The understanding of utterances is based on inferential processes; that is why it is natural that there are idiomatic expressions that restrict these operations: the restrictions guide the hearer/reader to the expected effects and they minimize the processing efforts. Discourse particles fulfill precisely that task: due to their prominent procedural meaning they guide the interpretation of the units with representational meaning. Whereas there are extensive data in descriptive linguistics (and more and more in contrastive linguistics) which are based on empirical data, there are but a few results available regarding discourse particles from the experimental pragmatics and psycholinguistics. The psychological experimental examination is used to proof reactions (“processing costs”) to given stimuli (texts). It is this area we cover in our research project. Therefore we prepared two types of experiments. The first one is the eye tracking-methodology which is used for various purposes since some decades. This method allows us to keep track of the cognitive processes that underlie determined mental activities like reading. The second method is a comprehension-examination to obtain information about the effective information processing. In the present contribution our aim is to present some results of our experiments that substantiate five theses about information processing in general and about information processing that is guided by focus particles in particular: 1. Utterances have a linguistic underdeterminacy. 2. Not all the utterances have the same processing effort. 3. The distribution of the information in an utterance is not homogeneous. Focus particles influence precisely that distribution. 4. Discourse particles (especially focus particles) possess a prominent procedural meaning. 5. Discourse particles restrict inferential processes and guide the hearer/reader to the expected effects and in that way they minimize the processing efforts.