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PREPARED BY: FATIM

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY COMPREHENSION?

Comprehension
of speech

Comprehension
of writing

INTRODUCTION
DAY AFTER DAY, PEOPLE LISTEN TO THOUSANDS OF SENTENCES ABOUT MANY TOPICS FROM A VARIETY OF
SOURCES AND MANAGE TO UNDERSTAND THEM, TO DO THIS, THEY HAVE TO MAKE AN INTRICATE SERIES
OF DECISIONS THAT REQUIRE DETAILED KNOWLEDGE AND DELICATE JUDGEMENTS OF ALL SORTS,

COMMON SENSE IN ITS NARROW SENSE


COMPREHENSION REFERS TO THE MENTAL PROCESSES BY WHICH LISTENERS TAKE IN THE SOUNDS
UTTERED BY A SPEAKER AND USE THEM TO CONSTRUCT AN INTERPRETATION OF WHAT THEY THINK THE
SPEAKER INTENDED TO CONVEY,
IT MEANS SIMPLY, BUILDING MEANINGS OUT OF SOUNDS,
The comprehension process
builds an interpretation that
resembles the underlying
representations of a sentence; a
set of propositions plus their
interrelations

Taking in the sounds


(hearing)

Constructing an
interpretation
Answer/ reaction

COMMON SENSE IN ITS BROADER SENSE


LISTENERS NORMALLY PUT THE INTERPRETATIONS THEY HAVE BUILT TO WORK.
I.E., THEY EXTRACT THE NEW INFORMATION A SENTENCE CONVEYS AND STORE THAT INFORMATION IN
MEMORY

E.G., WHEN HEARING A QUESTION, LISTENERS NORMALLY SEARCH FOR THE INFORMATION ASKED FOR AND
COMPOSE AN ANSWER, WHEN HEARING AN ORDER OR REQUEST, THEY TRY TO DETECT THE WORD/
PROPOSITION WHICH REFERS TO WHAT EXACTLY THEY SHOULD DO IN ORDER TO KNOW HOW TO
RESPOND.

THE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS


WHEN LISTENERS INTERPRET A SENTENCE, THEIR IMMEDIATE GOAL IS:
TO BUILD A SURFACE STRUCTURE
TO BUILD AN UNDERLYING REPRESENTATION
TO DIVIDE THE SURFACE STRUCTURE INTO PHRASES AND SUB PHRASES CALLED CONSTITUENTS
TO BUILD UNDERLYING PROPOSITIONS, MEANT TO EXPRESS THE INTERRELATIONS BETWEEN THE
DIFFERENT CONSTITUENTS.

HOW CONSTITUENTS SERVE AS AIDS IN PERCEPTION ?


LISTENERS TRY TO DIVIDE THE SPEECH THEY HEAR INTO SMALL UNITS (GROUPS OF WORDS THAT CAN BE
REPLACED BY A SINGLE WORD WITHOUT DOING VIOLENCE TO THE REST OF THE SENTENCE) TO MAKE THE
COMPREHENSION PROCESS EASIER

FLUENT SPEAKERS NORMALLY SPEAK IN A WAY THAT THEIR SPEECH IS DIVIDED INTO UNITS, THEY USE
THE SPACE BETWEEN THOSE UNITS AS BREAKS TO TAKE A BREATH OR TO PAUSE FOR THOUGHTS

BUT, NON FLUENT SPEAKERS DO NOT FOLLOW THE SAME DICTUM, THEY MAY HESITATE IN THE MIDDLE OF A
CONSTITUENT TO FIND A WORD OR CHANGE THEIR PHRASING, WHAT SO CALLED MID-CONSTITUENT
HESITATIONS MAKE THE LISTENERS JOB HARDER.

CONSTITUENTS IN WORKING MEMORY


ONCE LISTENERS HAVE ISOLATED CONSTITUENTS, THEY SHOULD STORE THEM IN THE WORKING MEMORY
UNTIL THEY HAVE NO MORE NEED FOR THEM, I.E., UNTIL THEY HAVE USED THEM TO CONSTRUCT THE
UNDERLYING PROPOSITIONS

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LIKEL
RLEY, (2005; P 338)
HA

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORKING MEMORY AND THE


WAY IT WORKS
TREVOR HARLEY ARGUES IN HIS BOOK (THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LANGUAGE) THAT WE HAVE A TENDENCY TO

ABSTRACT INFORMATION, I.E., WE REMEMBER THE MEANING OR MEANINGS THAT A SENTENCE/ UTTERANCE
CONVEYS, BUT, WE DO NOT REMEMBER THE WORD ORDER IN WHICH IT WAS UTTERED,

THE WORKING MEMORY IS WHERE THE MIND OF THE LISTENER TRIES TO DETECT THE INFORMATION NEEDED TO
BE ANSWERED (THE CASE OF A QUESTION) OR THE REACTION NEEDED (THE CASE OF A REQUEST OR COMMAND)
IN ORDER TO GIVE AN APPROPRIATE REACTION; THAT IS WHY THE WORKING MEMORY IS IMPORTANT.

