Relevance Theory in Action

Biblical Greek morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Relevance Theory in Action

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 28th, 2020, 5:00 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 4:27 am
Yeah, I've seen this in the literature. It feels on one level right, if not trivially true, especially the first sentence, but at another, more actionable level, it's not clear how to move forward. For example, I'm not aware of any way to measure these cognitive effects and processing effort. Thus, it's like asking me to compare X and Y, without telling me the values of X and Y. It's not an insurmountable problem. You can do, for example, economic reasoning without knowing all the values, at least precisely.
Have you seen work on experimental pragmatics by the likes of Noveck? I am wondering whether it is in principle experimentally possible to do work on processing effort in modern languages that exhibit the same phenomena. An example being the use of the article or not. Admittedly it would not be definitive, and certainly not something an exegete could do on the fly, but it would be something that could be more objectively analysed in this manner
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Bible - a Few Resources

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 28th, 2020, 5:10 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 4:27 am
Matthew Longhorn wrote:
August 27th, 2020, 12:45 pm
With γαρ - we can look at whether it sheds light on the mental state of the audience - does it show that they may doubt something, whether they may not be aware of key information etc thus weakening the effect of the main premise
There are two aspects here. One is how to do an RT analysis of γάρ. The other is how to use a competent RT analysis (by someone else) of γάρ. We can probably look at particular treatments to see how useful they are.
Agreed on this. I would suggest that an analysis is possible on an ad-hoc basis by looking initially to see the range of meanings provided by the lexicons. I suspect that a common theme could be identified in this manner, but it would require looking at the examples on a case by case basis to identify that theme. With γαρ for example, the sheer number of suggested meanings could be indicative of an issue with the understanding of it, thus requiring a more procedural account. If we were to imagine another word to be analysed, we can assess whether a procedural or conceptual meaning best fits. If procedural then we can look at how it assists with information processing / constrains the range of possible interpretations. I will try to dig out an example that I am pretty sure I have seen in BDAG worth analysing and take a punt at an initial suggestion.


Margaret Sim's book "A relevant way to read" gives some examples with ευθυς as far as I can remember. I have it on kindle and perhaps we can look at that?
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Relevance Theory in Action

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 28th, 2020, 5:50 am

This is something that I wrote a long time back and needed significant work. An example though of how I thought I could start an RT analysis of John 20:28. As an start, please forgive wording and bad examples / understanding. I knocked it together in an hour early into my reading on RT and it would need significant work


