Научная статья на тему 'Cognitive dissonance in fiction: interpreting grammar-related issues'

Cognitive dissonance in fiction: interpreting grammar-related issues Текст научной статьи по специальности «Языкознание и литературоведение»

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Ключевые слова
ДЕТСКАЯ ЛИТЕРАТУРА / CHILDREN'S LITERATURE / КОГНИТИВНЫЙ ДИССОНАНС / COGNITIVE DISSONANCE / ВНУТРИТЕКСТОВЫЙ КОНФЛИКТ / КОНФЛИКТ / CONFLICT / ВИЗУАЛЬНЫЕ ГРАФИЧЕСКИЕ ЭФФЕКТЫ В ПЕЧАТНОМ ТЕКСТЕ / VISUAL EFFECTS IN PRINTED TEXT / ПРАВОПИСАНИЕ / SPELLING / ШРИФТ / CONFLICT-IN-TEXT / SCRIPT

Аннотация научной статьи по языкознанию и литературоведению, автор научной работы — Klimik V.A., Salkova M.A.

The paper is concerned with interpreting grammar-related issues of literary text in the view of conflict-in-text phenomenon. The research is based on the postulates of cognitive and communicative linguistics, and the studies of cognitive dissonance. We have worked out a taxonomy of spelling-related issues with regard to their conflict-triggering properties, and a possible guideline for their interpretation. The findings of this research can be applied to developing children’s reading motivation. This research is topical in modern Russia’s multicultural society, as its findings can help promote a more comfortable and efficient communicative environment.

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КОГНИТИВНЫЙ ДИССОНАНС И ГРАФИКО-ОРФОГРАФИЧЕСКИЕ ОСОБЕННОСТИ ХУДОЖЕСТВЕННОГО ТЕКСТА

В статье рассматриваются вопросы, связанные с некоторыми особенностями графического оформления и нестандартного орфографического кодирования литературного текста. Указанные явления, составляющие часть текстовой грамматики, интерпретируются как способ привлечения внимания к внутритекстовому конфликту, формируемому автором произведения. Разрабатывается предварительная таксономия некоторых графических и орфографических приемов, обсуждаются их свойства, в частности парадоксальная способность к приданию конфликту положительного заряда с целью повышения мотивации к дальнейшему чтению. Теоретическими основаниями описания являются постулаты когнитивной и коммуникативной лингвистики, в частности теории когнитивного диссонанса. Исследование представляется актуальным в условиях современного мультикультурного общества, где высока потребность в более комфортной и эффективной коммуникативной среде.

Текст научной работы на тему «Cognitive dissonance in fiction: interpreting grammar-related issues»

УДК 008

В. А. Климик, М. А. Салькова

Климик В. А., аспирант кафедры грамматики английского языка факультета английского языка МГЛУ; e-maiL: victoria_kLimik@bk.ru Салькова В. А., кандидат филологических наук, профессор, зав. кафедрой грамматики английского языка факультета английского языка МГЛУ; e-maiL: bestgrammar@yandex.ru

КОГНИТИВНЫЙ ДИССОНАНС И ГРАФИКО-ОРФОГРАФИЧЕСКИЕ ОСОБЕННОСТИ ХУДОЖЕСТВЕННОГО ТЕКСТА

В статье рассматриваются вопросы, связанные с некоторыми особенностями графического оформления и нестандартного орфографического кодирования литературного текста. Указанные явления, составляющие часть текстовой грамматики, интерпретируются как способ привлечения внимания к внутритекстовому конфликту, формируемому автором произведения. Разрабатывается предварительная таксономия некоторых графических и орфографических приемов, обсуждаются их свойства, в частности парадоксальная способность к приданию конфликту положительного заряда с целью повышения мотивации к дальнейшему чтению. Теоретическими основаниями описания являются постулаты когнитивной и коммуникативной лингвистики, в частности теории когнитивного диссонанса. Исследование представляется актуальным в условиях современного мультикультурного общества, где высока потребность в более комфортной и эффективной коммуникативной среде.