WE START TO PURGE OUR MEMORY OF THE DETAILS OF WHAT WE HEAR AFTER SENTENCE BOUNDARIES.
JARVELLA (1971),

T O SUM

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SO FAR, WE HAVE SEE


N THE CONSTRUCTIO
N PROCESS. THE MAIN
ISOLATE AND IDENTIF
IDEA IS THAT LISTENE
Y SURFACE CONSTITU
R S TR Y T O
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B
UILD UNDERLYING PR
SENTENCE THEY HEAR
OPOSITIONS FOR EAC
. LISTENERS THINK O
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C
ONSTITUENTS AS CO
ISOLATE THEM SOON
N
C
EPTUALLY COHERENT
AFTER TAKING IN SPEE
UNITS. THEY
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MEANWHILE, THE BRA
EM IN WORKING MEM
IN OF THE LISTENER TR
ORY AS UNITS.
IE
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O DETECT THE MEANIN
RESPOND, AFTERWAR
G TO WHICH, THE BO
DS AS IT WAS ARGUE
DY SHOULD
D THAT WE TEND TO P
UNNECESSARY DETAIL
URGE OUR MEMORY O
S COMING AFTER SEN
F THE
TENCE BOUNDARIES.

INFERENCES

WE MAKE AN INFERENCE WHEN WE GO BEYOND THE LITERAL MEANING OF THE TEXT. AN INFERENCE IS THE DERIVATION OF
ADDITIONAL KNOWLEDGE FROM FACTS ALREADY KNOWN; THIS MIGHT INVOLVE GOING BEYOND THE TEXT TO MAINTAIN
COHERENCE OR TO ELABORATE ON WHAT WAS ACTUALLY PRESENTED.

WE CAN NOTE THREE MAIN TYPES OF INFERENCE; CALLED LOGICAL, BRIDGING AND ELABORATIVE

LOGICAL, BRIDGING AND ELABORATIVE INFERENCES


LOGICAL INFERENCES FOLLOW FROM THE MEANINGS OF WORDS. FOR EXAMPLE, HEARING VLAD IS A BACHELOR ENABLES US TO
INFER THAT VLAD IS MALE. (NOTICE THAT THE WORD MALE IS NOT MENTIONED)

BRIDGING INFERENCES (SOMETIMES CALLED BACKWARD INFERENCES) HELP US RELATE NEW TO PREVIOUS INFORMATION

(CLARK, 1977A,B). TEXTS HAVE COHERENCE IN A WAY THAT RANDOMLY JUMBLED SENTENCES DO NOT HAVE. WE STRIVE TO MAINTAIN THIS COHERENCE, AND
MAKE INFERENCES TO DO SO,
ONE OF THE MAJOR TASKS IN COMPREHENSION IS SORTING OUT WHAT PRONOUNS REFER TO. SOMETIMES EVEN MORE
COGNITIVE WORK IS NECESSARY TO MAKE SENSE OF WHAT WE READ OR HEAR.

WE MAKE ELABORATIVE INFERENCES WHEN WE EXTEND WHAT IS IN THE TEXT WITH WORLD KNOWLEDGE. THE GERALD
MARTIN EXAMPLE IS AN (UNWARRANTED) ELABORATIVE INFERENCE.

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CONSTRUCTI

INTRODUCTION
IN THE SYNTACTIC APPROACH, LISTENERS ARE ASSUMED TO USE THE SURFACE FEATURES OF A SENTENCE
IN COMING TO ITS INTERPRETATION. THEY IDENTIFY SOUNDS, WORDS, AND LARGER CONSTITUENTS AND
FROM THEM BUILD AND CONNECT PROPOSITIONS IN AN INTERPRETATION FOR THE WHOLE SENTENCE.

IN THE SEMANTIC APPROACH, LISTENERS ARE ASSUMED TO WORK FROM THE INTERPRETATION A
SENTENCE MUST BE CONVEYING.

BUILDING CONSTITUENTS
LISTENERS HAVE AT THEIR COMMAND A BATTERY OF MENTAL STRATEGIES, BY WHICH THEY SEGMENT
SENTENCES INTO CONSTITUENTS, CLASSIFY THE CONSTITUENTS AND CONSTRUCT SEMANTIC
REPRESENTATIONS FROM THEM.

