On the informativeness requirement

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Grice's (1975) maxims of Quantity and Relation can be viewed as postulating two opposite principles for the regulation of discourse. The requirement to be informative (Quantity) and extend information can be viewed as constrained by a requirement of an opposite nature-the demand to be relevant and to keep to the same (given) point. To account for the opposing constraints on text formation noted above, I suggest that we consider the dynamics of concept formation. Specifically, I propose the application of the principles governing categorization to text organization. In a previous work of mine (Giora (1985b)) categorization was shown to reflect text organization in relation to its least informative constituent-the Discourse Topic (DT) proposition. Such organization conforms to the Relevance Requirement. Here I intend to focus on the status of the more informative constituents in a linguistic set. I will show that while texts tend to begin with a generalization - the least informative message in a given set, the Informativeness Condition on texts requires that they proceed along an informativeness axis and end with the most informative message in that set.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-565
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Dec 1988


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