Processing Narrative Coherence: Towards a Top-Down Model of Discourse

Authors Erica Cosentino, Ines Adornetti, Francesco Ferretti

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Erica Cosentino
Ines Adornetti
Francesco Ferretti

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Erica Cosentino, Ines Adornetti, and Francesco Ferretti. Processing Narrative Coherence: Towards a Top-Down Model of Discourse. In 2013 Workshop on Computational Models of Narrative. Open Access Series in Informatics (OASIcs), Volume 32, pp. 61-75, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2013)


Models of discourse and narration elaborated within the classical compositional framework have been characterized as bottom-up models, according to which discourse analysis proceeds incrementally, from phrase and sentence local meaning to discourse global meaning. In this paper we will argue against these models. Assuming as a case study the issue of discourse coherence, we suggest that the assessment of coherence is a top-down process, in which the construction of a situational interpretation at the global meaning level guides local meaning analysis. In support of our hypothesis, we explore the role of executive functions (brain functions involved in planning and organization of goal-oriented behaviors) in coherence's establishment, discussing the results of several studies on narrative abilities of patients with brain injuries. We suggest that, compared to other models of discourse processing focused on comprehension, our model is a viable candidate for an integrated account of discourse comprehension and production.
  • discourse processing
  • coherence
  • executive functions


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