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Positive Relationship Between Reading and Writing

  • Date Submitted: 10/10/2011 12:03 PM
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Vincent Taohsun Chang


Journal of Universal Language 8 March 2007, 1-21

A Cognitive-pragmatic Approach to Discourse Topic: A Cross-linguistic Analysis and Universal Account
Vincent Taohsun Chang
National Chengchi University

This paper investigates contemporary Mandarin Chinese and English discourse topic across text genres to render plausible interpretations based upon a relevance-theoretic approach, as opposed to previous studies from syntactic/structural and functional/ cognitive points of view. Examining discourse topic from a cognitive-pragmatic perspective will not merely facilitate readers with more accessible contextual effects such as implicatures, but also subtopics such as grounding and composite topics can also be approached layer by layer with regard to cognition and language. This plays a crucial role in perception, comprehension and interpretation of utterances and non-verbal communication, and hence the mental processes of assigning/deciding a topic. The topic may thus vary from a word, short phrases to a sentence, and, above all, it is the gist that inferred by the audience that eventually forms the basis for the topic of the text/discourse. Keywords: pronunciation, allophones, transferability, differential salience, discourse topic


Cognitive-pragmatic Approach to Discourse Topic

1. Rationale
This paper presents an examination as a response to studies by Chu (1993, 1998, 1999, 2000) regarding prototype/prototypicality of a topic in Mandarin Chinese; it also provides English data to serve as a cross-linguistic analysis. Chu proposed five criteria/attributes to evaluate potential and qualified topic prototypes in Mandarin Chinese: 1) being nominal, 2) serving as an interclausal link, 3) being specific/referential, 4) occupying the sentence-initial/preverbal position, and 5) bearing no selectional relations to the predicative verb. He also tried to place emphasis on discourse topic, as opposed to Van Oosten’s study...


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