Ключевые слова: детская литература; когнитивный диссонанс; конфликт; внутритекстовый конфликт; визуальные графические эффекты в печатном тексте; правописание; шрифт.

V. A. Klimik, M. A. Salkova

Klimik V. A, Post-graduate student, EngLish Grammar and History of the EngLish

Language Department, MSLU; e-maiL: victoria_kLimik@bk.ru

Salkova M.A., Ph.D., Professor, EngLish Grammar and History

of the EngLish Language Department, MSLU; e-maiL: bestgrammar@yandex.ru

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE IN FICTION: INTERPRETING GRAMMAR-RELATED ISSUES

The paper is concerned with interpreting grammar-reLated issues of Literary text in the view of confLict-in-text phenomenon. The research is based on the postuLates of cognitive and communicative Linguistics, and the studies of cognitive dissonance. We have worked out a taxonomy of speLLing-reLated issues with regard to their confLict-triggering properties, and a possibLe guideLine for their interpretation. The findings of

this research can be appLied to developing children's reading motivation. This research is topical in modern Russia's multicultural society, as its findings can help promote a more comfortable and efficient communicative environment.

Key words: children's literature; cognitive dissonance; conflict; conñict-in-text; visual effects in printed text; spewing; script.

1. Introduction

The phenomenon of cognitive dissonance (CD) arouses enthusiasm of many researchers and is being widely studied [14, p. 7; 6; 18). CD is an object of interdisciplinary research - for example, in psychology it is related to the nature and properties of human cognitive processes [10]; in communication studies this phenomenon is regarded as part of social interaction, and is observed in researches on "the influence of communication" [17].

Born within psychological studies, the notion of CD was later successfully adopted by linguistics, where it is related to the problematics of conflict in language. Quite naturally, many linguistic researches are focused on the verbal representation of CD. Scholars have grown interested in various factors and linguistic aspects of this phenomenon. For instance, E. Veber considers the theory of CD as one of the possible keys to many obscurities of verbal manipulation processes [19]; T. Drozdova studies CD as one of the structural components of literary space and literary image [8]; N. Belous concentrates on the semantic and pragmatic aspects of conflict in a communicative situation [2].

However, no research focused on grammar-related issues as conflict-triggering factors has been carried out so far. Granted that grammar is one of the essential parts of language structure and speech production, there is no doubt that the issue should be studied - in order to obtain comprehensive proofs of the verbal representation of CD. For this reason, we intend to analyze grammar factors of CD in literary text. As the sphere of grammar is broad and includes various and numerous sub-systems and components, in this article we will concentrate on spelling (traditionally, grammar studies include the problematics of orthography (spelling) and punctuation) and the role it plays in creating literary images. Having reviewed works on spelling, we have to say that spelling-related issues are discussed but sporadically and the works published are not related to the problematics of CD and of conflict-in-text, in general. To meet this lack, our research

concentrates on conflict in printed text provoked by spelling techniques -and treats conflict-in-text in the view of its cognitive properties (i.e. as one of the ways of imparting knowledge).

Starting out this research, we set ourselves the following goals: 1) to outline a possible guideline for interpreting grammar-related issues of the text in the view of their conflict-triggering properties - as a contribution to the cognitive approach to grammar issues; 2) to work out a taxonomy of the grammar means with the potential of introducing conflict-in-text. To achieve these aims, we intend to analyze the text of recognized literary works, in particular, of children's fiction - as we believe linguistic studies on children's literature can have a significant impact on language education at school.

2. Methodology

As for the linguistic material, we have analyzed the text of two popular children's novels, both bestsellers, "A Bear Called Paddington" and "More About Paddington" (first published in 1958 and 1959, correspondingly) by the recognized British writer Michael Bond. The books are recommended for 7-11 year old children (mostly the primary school period). In brief, the storyline is as follows: a bear from Peru arrives in London and meets a typical English family - Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their two children. As they meet at Paddington Station, the family names the bear Paddington. The bear lives at the Browns', discovers London, gets accustomed to the British way of life and has a lot of adventures.