John 20:28 and Relevance Theory
How naïve an interpreter of the scriptures are you? How much do you critically examine your assumptions when reading the Bible and why would you need to?
What is the Bible:
The Bible is an act of communication from God for his church, outlining amongst other things his plan for salvation and the revelation of himself to his people. As an act of communication we need to understand how communication works, it is by doing this that we understand a crucial point: the Bible was written for us, but it was not written to us. Given this simple fact, we cannot afford to be naïve interpreters we need to be cautious optimists of the Scriptures
One theory of communication that is growing in influence is Relevance Theory. This theory looks at one side of the communicative act being that of the person conveying a message; it is an act of the communicator signalling that they are presenting a message and providing a message that is worth the time and effort of the recipient understanding. The other side of the communicative act is how we as recipients are biologically geared to interpreting a message – we will take the path of least resistance to achieve an understanding that provides enough pay-off to justify the effort of processing it. All things being equal, we as recipients of an act of communication will spend the least effort to derive enough effects that seem to meet the purpose of the communicator interacting with us; at this point we stop processing and searching for other meanings. The important corollary of this is that we expect the communicator to give enough information to minimise our processing effort and yet provide enough effects to make it worth our time and not go beyond this unless they expect additional effects to be triggered. We also expect that the message will not contain absolutely every bit of information encoded in the words used, we expect to have to flesh out the explicit content of the message beyond its wording and then to supply the reason for what has been stated to us. Communication is therefore is an endeavour shared between the communicator and the recipient; without input from both these parties there is no communication.
An example of the complexity of communication from my recent trip to a very wet and windy Madeira:
Whilst standing outside the hotel waiting for the driver of the bus to the airport I was surrounded by people talking in a different language. Eventually one of them started counting with his finger the people standing outside, after he counted me (standing silent to one side) he spoke the word “English”.
English is a noun or an adjective, it can mean a number of things e.g. the English language, the English nationality. What helped me understand this as a question and not a single noun was the tone of voice used – with a slight uplift in the tone. Even at this point of understanding “English” to be a question, the communication was not complete; I still needed to mentally supply more information to what was actually spoken to make the question make any sense. In this context I packed it out to convey the following message: “Are you English?”.
At this point I could have stopped processing and responded yes and patiently waited until something more came to help me understand what this question was asked. In this context however I recognised that the act of speaking to me and asking this question was meant to signify something more, I needed to further unpack the question to provide enough effects to make it worth us communicating. I understood the question to go beyond what was said to actually have the following effect: Should I speak to you in English? This was not present in the actual words, nor was it present in the padded-out version of these words, it was something that I needed to derive from the act of the person speaking to make it worth me processing what he asked me.
Even here my processing of the act of communication did not stop. I was waiting for a bus and there was no obvious driver around me. The act of communication in the context that I was in went beyond the message itself and triggered more effects: that speaking to this person would be in some way worth my time, the act of very obviously counting the people standing outside and then immediately speaking to me had the effect of me accurately believing this to be the bus driver.
Note what has happened in this situation:
1. I have heard a single noun spoken with a tone that normally accompanies a question in England
2. Recognising this as an intentional act of communication I expanded the words to provide a more complete message: “[Do you speak] English”
3. I searched for meaning / intention beyond the message found in my padded-out version and assumed the following:
a. The person wants to know if I speak English so that we can communicate if I do in my language
b. This person seems to think there is some purpose in us speaking in English. His act in the context of obviously counting the people waiting for the bus and then looking at me and speaking to me conveyed the effect that this may be the bus driver
c. A further effect was that this may not be a social inquiry to strike up casual conversation – there was an expectation in the context of a relationship of bus driver to passenger
From a single word spoken aloud in a specific context a cascade of almost instantaneous processes were kicked off resulting in a mutual understanding before we moved to my reply – “Yes”. At this point the process continued with a new increased mutually understood context developed.
From the driver’s perspective he could have asked a much longer question to explicitly convey all of the above: “I am the bus driver, are you English and if so should be speak in this language so that we can understand each other?”. If I were not English this would be almost entirely incomprehensible to me, with perhaps the only word understood being the noun “English” itself. This may have been enough to evoke a response, but the effort of processing the spoken words would have been larger than necessary. Even as an English speaker, the content of the actual message used was easy to process and had enough effects to make it worth this person speaking to me. I didn’t search for more meaning than this, e.g. to expect that the conversation could be about the local football scores, that perhaps the person was interested in English politics, or even just wanted to practice speaking in English. I stopped processing, provided a response and moved on; in other words I found the message given to me to be relevant.
What’s the point of this?
The purpose of the above example was to show that communicating a message involves a huge amount more than simply decoding the words used. Communication involves a number of processes working in parallel including :
1. Assigning a given concept to a word with multiple possible meanings (disambiguation)
2. Packing out words used to provide a fuller propositional message (free-enrichment)
3. Application of referents to words requiring contextual information to have a proper concept evoked (saturation)
4. Modification of words in such a way as to restrict or broaden the meaning
5. Assigning an intended purpose for the communication - then working out why that message may be worth my time and effort to process; I expect the speaker to explicitly provide only the information necessary to aid these processes and if more is provided I expect there to be more pay-off for having to process it.
The Bible is an act of communication, but it is an act of communication that was initially in a specific social and historical context and between a communicator and a set of intended recipients. As an act of communication we should expect the person conveying the message to only provide the explicit wording needed to convey wording that provides enough effects with as little processing as needed to understand the fuller message. The initial recipients, in the language of Relevance Theory could expect to be naïve interpreters, they assume that this is what was given. We are not those initial recipients, we are people in a different social and historical context which can alter how we understand a message. We also are in a different linguistic context where we are not familiar with the same possible range of meanings of words used in the Greek and Hebrew, nor are we familiar with how they are often used together to convey a specific sense. We can also not expect Greek and Hebrew grammar to conform to the norms of modern English. In other words we cannot expect the same level of easy processing to get to a proper understanding of the words written as the original recipients, we need to be more sophisticated in our understanding.

