Relevance Theory in Action

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

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 28th, 2020, 5:54 pm

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.
Potentially perhaps? I know there is work on reaction time and brain activation and attempts to relate it to linguistic phenomenon, but when I think of a prototypical cognitive linguist like Langacker, I don't recall much attention paid to that.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Bible - a Few Resources

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 28th, 2020, 6:09 pm

Matthew Longhorn wrote:
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?
Sarah Casson has a recent dissertation doing an RT-analysis of γάρ in Romans. I've got a copy, but haven't really looked at it. (I've been distracted by the (definite) article.) She also has a book, Textual Signposts in the Argument of Romans. A Relevance-Theory Approach. (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2019), which I also haven't read, but its table of contents suggest that it is the published version of the thesis.
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Bible - a Few Resources

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 29th, 2020, 3:50 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
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?
I don’t believe that this one relies on processing effort or conceptual vs procedural, rather it relies on a view of echoic language use. Here are some papers / book chapters on it that I am too lazy to re-read right now :?

http://www.dan.sperber.fr/wp-content/up ... gIrony.pdf h
https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... patibility
https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... rpretation
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Bible - a Few Resources

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 29th, 2020, 4:01 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 6:09 pm

Sarah Casson has a recent dissertation doing an RT-analysis of γάρ in Romans. I've got a copy, but haven't really looked at it. (I've been distracted by the (definite) article.) She also has a book, Textual Signposts in the Argument of Romans. A Relevance-Theory Approach. (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2019), which I also haven't read, but its table of contents suggest that it is the published version of the thesis.
I read her thesis a while back and bought her book as well. For those who haven’t read it, here is her explanation (pg 67 of the thesis) This made me wince when I first came across it, but that said - she applies it throughout so you get used to it (not as bad as a recent explanation on participles I read from a non-RT view)
Following the procedural strengthening
hypothesis proposed by Blass, I assume that γάρ is a procedural indicator giving
processing instructions, in order to specify “the sort of inferential relation which the
utterance [it prefixes] enters into with existing contextual assumptions”.284 It indicates
that the assumptions it introduces “are meant to function as premises, backwards
confirming and strengthening” other assumptions.285 That is, when an interpreter comes
across γάρ, the connective triggers an automatic mental procedure that takes the
statement (or complex of assumptions) introduced by γάρ as a premise (which we will
refer to as Q) which strengthens a previously communicated assumption or proposition
(referred to in this study as P). It then searches for a contextual (implicit) assumption
(IA) to combine with Q in an inferential series which yields a conclusion (C) which
independently confirms P.286 This independent confirmation gives rise to the cognitive
effect of the strengthening of assumption P so that it is held more strongly as valid in
the interpreter’s mind. We will refer to this posited inferential procedure triggered by
γάρ as procedure G.
https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/ ... thesis.pdf
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Bible - a Few Resources

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 29th, 2020, 4:22 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 4:32 am
Matthew Longhorn wrote:
August 27th, 2020, 12:45 pm
2. Procedural / conceptual distinction.
Procedural meaning is intended to guide the reader to process the data in some way to help achieve optimal relevance. Rather than having a translational value that carries across languages, the lexeme primarily helps to constrain the cognitive processing into certain direction. γαρ and δε can be seen in this light. on the one hand γαρ supports the material it is related to by providing strengthening assumptions. δε indicates development in the discourse. Rather than focusing on lots of different meanings of these words, RT would argue that it is the constraint on our processing that should be seen as the key.
I like the notion of procedural meaning. For the (definite) article, I would say its procedural meaning is an instruction to identify the referent. The challenges I face are: how to identify procedural meaning, how to evaluate competing claims of procedures, and how to identify elements of English that have comparable procedural meanings to the Greek grams.

There is also a claim in the literature that the procedural meanings are relatively rigid, which leads to monosemy analyses, and the attendent issues with that.
Just bringing this one back up as it would be good to dig into this more when i have time
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Re: Relevance Theory in Action

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 29th, 2020, 10:38 am

Hopefully this won’t be seen as spamming but it is interesting in the context of this thread.
Two recent works, one by Hilber and the other by Hankore look at sections of the Old Testament from an RT framework. Interestingly, they both incorporate anthropological insights from modern cultures to help bring out some of the encyclopaedic content.
Hilber’s book is on the creation narratives in Genesis and he examines insights from “pre-scientific” cultures still around to see how they viewed the sky. They all consistently saw the sky as solid. He uses this to buttress the ANE evidence for the raqqiah
Hankore’s book is on the Dinah abduction story in the context of votive narrative. He examines the views of the Hadiyya people on vows to buttress his analysis of ANE texts on the meaning of vow.
Both authors argue for some level of similarity between the cultures they look at and the ANE cultures.

