The Role of Global Topics and Sentence Topics in the Construction of Passage Macrostructure.
ARIZONA UNIV TUCSON DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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Two experiments are reported on the nature of global coherence in technical passages. Subjects were asked to state the topic of presented passages in the form of a noun phrase that designated a single object. The first experiment shows that whether the passage is organized around a single major referent has a powerful effect on the difficulty of identifying the topic. The second experiment shows that which referent appears as the surface subject of individual passage sentences is also a powerful determinant of the perceived passage topic. The results are discussed in terms of the readers constructing a macrostructure for the passage, and selecting the central referent of the macrostructure for the statement of the topic. If the immediate propositional content or the surface structure of a passage does not allow a global topic to be selected, the reader must engage in time-consuming inferential processes to construct a suitable macrostructure for the passage. Author