ERIC Number: ED204758
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1981-Mar
Some Thoughts on Theory and Discourse or How to Pamper the Explanation Seeking Child.
Mayher, John S.
An explanatory linguistic theory attempts to capture and explain the universal nature of human language, to choose among possible grammars of each human language, and to account for the linguistic constraints involved in language acquisition. Discourse theory, like linguistic theory, must be mentalistic in that it seeks to account for mental realities underlying the observed behaviors involved in creating or comprehending discourses. Part of the method of developing discourse generalization, categories, and rules and part of the method of testing them once formulated, is a frank reliance on the intuitions of native speakers about the properties of their discourse systems. Such a set of principles could be developed by at least three distinct routes: (1) philosophical--which starts with an "a priori" notion of the function of particular types of language use and then tries to develop a set of canonical principles which account for how that function is or is not achieved; (2) naturalistic--which observes actual situations of language use with limited prestructuring or manipulation; and (3) experimental--which includes manipulating the listener's role in a conversation, seeing how speakers cope with interruption or noise and looking at revising strategies when a writer or speaker is given a new audience with which to communicate. Until discourse production is reconceptualized as mental processes based on discourse competency systems, it will not be possible to understand what is happening when people use language. (HOD)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on English Education (19th, Anaheim, CA, March 19-21, 1981).