Just an interesting insight into how we could possibly incorporate modern anthropology, not just in missional/translational Areas, but also in exegesis. It would need to be done in care, but the benefit is if opening up possible encyclopaedic knowledge that we may otherwise overlook due to our western cognitive environment (speaking for me and a number of others, apologies to those on this board who aren’t in a western culture)

Hilber:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Old-Testament- ... =8-1-fkmr0

Hankore:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Abduction-Dina ... 07&sr=8-l1
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Bible - a Few Resources

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 29th, 2020, 11:47 pm

Matthew Longhorn wrote:
August 29th, 2020, 4:01 am
Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 6:09 pm

Sarah Casson has a recent dissertation doing an RT-analysis of γάρ in Romans. I've got a copy, but haven't really looked at it. (I've been distracted by the (definite) article.) She also has a book, Textual Signposts in the Argument of Romans. A Relevance-Theory Approach. (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2019), which I also haven't read, but its table of contents suggest that it is the published version of the thesis.
I read her thesis a while back and bought her book as well. For those who haven’t read it, here is her explanation (pg 67 of the thesis) This made me wince when I first came across it, but that said - she applies it throughout so you get used to it (not as bad as a recent explanation on participles I read from a non-RT view)
Following the procedural strengthening
hypothesis proposed by Blass, I assume that γάρ is a procedural indicator giving
processing instructions, in order to specify “the sort of inferential relation which the
utterance [it prefixes] enters into with existing contextual assumptions”.284 It indicates
that the assumptions it introduces “are meant to function as premises, backwards
confirming and strengthening” other assumptions.285 That is, when an interpreter comes
across γάρ, the connective triggers an automatic mental procedure that takes the
statement (or complex of assumptions) introduced by γάρ as a premise (which we will
refer to as Q) which strengthens a previously communicated assumption or proposition
(referred to in this study as P). It then searches for a contextual (implicit) assumption
(IA) to combine with Q in an inferential series which yields a conclusion (C) which
independently confirms P.286 This independent confirmation gives rise to the cognitive
effect of the strengthening of assumption P so that it is held more strongly as valid in
the interpreter’s mind. We will refer to this posited inferential procedure triggered by
γάρ as procedure G.
https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/ ... thesis.pdf
Thanks for this. I haven't looked at it closely but it raises a host of questions in my mind. Some of them I suppose might be answerable by reading her thesis in full and with great care, but I'll shoot them off anyway.

Is there is a difference between triggering a mental procedure in the hearer's mind or, rather what seems more natural to me, communicating instructions to the hearer to do something? If the former, where do these mental procedures come from, and how can they be identified? How are they taught? I would assume most people would have learned them somehow from examples. If the latter, the instruction communicated by the particle would be something like: use this statement to strengthen some salient, mutually manifest proposition.

It is also unclear whether strengthening is a goal or a side-effect of the connective γάρ. If the former, the procedural meaning of γάρ can simply be an instruction to use the statement it introduces to strenghten a previous proposition. If the latter, it sounds like the actual goal is to the identify some implicit assumption and apply the statement introduced by the connective to it. This would have the side-effect of strengthening the proposition. In that case, how did Casson manage to discover that γάρ is really about the implicit assumption, rather than the strengthening? Does the implicit assumption manifest itself in other ways? Or is it some deus ex machina?

I realize these questions may well be unanswerable, and I'm not necessarily asking anyone to answer them. But these are the thoughts and questions that are running through my head when I read this excerpt.
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Relevance Theory in Action

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 30th, 2020, 1:42 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 29th, 2020, 11:47 pm
Is there is a difference between triggering a mental procedure in the hearer's mind or, rather what seems more natural to me, communicating instructions to the hearer to do something? If the former, where do these mental procedures come from, and how can they be identified? How are they taught? I would assume most people would have learned them somehow from examples. If the latter, the instruction communicated by the particle would be something like: use this statement to strengthen some salient, mutually manifest proposition.
I would also need to go back and read through more carefully, so everything here is just my hazy memory from wider reading though. I think that communicating instructions and triggering a mental procedure are close to synonymous. They are definitely taught, and not something that is just inherent in our minds, in fact there is some argument that all words are procedural to some extent, with words denoting concepts having a procedural instruction to process in that manner.
I mentioned previously some work on experimental pragmatics. I am likely to butcher it here, but one finding was that things like evidential particles in some languages are easier for a child to grasp than the conceptual content, and are actually learned earlier. This indicates that possibly there is a cognitive basis to procedural accounts, even if the precise procedures need to be learned

Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 29th, 2020, 11:47 pm
It is also unclear whether strengthening is a goal or a side-effect of the connective γάρ. If the former, the procedural meaning of γάρ can simply be an instruction to use the statement it introduces to strenghten a previous proposition. If the latter, it sounds like the actual goal is to the identify some implicit assumption and apply the statement introduced by the connective to it. This would have the side-effect of strengthening the proposition. In that case, how did Casson manage to discover that γάρ is really about the implicit assumption, rather than the strengthening? Does the implicit assumption manifest itself in other ways? Or is it some deus ex machina?
I am not too sure I understand this question, can you clarify?
I think that Casson and others would say that the series of assumptions leading to strengthening need not be a conscious process. It is automatic and on the fly sonto speak without remembering the proper terminology (online processing?).
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Relevance Theory in Action

