The Role of the Background Knowledge in the Speech Genre of Riddle Decoding

 © The Editorial Team of Linguistic Studies

Linguistic Studies
Volume 28, 2014, pp. 128-132

The Role of the Background Knowledge in the Speech Genre of Riddle Decoding

Hanna Pasko

Article first published online: April 03, 2014 


Additional information

 Author Information: 

Hanna M. Pasko is Candidate of Philology, Senior lecturer at Department of Germanic Languages, Horlivka Institute of Foreign Languages of the State Higher Educational Establishment ‘Donbas State Pedagogical University’. Correspondence: pasko7anna@mail.ru 

Citation: 
Pasko, H. The Role of the Background Knowledge in the Speech Genre of Riddle Decoding [Text] / H. Pasko // Linguistic Studies collection of scientific papers / Donetsk National University Ed. by A. P. Zahnitko. – Donetsk : DonNU, 2014. – Vol. 28. – Pp. 128-132. – ISBN 966-7277-88-7

Publication History:
Volume first published online: April 03, 2014

Article received: September 2, 2013, accepted: December 26, 2013 and first published online: April 03, 2014

Annotation.

The basic frames of the English and German riddles based on the concept RIVER / FLUSS are considered, the background knowledge as the means of decoding of the concept RIVER / FLUSS represented through the basic frames in terms of speech genre of riddle in Germanic languages has been studied.

Keywords: frame, concept, speech genre, riddle, background knowledge, addressee, addresser.



Abstract.

THE ROLE OF THE BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE IN THE SPEECH GENRE OF RIDDLE DECODING

Hanna Pasko

Department of Germanic Languages, Horlivka Institute of Foreign Languages of the State Higher Educational Establishment ‘Donbas State Pedagogical University’, Horlivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine

 

Available 2 September 2013.


Abstract

Relevance

The relevance of the article is caused by the strong tendency to study speech genres in terms of cognitive discursive paradigm which enables to reveal their cognitive semantic structure and mental mechanisms of their creation and decoding.

Purpose

The purpose of the article is to show the key role of the background knowledge in the process of solving of riddles by their addressee.

Tasks

The purpose raises the following tasks: 1) determination of the basic linguistic definitions – speech genre, frame, background knowledge; 2) establishment of the basic frames of the speech genre of riddle based on the concept RIVER / FLUSS in English and German languages; 3) establishment of the lexical units with the polysemantic (ambiguous) origin that help the addressee decode the riddle correctly.

Novelty

The novelty of the analysis is that it is the first time the background knowledge as the means of decoding of the concept RIVER / FLUSS has been studied in terms of speech genre of riddle through the basic frames in Germanic languages.

Theoretical value

The theoretical value of the research is that the classification of the basic frames by S.A. Zhabotynska has been developed and the thing-action frames, the possessine-action frames have been singled out.

Practical value

The practical value of the research is that the results can be used in cognitive linguistic studies of the speech genres.

Conclusion

It is evident that the background knowledge play a key role in the interpretation of the concept RIVER / FLUSS in Germanic languages in the thing and action proper frames, thing-action and possessive-action frames, while the latter two appear to be universal for both English and German speech genre of riddle, that is the evidence of the common processes of conceptualization of the objective reality, and, of course, common background knowledge.

Perspective

The cognitive approach appears to be rather resourceful and efficient way to carry out the analysis of the speech genre of riddle and new results will be produced to reveal the mental mechanisms of its creation and ways of decoding.

 

Research highlights

► The basic frames of the English and German riddles based on the concept RIVER / FLUSS are considered, the background knowledge as the means of decoding of the concept RIVER / FLUSS represented through the basic frames in terms of speech genre of riddle in Germanic languages has been studied.

Keywords: frame, concept, speech genre, riddle, background knowledge, addressee, addresser.

 

References

Gabidullina, A. R. (2005). Osnovyi teorii rechevoy kommunikatsii: Uchebnoe posobie dlya vuzov. Izd. 2-e, pererab. i dop. Gorlovka: GGPIIYA.

Dementev, V. V. (2007). Kognitivnaya genristika. Antologiya rechevyih zhanrov: povsednevnaya kommunikatsiya, 103-115. M.: Labirint.