LISTENERS HAVE ISOLATED AND LABELED EACH CONSTITUENT ACCORDING TO ITS FUNCTION

(DETERMINER, NOUN, VERB, NOUN PHRASE, VERB PHRASE, AND SENTENCE. THEY THEN USE LABELED
BRACKETING FOR CONSTRUCTING THE UNDERLYING REPRESENTATION.

USE OF FUNCTION WORDS


FUNCTION WORDS ARE DETERMINERS, PREPOSITIONS, CONJUNCTIONS, PRONOUNS, QUANTIFIERS
STRATEGY1: WHENEVER YOU FIND A FUNCTION WORD, BEGIN A NEW CONSTITUENT LARGER THAN ONE
WORD.

HOWEVER, THIS STRATEGY CANNOT BE APPLIED UNEQUIVOCALLY BECAUSE SOME WORDS BELONG TO
MORE THAN ONE CLASS OF FUNCTIONS.

ANTICIPATING CONTENT WORDS


STRATEGY2: AFTER IDENTIFYING THE BEGINNING OF A CONSTITUENT, LOOK FOR CONTENT WORDS
APPROPRIATE TO THAT TYPE OF CONSTITUENT.

USE OF AFFIXES
STRATEGY3: USE AFFIXES TO HELP DECIDE WHETHER A CONTENT WORD IS A NOUN, VERB, ADJECTIVE, OR
ADVERBS.

MOST AFFIXES CAN BE ADDED TO ONLY OR TWO KINDS OF CONTENT WORDS, SO THAT THEY CAN BE USED
TO PICK OUT WHAT KIND OF CONTENT WORD A WORD IS.

(ING/ ED; REFER TO VERBS) (IVE; REFER TO ADJECTIVES) (TION/ ITY/ NESS; REFER TO NOUNS)

USE OF VERBS
STRATEGY4: AFTER ENCOUNTERING A VERB, LOOK FOR THE NUMBER AND KIND OF ARGUMENTS APPROPRIATE TO THAT VERB.
THE VERB OFTEN SPECIFIES WHETHER THERE SHOULD BE ONE, TWO OR THREE NOUN PHRASES WITH IT.
FOR EXAMPLE: SLEPT REQUIRES ONLY ONE NOUN PHRASE.
HIT REQUIRES A SUBJECT AND AN OBJECT.
PUT REQUIRES A SUBJECT AND OBJECT AND A LOCATION (THREE NOUN PHRASES)
SOME VERBS LIMIT THE SYNTACTIC FORM OF THE OBJECTS OR COMPLEMENT.( THE EXAMPLE OF VERBS HIT AND BELIEVE)
WHEN OPTIONAL RELATIVE PRONOUNS (WHO, WHICH, THAT) OR COMPLEMENTIZERS (THAT) ARE DELETED, COMPREHENSION IS
TEMPORARILY IMPAIRED.

MEMORY CAPACITY
ACCORDING TO KIMBALL (1973), LISTENERS TRY
TO MINIMIZE MEMORY LOAD RELYING ON:

STRATEGY5: TRY TO ATTACH EACH NEW WORD TO


THE CONSTITUENT THAT COME JUST BEFORE.

PRINCIPLES OF MEMORY CAPACITY


FIXED STRUCTURE: ONCE LISTENERS HAVE

PARSED SPEECH INTO CONSTITUENTS ONE WAY,


IT IS VERY COSTLY IN PROCESSING CAPACITY TO
GO BACK IN MEMORY AND REPARSE THE
CONSTITUENTS ANOTHER WAY.

PRINCIPLE OF TWO SENTENCES: IT IS VERY

COSTLY IN MEMORY CAPACITY TO PARSE MORE


THAN TWO CONSTITUENTS LABELED S AT A TIME.

CLAUSES
STRATEGY6: USE THE FIRST WORD (OR MAJOR

CONSTITUENT) OF A CLAUSE TO IDENTIFY THE FUNCTIONS OF


THAT CLAUSE IN THE CURRENT SENTENCE.

NON-MAIN CLAUSES: ARE EASY TO IDENTIFY. THEY ALL BEGIN

WITH A FUNCTION WORD SPECIFICALLY MARKING THEM AS


ADVERBIAL CLAUSES, RELATIVE CLAUSES, OR COMPLEMENTS.