John 20:28 and Relevance Theory – context, wording and grammar

Using John 20:28 as a test case for the need to be sophisticated in our understanding of scripture can be profitable. John 20:28 contains twelve Greek words. Five of these words narrate the introduction of Thomas’ words to Jesus, the remaining seven words are the words reportedly used by Thomas to Jesus.
In English these words are rendered in the 1984 NIV as
“Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Note straight away that the NIV has reduced the number of words used to merely nine English words. The NASB on the other hand provides the following translation:
Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Even here the number of words is not precise. There are eleven words in this translation, with two of them actually (correctly) representing just one Greek word – “…to Him”. Using the NASB as a base translation for this verse I have provided the two missing words below using a common word used in their translation.
Thomas answered and said to Him, “[The] My Lord and [the] my God!”

Processing effort
In discussing relevance theory it was noted that processing effort is one key element in acts of communication between two parties Processing effort can be defined as “…mental effort needed to construct representations of the world, to retrieve information stored in memory or to draw inferences” . The recipient expects their processing effort to be minimised where more than one option exists for conveying the same message with the same effects.
In introducing Thomas’ words, the NIV has reduced the processing effort in comparison to the NASB by removing what could (and has) been seen as redundant words – “…answered and…”. What is the impact of this:
The introduction to Thomas’ words:
According to relevance theory, additional processing effort should trigger the search for additional effects by the recipient. The Greek and the NASB could have just stated “Thomas answered” or alternatively focusing on the other word used like the NIV did “Thomas said”. This would reduce the introduction by a number of words seemingly redundant: The additional verb of communication, the conjunction “and” and finally the prepositional phrase “to him”. That that this is not what is written should lead us to expect some significance in the use of the extra wording. A break down of these effects is given below:
Starting with the extra verb of communication we find that Thomas seemingly unnecessarily used two words conveying roughly the same thing. The NIV following a specific translation theory has boiled this down to reduce the redundancy thereby reducing processing effort for English readers.
In removing the extra verb the NIV has made some assumptions:
a. The verb translated as “answered” is a verb of communication in this context as is the verb “said”
b. The voice form of the verb rendered as “answered”, despite being in a different form (passive voice) than the verb “said” (active voice) is not really functioning correctly. In grammatical language, it is often called deponent – it uses the passive form when it actually means the same as an active form. Commentaries and lexicons often state “passive in form, active in meaning”.
c. “…said to him” in the context of John 20:28 implies “…answered him” and therefore both verbs do not need to be present as they say the convey thing.
d. The moods of the verbs used are not significant.
Examining these assumptions from a relevance-theoretic perspective and from the light of modern grammatical / linguistic analysis reveals some interesting conclusions. The breakdown below will follow the order of the points above.
a. The verb translated as “answered” need not convey speech. The verb can also be translated as “respond”. This can clearly be seen in contexts where one person “answers/responds” to another’s action where no words have been used. The verbs used in the introduction to Thomas’ words could have two completely different domains of meaning in this context: “mentally or emotionally responding” and “vocally providing an answer”. I shall opt for “respond” in part lexically but also contextually and given the form of the verb used, as discussed in point b below.
Contextually Jesus has just (seemingly despite a closed/locked door) appeared amongst the disciples, blessed them and then turned to Thomas and told him to touch his side and his hands. Jesus finishes with the command to no longer be faithless but to have faith. In this context response to this collocation of events and a command to have a change in attitude warrants a view of Thomas “responding”.
b. The word translated as “answered” is not actually in a passive voice. The confusion has been caused by viewing Greek as a language primarily having a similar oppositional framework of voice as English: Active and Passive with Greek having the additional middle voice. More recent work by scholars such as Rutger Allen has highlighted than in the aorist tense the voice form used is actually a middle/passive form where there is a range of meaning. Rachel Aubrey has used the concept of the middle/passive being a move away from an volitive active-transitive prototype. This move encompasses such things as spontaneous processes, mental or emotional processes. In the context of John 20:28 then the meaning of “respond” would indicate a non-volitional mental or emotional (or both) reaction to the context. This is in contrast to the more volitional verb “said”
c. John could have introduced Thomas’ words with only one word, leaving out either “said” or “respond”, however the use of an additional word when one may have been enough should suggest additional effects. In this instance, the increase in processing leads up to Thomas’ words and therefore conveys the need to search for additional effects in what Thomas says. The effect is of heightening the expectation of the importance of the words used by Thomas; to put this linguistically – it adds salience.
By omitting the extra verb used in the introduction (quotative frame) to Thomas’ words, the NIV has reduced the salience of Thomas’ response to Jesus. The English reader is not subjected to the additional processing effort that would suggest a search for extra effects is required, instead they are provided with a simpler introduction. This simpler introduction is pragmatically weaker than the Greek used and therefore ought to be considered a less effective translation than the more word-for-word translation in the NASB.
d. The Greek in John 20:28 utilises two verbs in the indicative mood; the indicative mood provides a representation capable of being applied to reality. Whilst not always referring to reality the mood provides a representation that is stronger than the other moods in Greek such as the subjunctive or the participle.
The fact that both “responded” and “said” are in the indicative mood suggests that these two verbs are to be seen as given equal weight in the discourse. That the NIV has opted to retain the word “said” suggests an (unconscious?) lowering of the salience in the word “respond” even if that were to be translated as “answered”. Perhaps this stems from the fact that often in John we find the word “respond” in the participial mood which is often used to background the lexical information encoded in the word. Here John does not use this form and instead places both verbs in the indicative, requiring both to be afforded equal weight by the interpreter.