Zhabotinskaya, S. A. (2004). Geometriya smyisla: kontseptualnyie modeli yazyika i fraktalnyie formy. Pervaya rossiyskaya konferentsiya po kognitivnoy nauke. Tezisyi dokladov, 85-87. Kazan: Kazanskiy gos. un-t.

Minskiy, M. (1988). Ostroumie i logika kognitivnogo bessoznatelnogo. Novoe v zarubezhnoy lingvistike. Kognitivnyie aspektyi yazyika, Vyip. ХХІІІ, 281-309. M.: Progress.

Selіvanova, O. O. (2010). Lingvіstichna entsiklopedіya. Poltava: DovkIllya.

Kövecses, Z. (2002). Metaphor: a practical introduction. Oxford University Press.

OALD, (2000). Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary of current English. Oxford University Press.

Panther, K.-U. (2006). Metonymy as a usage event. Cognitive linguistics: current applications and future perspectives, 147-186. Mouton de Gruyter.

 

Sources and Abbreviations

Zagadki, (2013). Zagadki. E-portal: http://englishkids. narod.ru/practice/ riddles/riddles.html.

KZ, (2013). Kollekcija zagadok. E-portal: http://www.study. ru/riddles/.

RNZ, (1990). Russkie narodnyie zagadki, poslovitsyi, pogovorki. M.: Prosveschenie.

UNZ, (1963). UkraYinski narodni zagadki. K.: Vidavnitstvo Akademiyi Nauk Ukrayinskoyi RSR.

Collis, H. (1996). 101 American English Riddles. Lincolnwood (Chicago), Illinois: McGraw Hill. E-portal:

http://mirknig.com/knigi/nauka_ucheba/1181259598-101-zagadka-na-amerikanskom-variante-anglijsko go.html.

Heinrich, K. (1989). Kinder, kommt und ratet: Rätselsammlung für d. Schulhort. Berlin: Volk u. Wissen.

HR, (2012). Hard Riddles. E-portal: http://www.increase brainpower.com/hard-riddles.html.

QASR, (2013). Quick and simple riddles. E-portal: http:// www.scatty.com/jokes/ riddles/index.html.

RAA, (2013). Riddles and answers. E-portal: http://dan.hersam. com/ riddles.html.

Spittel, O. (1988). Kleines Rätselbuch für Kinder. Berlin: Kinderbuchverlag.

 

Correspondence: pasko7anna@mail.ru

Vitae

Hanna M. Pasko is Candidate of Philology, Senior lecturer at Department of Germanic Languages, Horlivka Institute of Foreign Languages of the State Higher Educational Establishment ‘Donbas State Pedagogical University’. Her areas of research interests include communicative linguistics, linguistic genology, and cognitive linguistics.


Article.

Hanna Pasko

УДК 81’42

THE ROLE OF THE BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE IN THE SPEECH GENRE OF RIDDLE DECODING

 

The basic frames of the English and German riddles based on the concept RIVER / FLUSS are considered, the background knowledge as the means of decoding of the concept RIVER / FLUSS represented through the basic frames in terms of speech genre of riddle in Germanic languages has been studied.

Keywords: frame, concept, speech genre, riddle, background knowledge, addressee, addresser.

 The purpose of the analysis is to show the key role of the background knowledge in the process of solving of riddles by their addressee. The purpose raises the following tasks: 1) determination of the basic linguistic definitions – speech genre, frame, background knowledge; 2) establishment of the basic frames of the speech genre of riddle based on the concept RIVER / FLUSS in English and German languages; 3) establishment of the lexical units with the polysemantic (ambiguous) origin that help the addressee decode the riddle correctly. The novelty of the analysis is that it is the first time the background knowledge as the means of decoding of the concept RIVER/FLUSS has been studied in terms of speech genre of riddle through the basic frames in Germanic languages.In modern linguistics there is a tendency to study speech genres in terms of cognitive discursive paradigm, which enables to reveal their cognitive semantic structure and mental mechanisms of their creation and decoding (V.V. Dementiev, L.F. Markova, O.I. Tymchenko). Speech genre of riddle in particular, apart from its speech act dialogical structure, is also represented through some definite cognitive structures – frames. Thus, the article appears to be an attempt to show how the addressee of the speech genre of riddle decodes the concept-answer via the background knowledge.