MAIN CLAUSES: ARE WHAT IS LEFT. THEY BEGIN NOT WITH


FUNCTION WORDS SPECIALLY DESIGNED TO SUBORDINATE,
RELATIVES, OR COMPLEMENTS, BUT WITH CONSTITUENTS
THAT INDIRECTLY TELL LISTENERS WHAT FUNCTION THE
SENTENCE CONVENTIONALLY SERVES AS A SPEECH ACT.

STRATEGY7: ASSUME THE FIRST CLAUSE TO BE A

MAIN CLAUSE UNLESS IT IS MARKED IN THE


MAIN VERB AS SOMETHING OTHER THAN A MAIN
CLAUSE.

THIS STRATEGY DISTINGUISHES MAIN FROM


NON-MAIN CLAUSES BY NOTHING WHETHER
THERE IS A SPECIAL WARNING FLAG ON A
CLAUSE SAYING IT IS NOT A MAIN CLAUSE.

HISTORICAL EVIDENCE
BEVER AND LANGENDOEN (1971) APPEALED TO THE HISTORY OF RELATIVE CLAUSES IN ENGLISH:
IN MODERN ENGLISH, THAT CAN BE DELETED WHERE IT IS THE SUBJECT OF THE RELATIVE CLAUSE.
ACCORDING TO BEVER AND LANGENDON, BY THIS STRATEGY, LISTENERS ASSIGN TO THE FIRST VERB

WITH TENSE TO THE MAIN CLAUSE UNLESS THEY FIND CONTRARY INDICATIONS PRIOR TO THE VERB.

ENGLISH HAS NEVER ALLOWED THAT TO BE DELETED WHEN IT WAS THE SUBJECT OF A RELATIVE CLAUSE
PRECEDING THE VERB OF THE MAIN CLAUSE.

BUILDING UNDERLYING PROPOSITIONS


HIERARCHY OF UNDERLYING PROPOSITION IS WHEN LISTENERS USE CONSTITUENT TO CONSTRUCT AN
INTERPRETATION FOR THE SENTENCE.

EVALUATION OF THE SYNTACTIC APPROACH


STRENGTH: IT ACCOUNTS FOR CERTAIN DIFFICULTIES THAT ARISE FROM SYNTACTIC SOURCES.
IT ALSO TAKES FULL ADVANTAGE OF SURFACE CLUES IN IDENTIFYING AND BUILDING PROPOSITION.
PROBLEMS: PEOPLE SPEAK SO QUICKLY AND APPLY THAT THEIR WORDS, ESPECIALLY THEIR FUNCTION WORDS, ARE OFTEN
UNINTELLIGIBLE OUT OF CONTEXT.

ACTUAL SPEECH IS SO FULL OF INCOMPLETE WORDS, REPEATS, STUTTERS, AND OUTRIGHT ERRORS.
IT IS DIFFICULT TO SEE HOW BY WORKING FROM SYNTACTIC INFORMATION ALONE LISTENERS COULD EVER FILL IN ALL
UNINTELLIGIBLE WORDS AND GET AROUND THE OTHER MISTAKES SPEAKERS MAKE.

THE PURE SYNTACTIC APPROACH DOES NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SEMANTIC AND PRAGMATIC INFORMATION UNTIL VERY LATE
IN THE PROCESS.

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THE CON
PROCESS

INTRODUCTION
LISTENERS USUALLY KNOW A LOT ABOUT WHAT A SPEAKER IS GOING TO SAY FROM WHAT HAS JUST BEEN
SAID AND FROM THE SITUATION BEING DESCRIBES. (SELECTING AMONG ALTERNATIVE PARSES OF A
SENTENCE TO ANTICIPATE WORDS AND PHRASES TO CIRCUMVENT SYNTACTIC ANALYSIS TOGETHER)

THE SYNTACTIC GOAL IS TO DETERMINE HOW EACH SENTENCE WAS MEANT TO BE UTILIZED.

REALITY PRINCIPLE
THE SUBSTANCE OF SENTENCES, THE IDEAS ARE BEING TALKED ABOUT. LISTENERS INTERPRET SENTENCES
IN THE BELIEF THAT THE SPEAKER IS REFERRING TO A SITUATION OR SET OF IDEAS THEY CAN MAKE SENSE
OF.

IT IS VERY POWERFUL, IT HELPS LISTENERS TO RULE OUT AMBIGUITIES, FILL IN MISHEARD WORDS, AND
AVOID OTHER INCORRECT INTERPRETATIONS.

COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLE

IS THE WAY THESE IDEAS ARE EXPRESSED. LISTENERS USE THIS PRINCIPLE TO INTERPRET SENTENCES IN
THE BELIEF THAT THE SPEAKER IS TRYING TO SAY THE TRUTH.
IT TELLS LISTENERS ALL THEY NEED TO KNOW AND NO MORE, SAY THINGS THAT ARE RELEVANT AND USE
SENTENCES CLEARLY AND UNAMBIGUOUSLY.