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 30th, 2020, 1:56 am

So far we have kept the conversation quite abstract, perhaps we could narrow in on a particular text and see how the RT concepts could be applied? The thread is RT in action, and I am not sure we have quite got there yet

Representation / Metarepresentation
Weak / strong resemblance
Echoic representation
Irony

Concepts
Lexical
encyclopaedic
logical
Ad-hoc
Procedures
Non conceptual
Cognitive processing constraints

Lexical broadening / narrowing
Metaphor

Cognitive environment
Mutually manifest information

Happy to go with John 20:28 (got obsessed by the verse a long time back), or another.
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Bible - a Few Resources

Post by Matthew Longhorn » August 30th, 2020, 2:18 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 4:32 am
Matthew Longhorn wrote:
August 27th, 2020, 12:45 pm
2. Procedural / conceptual distinction.
Procedural meaning is intended to guide the reader to process the data in some way to help achieve optimal relevance. Rather than having a translational value that carries across languages, the lexeme primarily helps to constrain the cognitive processing into certain direction. γαρ and δε can be seen in this light. on the one hand γαρ supports the material it is related to by providing strengthening assumptions. δε indicates development in the discourse. Rather than focusing on lots of different meanings of these words, RT would argue that it is the constraint on our processing that should be seen as the key.
...
There is also a claim in the literature that the procedural meanings are relatively rigid, which leads to monosemy analyses, and the attendent issues with that.
I think that rigidity of procedural meaning is a reasonable assumption, so long as it doesn't become over dogmatic. It would seem to follow that if something isn't subject to processes like lexical broadening and narrowing and the creation of ad-hoc concepts then stability would follow. It also seems reasonable given that people want to communicate properly, and these procedural meanings are meant to facilitate that.
That said... I think it would be more reasonable to see them as being subject to much slower change than words with conceptual meanings. People adapt language all the time so I can't believe that processes similar to those leading to semantic bleaching wouldn't apply, although i recognise that I am only extremely vaguely familiar with this area.

I am reading a chapter by Benjamin L. Lappenga on monosemic bias from an RT perspective
https://brill.com/view/book/97890043024 ... &result=12
A while back I majorly gaffed stating that monosemy was a common default for RT. Work similar to Lappenga's was where I was taking that from. Someone at the time joked that perhaps monosemy is polysemic.
Lappenga states (page 8-9)
I argue that a pragmatic approach based on Paul Grice’s maxim that “senses are not to be multiplied beyond necessity” offers a solution that is more promising than approaches to word studies based solely on semantic considerations. In other words, to correct the problems brought about by the proliferation of senses and to encourage thorough exegesis of the
discourse in which a word is found,11 NT scholars should exhaust the possibility of monosemy for a given word (or word group) before resorting to lexical polysemy
He continues
To use the example provided above, syntactical and literary considerations suggest that the translation “love is not jealous” is appropriate in 1 Cor 13:4 (ἡ ἀγάπη οὐ ζηλοῖ) and that the translation “be zealous” is appropriate in 12:31
and 14:1. The question that will be pursued in this chapter, however, is whether this is because ζηλόω has distinct lexical senses that can be identified by the immediate syntactical context (disambiguation based on the assumption
of polysemy), or whether Paul’s ‘reader’ (as defined below) constructs these meanings in the moment using a single ‘grab-bag’ of mental items (memories, mental images, pieces of encyclopedic and/or anecdotal information, etc.)
associated with ζηλόω (ad hoc enrichment of a univocal lexical meaning). The latter, I will argue, takes more seriously the mental processes involved in the communicative event and helps explain the strategic repetition of words
(‘staging’)13 and subsequent identity-making that Paul pursues in several of his letters.14
If he is correct that we have a congitive bias towards monosemy in words denoting concepts then that could help to strengthen the view of a relatively strong rigidity in procedural meanings. I have his book on the way and need to finish this chapter anyway, so may be clearer on that myself by the end

Stephen Carlson wrote:
August 28th, 2020, 4:32 am
I like the notion of procedural meaning. For the (definite) article, I would say its procedural meaning is an instruction to identify the referent. The challenges I face are: how to identify procedural meaning, how to evaluate competing claims of procedures, and how to identify elements of English that have comparable procedural meanings to the Greek grams.
I think the question of how to identify the correct procedural meaning is an important one and it is one that I struggle over. It seems that the only answer is contextual readings, hypothesis formation, re-application to the texts to see if it accounts for all or at least the vast majority of the evidence. It can make fairly tedious reading though, going through each example and then explaining how the same procedure applies. I just don't think that that is something people like me with a passing interest and a still growing competency in reading Greek can do.
I also get worried with RT that sometimes it finds what it wants to find. It then makes the question - is that because the theory is genuinely powerful and can account for human communication well, or is it because of another less sound reason. To some extent I would expect a good theory of communication to apply across the board pretty well, and to make some pretty self-evident statements. It is just a concern I have
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