Firstly, it should be said that the category of speech genre includes both the utterances produced by the communicants related to a certain topic and potentially possible authentic texts actualization by means of the speech acts, which, under a certain situationally conditioned discursive context, help addressee identify the type of communication as a corresponding speech genre; moreover, such authentic texts can implicitly regulate the speech acts production of the addresser and addressee. Speech genre of riddle appears to be a communicative phenomenon of discursive nature; it is a replicable communicative-pragmatic category.

So, it is quite clear how the addressee identifies the type of a speech genre of riddle, but how can he guess it correctly? In terms of cognitive semantics speech genre of riddle is organized in the basic frames – ways to represent stereotyped situations, a net of interconnected nodes [Минский 1988: 289]. Such frames involve different metonymic and metaphoric units, which appear to be a kind of a hint, since they reflect some real characteristics of the concept hidden in the answer. In another similar approach these elements are called the actants of the predicate-actant frame.

The theoretical basis for the analysis is the thing frame, the action frame, the possessive frame by S.A. Zhabotynska [Жаботинская 2004].

Thing frame characterizes concepts by the quantitative, qualitative, existential, locative and temporal criteria. In the analyzed English riddles the concept RIVER is represented through the thing proper frame on the basis of the locative criterion – SOMETHING is/exists THERE: RIVER is/exists in BED. It is interesting to note, that this frame is used not in the descriptive part of the riddle, but it appears to be the answer: Why are rivers lazy? (Because they never get off their beds) (QASR 2013).

Action frame fixed in the analyzed riddles in English language means that SOMETHING acts with the purpose or because of something – RIVER runs: What runs but never walks? (A river) (Загадки 2013).

On the other hand, cognitive representation of the concept FLUSS in German riddles involves a combination of two types of frames simultaneously, which can be called a marginal frame. Thus, a thing-action frame combines the locative characteristics of the object (river) with the action it performs and the given riddles are the obvious examples of this phenomenon: Ohne daß ich Füße hätte, eil’ ich fort im schnellen Lauf. Höre Tag und Nacht nicht auf und bin stets im Bette (Der Fluß) (Heinrich 1989: 134); Wer liegt in seinem Bett und läuft doch immerzu? (Der Fluß) (Heinrich 1989: 134); Wer läuft mit dem Schnellsten um die Wette Und liegt doch zur selben Zeit in seinem Bette? Wer ist bald hier und ist bald dort Und bleibt doch stets am selben Ort? (Der Fluß) (Spittel 1988: 93); Wer kann im Bett nicht still liegen? (Der Fluß) (Heinrich 1989: 137).

But more common marginal frame is a possessive-action one, which combines the characteristics of the possessive and action frame patterns. Possessive frame, according to S. A. Zhabotynska, is represented through the model SOMETHING-owner has SOMETHING-property in the following variations: 1) the owner has property; 2) the whole has a part; 3) a container has content [Жаботинская 2004]. As a matter of fact, in many Germanic riddles one can observe both the owner’s property (a fork, a bed) and the part of the whole represented by means of meronyms – (a mouth, an arm, a head). Such phenomenon is rather common both for metaphorical and metonymic representation of objective reality. For example, Z. Kövecses notes that “… a large portion of metaphorical meaning derives from our experience of our own body” [Kövecses 2002: 16], i.e. this is the anthropocentric approach to the objective reality interpretation, which involves “a human” as an especially productive source domain, as it is shown by the examples, cf.: What can run, but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a head but never weeps, has a bed but never sleeps? (A river) (КЗ 2013); What always runs, but never walks, often murmurs, never talks, has a bed but never sleeps, has a mouth but never eats? (A river) (RAA 2013); Wer hat ein Bett und kann doch nie schlafen? (Der Fluß) (Heinrich 1989: 134); Ich habe ein Bett und schlafe doch nicht, Lauf und Mündung hab ich und schließe doch nicht. Ich eile nur vorwärts und niemals zurück. Es sucht mich vergebens in der Wüste dein Blick. Auf einer Karte kannst du mich sehn, Du darfst’s nur nicht als Spielkarte verstehn. Mein Vater – ein Berg, meine Mutter – die See, Zur Mutter eil ich hinab von der Höh. Meine Brüder kommen und machen mich Groß, Doch schließlich vergehe ich in der Mutter Schoß (Der Fluß) (Spittel 1988: 100). However, this is not to claim that all the actions metaphorically represented in the thing-action and possessive-action frames reflect real characteristics of the river, since many of them appear to be false and “misleading”, cf.: objective, real characteristics (Eng. can run, always runs, Germ. läuft) and secondary, false ones (Eng. never walks, never talks, never weeps, never sleeps, never eats, Germ. nicht still liegen, kann doch nie schlafen).