Relevance theory can also shed some light on an additional aspect of the introduction to Thomas’ words, namely the phrase “to him”. In English, the phrase “to him” is a prepositional phrase using the preposition “to” to convey the direction of speech with the pronoun “him” as the recipient. The Greek actually has a simplified version here with no preposition used and merely the pronoun “him” in the dative form, here indicating the recipient of the action of speaking. The effect of using the dative pronoun is to reduce the effort involved in processing the full noun “Jesus”, given that he is already introduced in the context, has just spoken and is being responded to by Thomas. The notion of accessibility is in play here – it is not enough to simply say that Jesus was in the context; psychologically this means that Jesus was mentally activated as content which can be assigned to the pronoun. This reduction in processing effort also leads to a reduction in the cognitive effects, the focus is not so much on Jesus here as it is on Thomas’ words. If the wording were “Thomas answered and said to Jesus” the relative focus would have been shared between the heightened salience of the quotative frame and the recipient of the speech. As it is, Jesus’ role at this point is reduced.
The dative pronoun has the additional effect of constraining the interpretation of Thomas’ words as being spoken to Jesus. This should be obvious but it needs pointing out given unitarian understandings of this verse that suggest Thomas uttered an oath to God. The use of a pronoun is a procedural marker that relies on the context to provide any conceptual meaning, in other words, in different contexts it will apply to different referents. Here the referent that makes sense and limits processing effort is provided in the context and must be taken to mean Jesus in the absence of other procedural or conceptual clues.
That a pronoun reduces processing effort despite the requirement for its referent to be supplied by the hearer can be seen by frequency of occurrence. The frequency that words or expressions are used suggests the ease of processing involved; assuming the communicative principle of relevance if an expression is used more frequently than another then we can assume it is easier to process.