We have chosen this particular book for the following reasons. Firstly, this book is an illustration of culture and language acquisition by a prototypical primary school child (personified by the main character Paddington Bear). We believe this to make the findings of our research even more demonstrative. Secondly, stories about Paddington Bear enjoy immense and lasting popularity with the British children - to such an extent that the British journalist and trend-setting writer S. Fry has described Paddington Bear as "a British institution" [3].

We have analyzed the full texts of the two novels, which makes 300 pages. To collect the data, we have singled out all the spelling techniques in printed text. As a result of the data analysis:

- conflict-triggering properties of the collected visual effects have been abstracted, and we have suggested an explanation of their role in the process of text perception has been suggested;

- a taxonomy of spelling-based techniques of alternative visual text presentation has been worked out, and the conflict-triggering properties of the techniques have been established.

3. Background: cognitive dissonance in fiction

The term "cognitive dissonance" was suggested by Leon Festinger, who interprets CD as mental stress or discomfort, sometimes experienced by an individual when a person is confronted with new information that influences the already existing beliefs, ideas, or values [10].

Researches [8; 20] show that CD is often observed in literature, as a result of conflict-in-text. In our research we intend to concentrate on the conflict within the "author-reader" dialogue. A hypothetical reader relies on the 'rules' that determine how to deliver a work's content within a certain literary genre [12, p. 425-427]. In order to perceive and comprehend the referential system of the text, the reader "expects" to receive signals from the author. Such signals may correspond to the reader's assumptions, or, alternatively, may trigger an "expectation-result" conflict.

Researcher T. Drozdova holds that CD can concern any structural level of a language identity. It is noteworthy that CD can develop at the verbal-semantic level, as a result of language code discrepancies between the communicants [8].

Ph. Barker points out that "the proper use of cognitive dissonance can be a useful tool in overcoming conflict. <...> Creating dissonance can induce behavior or attitude change" [1]. Following Barker, we mean that conflict-in-text may be intended by the author with the aim of inducing the reader's attitude change (and the attitude change happens as a possible resolution of CD). In this sense, CD "works" as a motivating factor, a stimulus to text interpretation.

To involve the reader, the author may play with the text in different ways. In particular, this research dwells on experiments with spelling and script - text visualization techniques, for example:

1. HELP! HELP!

2. IMJUSTCOMING

3. T-H-E E-N-D

Before we proceed to the findings of this research, it is necessary to say that the visual effects in printed text cannot be regarded as a mere

feature of the books on the Bear Paddinton's adventures, nor can contemporary writers be considered pioneers in using print games in literary text. Attempts to make young book-lovers see-as-they-read can be observed in children's classics: e.g. in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (1865) by Lewis Carroll [5, p. 17] we come across "a tale printed as a mouse's tail". Another example: in the popular children's book "Ferdynand Wspanialy" («Фердинанд Великолепный» in Russian translation) by the Polish writer Ludwik Jerzy Kern [15, p. 110-113] the description of rain is so "visual" that it makes one wish to open an umbrella.

It was not at random that we have turned to this problematics -techniques similar to the mentioned are no longer strange to fiction books for adult readers. Remarkable examples can be seen in the novels "The Juror" by George Dawes Green [13] and "The Last Samurai" by Helen DeWitt [7] - in these books, print "games" produce the impression of a noticeable dissonance, they are perceived as innovative and break the stereotyped vision of a traditional printed text as uniform and predictable. Our language teaching experience gives numerous proofs that an attentive and curious reader will certainly pay attention to such visual effects in printed text and will reflect upon them. As language teachers, we are often questioned by our students, intrigued and perplexed by the print "games" they come across in the English fiction, either classic or modern.