To decode a riddle (its descriptive part) correctly the addressee of this speech genre should have the background knowledge which is a first and foremost obligatory condition. The speakers – representatives of a particular ethnic group potentially have non-situational background knowledge [Габидуллина 2005: 121]. Such knowledge concerns general information about the culture, traditions, linguistic knowledge, etc. This provides evidence that, having background knowledge, the addressee can easily single out some lexical units with ambiguous meaning that represent real metonymic characteristics of the concept hidden in the answer of the riddle. Going by K. U. Panther, “metonymies are prompts that induce fairly general inferences, which are in need of further inferential elaboration unless the reader has at her disposal a rich knowledge data-base that enables her to fill in the details on the basis of the metonymy alone” [Panther 2006: 172].

So, in the given riddles such words (hints) are classified into meronyms and artifacts, which, of course, are ambiguous in meaning, i.e. they can be understood by the addressee in different ways. This ambiguity correlates with the violation of one of the maxims of H. Grice – the maxim of manner, according to which our communication should be perspicuous and evident. The meronyms are as follows: 1) a head – cf.: ‘the part of the body on top of the neck containing the eyes, nose, mouth and brain’ [OALD 2000: 594] and ‘the place where a river begins’ [OALD 2000: 595] – see the examples given above; 2) a mouth – ‘the opening in the face used for eating, speaking, etc.’ [OALD 2000: 831] and ‘the place, where a river joins the sea’ [OALD 2000: 831]: What has a mouth but can`t chew? (A river); 3) an arm – ‘either of the two long parts that stick out from the top of the body and connect the shoulder to the hands’ [OALD 2000: 54] and ‘a long narrow piece of water or land that is joined to a larger area’ [OALD 2000: 54]: Er läuft ohne Füße, hat Arme, aber keine Hände (Der Fluß) (Heinrich 1989: 134). This provides evidence that such geographical background knowledge optimizes the process of solving the riddles by the addressee of the speech genre [Селіванова 2010: 757].

Then, objects denoting property or artifacts with ambiguous meaning in the studied speech genre of riddle include: 1) a bed (both in English and German riddles) – ‘a piece of furniture for sleeping on’ [OALD 2000: 96] and ‘the bottom of a river’ [OALD 2000: 96] – see the examples given above; 2) a fork (only in English riddle) – ‘a tool with a handle and three or four sharp points, used for picking up and eating food’ [OALD 2000: 504] and ‘a place where a road, river, etc. divides into two parts’ [OALD 2000: 504]: What has a fork and mouth, but cannot eat? (A river) (Collis 1996: 17). Moreover, let us consider some more examples where the concept BETT is often used as a source domain to describe the concept FLUSS in German linguistic puzzles: Ein Bett ohne Kissen, Ein Bett ohne Bein, Ein Bett ohne Laken. Was könnte das sein? (Das Flußbett) (Heinrich 1989: 137) or Welches sind die längsten Betten? (Die Flußbetten) (Heinrich 1989: 137) – as we can see, the homonyms in the answers constitute the part of a composite word.

In contrast, thing-action and possessive-action frames are not universal for the other non-related languages, they are typical only of the English and German riddles, while, for example, in Slavonic riddles only pure action frames have been fixed due to the fact that in Russian and Ukrainian languages there are none lexical units with ambiguous meaning that can stand for the characteristics of the concept RIVER, cf.: Rus. Течет, течет – не вытечет, бежит, бежит – не выбежит (Река) (РНЗ 1990: 30); Ukr. Біжить – не вибіжить, тече – не витече (Річка) (УНЗ 1963: 23).

In light of the given examples it is evident that the background knowledge plays a key role in the interpretation of the concept RIVER / FLUSS in Germanic languages in the thing and action proper frames, thing-action and possessive-action frames, while the latter two appear to be universal for both English and German speech genre of riddle, that is the evidence of the common processes of conceptualization of the objective reality, and, of course, common background knowledge. Thus, cognitive approach appears to be a resourceful and efficient way to carry out the analysis of the speech genre of riddle and new results will be produced to reveal the mental mechanisms of its creation and ways of decoding. 