Up to this point the focus has been on the presence of additional wording to increase pragmatic effects. Relevance Theory does not require that additional coding be present to increase processing effort and therefore expected cognitive effects, the lack of explicit cohesion markers (called asyndeton) can also produce such an effect. A cohesion (or discourse) marker is a word or phrase that helps the unit of discourse be processed more easily, this could be through providing additional constraints on the interpreter so that they are prompted down the path intended by the communicator. An example of a cohesion marker in Greek would be the presence of the word δέ which indicates a progression in the narrative. In John 20:28 no such marker is present, thus requiring the interpreter to mentally provide the relevant constraint to the discourse and reject others. In the context of John 20:28 the Greek could have simply been “ὁ δέ”, with the use of the article ὁ referring as a shorthand to Thomas and δέ providing an indicator of cohesion and progression in the narrative. Instead, Thomas is introduced with the full noun phrase here with no discourse marker rather than the easier to process article + discourse marker; this introduction therefore provides a level of salience to Thomas that would not have been present otherwise.
It is often suggested in the literature that the absence of the article with a noun already introduced violates a norm of the Greek, it is this violation that causes a search for additional effects. From the perspective of Relevance Theory there need not be a notion of violating norms of speech. The lack of article accompanying “Thomas” would suggest a search for reference assignment is required – namely: which Thomas. If the article were used, the processing would be reduced with the reader being constrained in their interpretation to refer back to the Thomas mentioned in the context. Despite the context being clear as to which Thomas is involved the lack of article does increase the processing slightly and perhaps almost imperceptibly. It needs to be noted that the notion of processing effort does not require a marked shift in difficulty, small almost imperceptible shifts can be enough to trigger a corresponding (subconscious) search for small increases in the pay-off from the speech.
Despite the discussion above, I believe that Relevance Theory can accommodate the idea of norm violation in its framework. If there is a standardised convention on how to speak a shift away from that standard would require a reader to question why this has been done. The expectations which the reader bring to the text are said in Relevance Theory to have an impact on the way that they construct explicatures and implicatures. If the reader’s expectations of how the discourse will be structured are violated then their corresponding expected interpretation may no longer be as easy. In this way, it could be argued that the expectations of the reader in John 20:28 have been violated and a search for a reason why may be initiated. Another reason that norm-violation may not be an issue for Relevance Theory to account for, is that on an RT account the norm would have been created because of the optimisation of relevance that that means of expression had.

A recap of the introduction to Thomas’ words :
Thomas is introduced with a full noun phrase shifting attention from Jesus to Thomas, no article was used before his name to help the reader with reference assignment. Just as there is no aid in reference assignment, there is no discourse marker used to help the reader process the intended direction of the discourse. At this point, Thomas is portrayed as both responding and saying something to Jesus; the fact that two verbs were used when John could have focussed on just one and left the other implicit suggests a desire to heighten the effects of what is spoken by Thomas. The use of two different verbs does not require complete redundancy in meaning. Jesus is referred to here with the dative pronoun rather than his name; this reduces the search for the relevance of Jesus in this context and focusses instead on the words that Thomas is about to speak.


Thomas’ words (incomplete):
Thomas words provide additional fruitful ground for applying relevance theory in the investigation of their meaning. Thomas utters a mere seven Greek words to convey his message, and yet the Greek could have been more economical than this thus suggesting a need to search for additional cognitive effects.
The Greek of Thomas’ words with a very wooden word-for-word gloss below is as follows:
ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου
The Lord of me and the God of me
We can analyse these words by first identifying what they convey, seeing what effects they produce and then seeing if there is a way of expressing this message that requires less processing effort whilst giving the same effects.

LXX background
κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Relevance Theory in Action

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » August 28th, 2020, 6:09 am

phpBB is so old fashioned that it sucks, why must quoting a sentece from a post be so difficult, modern forum software can automatically add a selected text from another post as a quote. Anyways, Stephen Carlson wrote:For example, I'm not aware of any way to measure these cognitive effects and processing effort.
I don't know about this situation, but in general cognitive linguistics is one of the few - or even the only? - frameworks where things can be measured objectively. For example reaction time or brain activation.
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Bible - a Few Resources

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 28th, 2020, 8:07 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 4:32 am
I wonder if achieving optimal relevance requires certain assumptions about the shared context between the author and the first readers, a context that we longer have anything like a direct access to.
Unfortunately true, however the instance that communication needs to go beyond the code model and recognise the role of implicit information and free-enrichment is important. It shows at least that there is a need to understand the background as well as we can and to make informed judgement. I am thinking of NT Wright here (not getting into whether his analyses are correct). This also leaves us open to evolving understanding of the text as more material comes to light
The problem of naive optimism is real, especially for casual readers of the Bible. Words get assigned the meanings that we give in English, and that our culture suggests and we treat the Bible as if it were written to us, rather than for us (thinking Walton here. I did email him once asking if he was using relevance theory as a lot of his work aligns with it. He indicated a broad level of support for the theory but doesn't want his work to be linguistic in nature). The idea of marriage being one, I assume in many instances.
I don't think that what I have said in this post is too controversial, and it almost seems self-evident to me, however sometimes it is nice to have something that is fairly obvious backed up by a theoretical framework
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Relevance Theory in Action

