Relevance: Communication and Cognition, 2nd Edition
January 1996, Wiley-Blackwell
The book sets out to lay the foundation for a unified theory of cognitive science. The authors argue than human cognition has a goal: we pay attention only to information which seems to us relevant. To communicate is to claim someone's attention, and hence to imply that the information communicated is relevant. Thus, a single property - relevance is seen as the key to human communication and cognition.
A second important feature of the book is its approach to the study of reasoning. It elucidates the role of background or contextual information in spontaneous inference, and shows that non-demonstrative inference processes can be fruitfully analysed as a form of suitably constrained guesswork. It directly challenges recent claims that human central thought processes are likely to remain a mystery for some time to come.
Thirdly, the authors offer new insight into language and literature, radically revising current view on the nature and goals of verbal comprehension, and in particular on metaphor, irony, style, speech acts, presupposition and implicature.
List of symbols.
4. Aspects of Verbal Communication.
Notes to First Edition.
Notes to Second Edition.
Notes to Postface.
Dierdre Wilson is Reader in Linguistics at University College London, and the author of Presuppositions and Non-Truth-Conditional Semantics and Modern Linguistics: The Results of Chomsky's Revolution.
- sets out to lay the foundation for a unified theory of cognitive science
- elucidates the role of background or contextual information in spontaneous inference and shows that non-demonstrative inference processes can be analysed as a form of suitably constrained guesswork
- offers new insight into language and literature, radically revising current view on the nature and goals of verbal comprehension
- includes a new Preface outlining developments in Relevance Theory since 1986, discussing the more serious criticisms of the theory, and envisaging possible revisions or extensions.
‘Cognitive science is very often marred by demarcation disputes and protectionist attitudes which have little or no rational basis. Occasionally, however, it works as it should and a book appears which reaches across the bread and butter lines which institutional life forces upon us. Relevance is, I think, such a book.’ – Alan Leslie, Mind and Language.
‘The repercussions of Relevance are likely in the long run to be great – felt first, perhaps, in the pragmatics of conversation, the philosophy of language, and reader-response criticism, but also in many other activities: construction of memory models, pedagogy, machine learning and (doubtless) advertising and propaganda.’ – Alastair Fowler, London Review of Books
‘I recommend this book to people interested in linguistics, philosophy of language and pragmatics, and, definitely, to people who cultivate an interest in semiotics.’ – Umberto Eco, L’Expresso
‘This is probably the best book you’ll ever read on communication.’ – Rhetoric Society Quarterly