Thus it can be seen that visual effects in printed text are by no means an exception or occasionalism, but rather an important trend in text processing, a trend that raises a number of questions linguistics is still to answer. Triggering CD on the part of the reader, alternative spelling can become a powerful means of expressing meaning, imparting knowledge, guiding the reader through the plot - and, in the final analysis, one of the important incentives to a child's reading skills development. Although this issue promises interesting findings and applied value (introduction of CD in children's books can be employed as a means of augmenting reading motivation), so far no research has concentrated on it. With the intention to meet this lack, we proceed to the description and findings of the research we have carried out.

4. Findings and analysis

To begin with, our assumption is that a typical reader of the fiction we employ in this research (a primary school child) has yet little reading

experience. Usually, the first books read by a child provide examples of canonical text, to instill the notion of the written norm of the language.

What is discussed below is some techniques of alternative visual presentation of printed text. We have worked out a taxonomy of such techniques based on their conflict-triggering properties: the conflict of the reader's existing knowledge of the orthography rules conflicts with the alternative orthography techniques (new, yet unknown to the reader). This conflict, with a strong probability, results in the reader's CD.

Below is provided the list of these techniques and the explanation (for each one) of their functioning as a conflict-provoking factor. These explanations can be used as a possible guideline for interpreting spelling-related issues - as an alternative for, or in addition to formal and / or functional grammatical description.

1) "Big Print Game: Capitalization"

"He tried calling out 'Help', first in quite a quiet voice, then very loudly: 'HELP! HELP!'"

In contrast to a quite neutral "Help", the second, capitalized and repeated, word ("HELP! HELP!") becomes eye-catching, so we understand to which extent the character is scared. It is also noteworthy that the author provides the child with a clue to interpreting the capitalized words ("very loudly"). Such a clue indicates the writer's awareness of the unconventional use of capitalization, as well as his intention to show the young and yet inexperienced reader the way to meaning construction in the alternatively spelled stretch of printed text.

2) "Binding words + Capitalization"

"Paddington looked up, an expression of bliss on his face; that part of his face which could be seen behind egg whiskers and toast crumbs. He tried to say something but all he could manage was a muffled grunting noise which sounded like IMJUSTCOMING all rolled into one".

In the final part of the sentence, in addition to capitalization, the author does not separate the words, which makes the sentence look unorthodox. The author's intention appears quite transparent: the reader "reads" into the word and feels as if they were present there, trying to speak with their mouth full. This strategy adds to the overall feeling of discomfort that the text foregrounds.

Similarly to the example 1, the author facilitates interpretation, supplying the alternatively-coded phrase with an explanation ("...IMJUSTCOMING all rolled into one").

3) "Intentional misspelling + Capitalization"

With the little that was left he tried writing his new name again. He had several attempts and finally decided on PADINGTUN. It looked most important.

The misspelled name "PADINGTUN" looks striking to the reader who is not used to observing mistakes in a book. Just the opposite, books are usually perceived as guides to the language norm. As the name is misspelled by the bear Paddington himself, the intentional mistake becomes a convincing means of describing the protagonist. The capitalized misspelled name "communicates" both the bear's early age and his yet imperfect English - all in one, in an amusing visual form.

4) "Parcelling"

And as Paddington lifted a tired paw and waved the last sparkler in the air to spell out the words T-H-E E-N-D, everyone agreed they had never seen such a successful bonfire before - or such a well-dressed guy.

The cliché "The End" becomes eye-catching and memorable due to the technique of parcelling: the letters are not only capitalized, but also hyphenated, which makes them look parcelled out. This technique seems to cause a dissonance for the reader who rather expects the ordinary visualization "The End" instead of the unconventional "T-H-E E-N-D". Two quite observable effects of this dissonance can be noted: firstly, the wording disturbs the reader; secondly, the unusually spelled word acquires an additional meaning - it conveys Paddington's self-confidence and pride, and the event's success.

