Vol. 8:1 (2010) ► pp.19–65
Relevance-theoretical versus pragmatic and cognitive approaches to coherence
Discourse coherence can be approached as one of the variables that allow both the writer and the reader to cope with the meaning of texts. It will be hypothesised that this is possible because coherence integrates both cognitive and textual aspects. In fact, most of contemporary linguistic and pragmatic theories have laid emphasis on the need to go beyond the sentence and enter into the realms of text and discourse so as to grasp meaning. Hence, meaning results from an ongoing process of negotiation among language users. An important consequence of this is the need to approach discourse formation and comprehension as a cognitive process, which in turn entails that the notion of coherence, as the key defining trait of discourse and of texture, must also be cognitively grounded. It is for this reason that a cognitive approach to interpersonal communication, like the one supplied by relevance theory, appears to be in a position to provide suitable proposals for the explanation of the production, processing and interpretation of discourse. This paper will therefore aim to examine critically the proposals on coherence contributed in the framework of relevance theory and assess them in relation with other discourse and cognitive approaches. Its main underlying contention is that these proposals are best understood as complementary rather than mutually excluding.
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