Under the Tumtum Tree

From nonsense to sense, a study in non-automatic comprehension

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Any informal discussion of a piece of nonsense literature produces highly varying interpretations which retain, however, a common core. It seemed, then, that nonsense would be a fertile base in the study of nonautomatic comprehension, i.e. comprehension where the word-meaning relations do not seem to be self-evident. And fertile it was! This monograph reports the results of a study into the nonautomatic functioning of the linguistic network which includes idiosyncratic as well as common, coded elements at all levels: semantic, syntactic, and phonetic as well as episodic. To carry it out, a number of adults and children were given nonsense texts to interpret. These interpretations were in turn analyzed as to the strategies applied toward the comprehension of those texts. Various examples of nonsense in mass media were also analyzed in the light of these findings.

Subjects: Semantics; Syntax

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