References. 

References

Габидуллина 2005: ГабидуллинаА.Р. Основы теории речевой коммуникации : [Учебное пособие для вузов. Изд. 2-е, перераб. и доп.] [Текст] / А. Р. Габидуллина, М. В. Жарикова. – Горловка : Изд-во ГГПИИЯ, 2005. – 282 с.

Дементьев 2007: Дементьев, В.В. Когнитивная генристика [Текст] / В. В. Дементьев // Антология речевых жанров : повседневная коммуникация. – М. : Лабиринт, 2007. – С. 103-115.

Жаботинская 2004: Жаботинская, С.А. Геометрия смысла : концептуальные модели языка и фрактальные формы [Текст] / С. А. Жаботинская // Первая российская конференция по когнитивной науке. Тезисы докладов. – Казань : Казанский гос. ун-т, 2004. – С. 85-87.

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Селіванова 2010: Селіванова, О.О. Лінгвістична енциклопедія [Текст] / О. О. Селіванова. – Полтава : Довкілля – К, 2010. – 844 с.

Kövecses 2002: Kövecses, Z. Metaphor : a practical introduction [Text] / Z. Kövecses. – Oxford University Press, 2002. – 285 рp.

OALD 2000: Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary of current English [Text] / Edited by S. Wehmeier. – Sixth edition. – Oxford University Press, 2000. – 1540 рp.

Panther 2006: Panther, K.-U. Metonymy as a usage event [Text] / K.-U. Panther // Cognitive linguistics : current applications and future perspectives / edited by G. Kristiansen … [et al.]. – Mouton de Gruyter, 2006. – Pр. 147-186.

 

Sources and Abbreviations

Загадки 2013: Загадки [Електронний ресурс]. – Режим доступу : http://englishkids. narod.ru/practice/ riddles/riddles.html. – Назва з екрана.

КЗ 2013: Коллекция загадок [Електронний ресурс]. – Режим доступа : http://www.study. ru/riddles/.– Название з экрана.

РНЗ 1990: Русские народные загадки, пословицы, поговорки [Текст] / [Сост., авт. вступ. ст., комент. и слов Ю. Г. Круглов]. – М. : Просвещение, 1990. – 335 с. : ил. – (Б-ка словесника).

УНЗ 1963: Українські народні загадки [Текст] / [Упор. М. Шестопал]. – К. : Видавництво Академії Наук Української РСР, 1963. – 342 с.

Collis 1996: CollisH. 101 American English Riddles [Електронний ресурс] / HCollis. – Lincolnwood (Chicago), Illinois : McGraw Hill, 1996. – 144 рp. – Access mode : URL : http:// mirknig.com/knigi/nauka_ucheba/1181259598-101-zagadka-na-amerikanskom-variante-anglijsko go.html. – Title from the screen.

Heinrich 1989: Heinrich K. Kinder, kommt und ratet : Rätselsammlung für d. Schulhort [Text] / KHeinrich. [III. : Wolfgang Würfel]. – 4. Aufl. – Berlin : Volk u. Wissen, 1989. – 206 S. : Ill.

HR 2012: Hard Riddles [Електронний ресурс]. – Access mode : URL : http://www.increase brainpower.com/hard-riddles.html. – Title from the screen.

QASR 2013: Quick and simple riddles [Електронний ресурс]. – Access mode : URL : http:// www.scatty.com/jokes/ riddles/index.html. – Title from the screen.

RAA 2013: Riddles and answers [Електронний ресурс]. – Access mode : URL : http://dan.hersam. com/ riddles.html. – Title from the screen.

Spittel 1988: Spittel, O. Kleines Rätselbuch für Kinder / O. Spittel. - Berlin : Kinderbuchverlag, 1988. - 160 S.

 

Розглянуто базові фрейми англійських та німецьких загадок, що мають в основі концепт РІКА, досліджено фонові знання як засіб декодування концепту РІКА, репрезентованого через базові фрейми в межах мовленнєвого жанру загадки у германських мовах.

Ключові слова: фрейм, концепт, мовленнєвий жанр, фонові знання, адресат, адресант.

Available 2 September 2013.