IT HELPS LISTENERS COME TO THE INTERPRETATION THE SPEAKER INTENDED.

MAKING SENSE OF SENTENCES


STRATEGY8: USING CONTENT WORDS ALONE, BUILD PROPOSITIONS THAT MAKE SENSE AND PARSE THE
SENTENCE INTO CONSTITUENTS ACCORDINGLY.

LISTENERS ASSUME THAT SPEAKERS INTEND THEIR SENTENCE TO MAKE SENSE.

ANTICIPATING CONSTITUENTS
STRATEGY9: LOOK FOR CONSTITUENTS THAT FIT THE SEMANTIC REQUIREMENTS OF THE PROPOSITIONAL
FUNCTION THAT UNDERLIES EACH VERB, ADJECTIVE, ADVERB, PREPOSITIONS

FODOR (1971) AND SHANK (1972) , LISTENERS CENTER THEIR ATTENTION ON VERBS AND LOOK FOR NOUN
PHRASES THAT FIT THEIR SEMANTIC REQUIREMENT.

TYING SENTENCE TO CONTEXT


STRATEGY10: LOOK FOR DEFINITE NOUN PHRASES THAT REFER TO ENTITIES YOU KNOW AND REPLACE THE
INTERPRETATION OF EACH NOUN PHRASE BY A REFERENCE TO THAT ENTITY DIRECTLY.

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THE GARDEN PATH


AS LISTENERS PROCEED THROUGH A SENTENCE,

THEY COMPUTE ONLY ONE READING FOR EACH


AMBIGUOUS CONSTRUCTION. IT HAS 2 POINTS:

IT SOLVES THE PARADOX. THE REASON PEOPLE

DO NOT SEE A SENTENCE AS AMBIGUOUS IS THAT


THEY NEVER COMPUTE MORE THAN ONE
READING.

IT EXPLAINS WHY PEOPLE ARE STARTLED WHEN


THEY ARE LED DOWN THE GARDEN PATH

MACKAY SUGGEST TWO ALTERNATIVES OF THE


GARDEN PATH:

THE MANY MEANING THEORY: LISTENERS COMPUTE


TWO OR MORE READINGS FOR EACH AMBIGUOUS
CONSTRUCTION AND THEN IMMEDIATELY PICK ONE
ON THE BASIS OF CONTEXT.

THE NO MEANING THEORY: LISTENERS COMPUTE NO


MEANING FOR AN AMBIGUOUS CONSTRUCTION AT
FIRST, BUT LET THE CONTEXT.

THE MIXED THEORY

IT IS THE COMBINATION BETWEEN THE MANY MEANING AND


GARDEN PATH THEORIES.

WHEN LISTENERS ENCOUNTER AN AMBIGUOUS

CONSTRUCTION, THEY COMPUTE MULTIPLE READINGS.

USING THE CONTEXT, LISTENERS THEN ATTEMPT TO SELECT


THE MOST PLAUSIBLE READING.

IF THE AMBIGUITY HAS NOT BEEN RESOLVED BY THE END OF


THE CLAUSE, THEY SELECT ONE READING AND STICK TO IT.

IF LATER CONTEXT CONTRADICTS THE SELECTED READING,

THEY TRY TO RETRIEVE THE SURFACE STRUCTURE OF THE


PRIOR CLAUSE AND COMPUTE A NEW COMPATIBLE READING.

IN THE MIXED THEORY, LISTENERS COMPUTE MORE


THAN ONE READING FOR EACH AMBIGUITY AND
RESOLVE IT IMMEDIATELY IF THERE IS ENOUGH
INFORMATION.

THESE STRATEGIES PURPOSE IS TO RESOLVE

POTENTIAL AMBIGUITIES AS LISTENERS GO ALONG.

THESE AMBIGUITIES ARE NORMALLY RESOLVES


WITHOUT AWARENESS.

CRITERIA FOR THEORIES OF AMBIGUITY


FOR ANY THEORY OF AMBIGUITY TO BE CORRECT, IT MUST CONFORM TO THE STRATEGIES CONSIDERED
EARLIER.

AMBIGUITIES SHOULD TAKE TIME TO APPLY..


THE CORRECT THEORY OF AMBIGUITIES WILL BE THE ONE THAT CORRESPONDS TO THE SYSTEM OF
STRATEGIES THAT LISTENERS ARE ASSUME TO APPLY IN THE PROCESS OF COMPREHENSION.

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SORRY IF ITS TOO LONG!