5) "Intentional grammatical mistakes"

Let us consider, for example, the name of the Bear Paddington's homeland - "Darkest Peru". Not preceded by the definite article, the adjective "darkest" is perceived as a certain deviation from the grammatical norm (as in the English language the superlative degree of adjectives is usually marked by the definite article). Thus, the imaginary toponym "Darkest Peru" helps to emphasize the bear's exotic descent, the mere name of his homeland being a "mistake", a nonsense.

5. Discussion of Results

Following the presentation of the findings, we must make two significant observations.

Firstly, it is important to point out that CD in literature (conflict-in-text) is inference-provoking: inference appears as tension or surprise experienced by the reader while perceiving, comprehending and interpreting non-standard (alternative) spelling and scripts in text. According to the research on CD conducted by the American psychologists Andrew J. Elliot and Patricia G. Devine, "this psychological discomfort is alleviated on implementation of a dissonance-reduction strategy, attitude change". Following L. Festinger [11], the authors treat CD as "a fundamentally motivational state" [9]. So, it appears reasonable to suggest that conflict-in-text (in this research, a conflict provoked by a skillful implementation of alternative spelling techniques) disturbs the reader to intensify their interpretation of meaning. Thus spelling-triggered CD becomes "a useful tool in managing conflict" and "a basic tool for education in general" [1].

Secondly, due to their visual effects, the spelling techniques described above make the text more informative and contribute to communicating subtleties of mental images conceived by the author. A. Paivio postulates two cognitive subsystems, one specialized for the representation and processing of imagery, and the other specialized for dealing with language. Correspondingly, their representational units are "imagens" (mental images) and "logogens" (verbal entities) [16]. Parts of the texts, perceived via the spelling-based visual effects, become efficient and impressive knowledge containers - as they merge both logogens and imagens.

6. Conclusion

In the course of this research, we have achieved the goals set at the beginning.

1) We have outlined a guideline on possible interpretation of spelling-related issues - interpretation with regard to their conflict-triggering properties. Furthermore, not only orthography techniques, but other grammar-related issues (e.g. syntactic constructions) should be added to the data for analysis.

2) We have worked out a taxonomy of spelling-related issues. This taxonomy is based on conflict-triggering properties of spelling techniques. We admit that this taxonomy is preliminary, and is to be extended in order

to obtain a comprehensive notion of the way spelling-based visual effects of printed text influence the reader's interpretation.

We hold that further research on this issue is needed and that the study into language (in particular, grammar) means of creating a conflict-in-text appears to be quite topical and promises applied value. Research into this field can provide answers to a number of important questions, among them are the following. Is language-based CD an unambiguously negative phenomenon that hampers comprehension, or does it have an alternative positive charge? What are the means of realizing conflict-in-text and manipulative strategy of text processing? How can the boundaries of such "language game" be determined? To what extent can such "games" deviate from the language norm?

Winding up, we would like to outline the potential value of this research. Firstly, the findings of this research contribute to the knowledge of how CD can be represented verbally. As we pointed in the introduction, a number of researches have concentrated on verbal representation of CD -however, this research is the first attempt to analyze and describe the way CD can triggered by violation of orthographic and printing restrictions.

Secondly, this research promises applied value in education - especially if it concerns studying CD in children's literature. It looks like these days children are becoming less interested in reading. As a result, modern children are not experienced readers, which entails such problems as poor literacy and lower academic success, inability to communicate successfully in everyday life. Due to this, motivating children to acquire language and speech skills urges development of more demanding ways to make texts interesting to read and easy to remember. For this reason, a skillful introduction of conflict-in-text can be regarded as one of such ways. Apart from its value for first / second language teaching, this research is applicable in educating journalists, psychologists, public servants, human resources and public relations specialists and some other majors related to text processing. Educating adult audiences, we can discuss conflict-in-text as a strategy that can promote or reduce communicative efficiency.

In conclusion, we must add that the issue discussed seems to be an up-and-coming area of study.

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