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 28th, 2020, 8:08 am

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 6:09 am
phpBB is so old fashioned that it sucks, why must quoting a sentece from a post be so difficult, modern forum software can automatically add a selected text from another post as a quote. Anyways, Stephen Carlson wrote:For example, I'm not aware of any way to measure these cognitive effects and processing effort.
I don't know about this situation, but in general cognitive linguistics is one of the few - or even the only? - frameworks where things can be measured objectively. For example reaction time or brain activation.
Eli - just highlight the portion of text in their post and hit the quotation mark on their post. Unless I am misunderstanding you, that will achieve what you want
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Bible - a Few Resources

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 28th, 2020, 8:16 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 4:41 am

Yes, mutually manifest is also a component of non-RT, semantic accounts of the article (namely Hawkins 1978, but Lucas 2011 recasts it into a RT framework).

...
I've seen two RT accounts of the procedural meaning of the article, Caso 2009 and Lucas 2011. They do differ from one another.
...
Matthew Longhorn wrote:
August 27th, 2020, 12:45 pm
I have wondered whether this could be the reason for dropping an article on reintroduction of a participant in a dialogue where not expected. The audience has to assign the referent again rather than being told it is the same one guided by the presence article. This mental processing change leads to an expected pay off in terms of cognitive effects.
That would be part of the explanation I suppose, though the cognitive effects are very unclear to me.
I didn't know mutually manifest was used in wider linguistic theories. One of the problems of having to work for a living and not dedicate my time to study. To modify an expression used for Greek - I have just enough linguistics to be dangerous

I personally really like Lucas' views on this. It doesn't fully work for Greek, but I presume that that is just that they are on different stages of the grammaticalisation pathway (I think that that is the term). Greek has moved to a point where they are used to code for case in articular infinitive expressions for example, and English doesn't. That said, I think a number of his points work


Re the cognitive effects being unclear, nice to know I have company :) , however perhaps assessing on whether it is a reinforcement, negation or new contextual assumption at least gives us a framework to analyse possible effects and their implications for the potential cognitive state of the addressee?
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Relevance Theory in Action

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 28th, 2020, 8:41 am

This paper is worth reading by the way.
http://bagl.org/files/volume6/BAGL_6-4_Bullock.pdf
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Relevance Theory in Action

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 28th, 2020, 5:34 pm

Matthew Longhorn wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 5:00 am
Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 4:27 am
Yeah, I've seen this in the literature. It feels on one level right, if not trivially true, especially the first sentence, but at another, more actionable level, it's not clear how to move forward. For example, I'm not aware of any way to measure these cognitive effects and processing effort. Thus, it's like asking me to compare X and Y, without telling me the values of X and Y. It's not an insurmountable problem. You can do, for example, economic reasoning without knowing all the values, at least precisely.
Have you seen work on experimental pragmatics by the likes of Noveck? I am wondering whether it is in principle experimentally possible to do work on processing effort in modern languages that exhibit the same phenomena. An example being the use of the article or not. Admittedly it would not be definitive, and certainly not something an exegete could do on the fly, but it would be something that could be more objectively analysed in this manner
I'm not familiar with that work per se (thanks for the tip), but I have read the occasional journal article in other areas of experimental linguistics, such as processing polysemy. The results tend to be hard to interpret since they rarely directly correspond to our theoretical construct. Of course, with no native speaker of Koine left, experiments on speakers of other language can only really be of collateral interest. I do have to say that, unless I'm mistaken, RT wasn't really designed to account to direct experiment evidence, so things like "processing effort" need not correlate to anything empirical.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Bible - a Few Resources

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 28th, 2020, 5:37 pm

Matthew Longhorn wrote:
August 27th, 2020, 12:45 pm
5. Notions of verbal irony being the representation of a belief and a distancing from it.
When assessing irony in a text, we don’t need to see it as the author saying the opposite of what they really believe. RT sees irony as the representation of a belief / statement that is plausible to imagine someone holding / saying. It is then a distancing oneself from it. In this sense, Paul speaking of the idea that “all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful” doesn’t have to be representing the thoughts and beliefs of the audience and therefore their sayings, although it could be. What is key is that he represents a view that they can imagine someone saying “all things are lawful for me” and distances himself from it in some way.
This is an interesting example. The claim as summarized is plausible, but how do you get to it using the specific insights and tools of RT? Where does processing effort come in? Conceptual vs. procedural meaning?
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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