On Language and Consciousness
  • ISSN 0929-0907
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9943
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I begin by distinguishing constant properties of consciousness (a focus and periphery, constant movement, a point of view, and the need for background orientation) from variable properties (the different sources of conscious experience, immediacy vs. displacement, factuality vs. fictionality, degrees of interestingness, and verbality vs. nonverbality). Foci of active consciousness are seen as reflected in language in intonation units. Within them, ideas are expressed differently depending on their activation cost, characterizable in terms of given, accessible, or new information. By hypothesizing that each focus of consciousness is limited to one new idea, it is possible to achieve a clearer understanding of lexicalization and related phenomena. Coherent chunks of semiactive information are reflected in language as discourse topics, within which decisions regarding intermediate levels of coherence lead to sentences. Immediate and displaced consciousness have distinct properties, which are sometimes exploited by fiction writers with the pretense of displaced immediacy, a style of language that highlights a basic distinction between spatiotemporal adverbs and tense. It is concluded that we need to take consciousness seriously if we are to understand more fully a variety of linguistic phenomena, including pronouns, adverbs, conjunctions, tense, person, sentences, paragraphs, and prosody.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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