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Reframing Reformulation: A Theoretical-Experimental Approach

Evidence from the Spanish Discourse Marker "o sea"

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Shima Salameh Jiménez

Reformulation studies offer a recent debate on reformulation and its semasiological-onomasiological treatment. Some researchers argue for a clear distinction between reformulation and other functions such as conclusion or correction; others defend the existence of different subtypes of reformulation based on such other functions, which are expressed by the same group of discourse markers in different languages. Both approaches are valid although their arguments and theoretical basis are opposed. The book presents an Eye-Tracking proposal to complement this debate experimentally. Results support an onomasiological approach to reformulation since experimental boundaries for each function (paraphrase, reformulation, conclusion and correction) have been detected.

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The novelty of the method: A necessary justification

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Experimental methods such as eye-tracking technology, are an innovation in the research field of reformulation1 (Rayner, 1977; Just, Carpenter, & Wolley, 1982; Rayner & Sereno, 1994). Eye-tracking permits the analysis of ocular reactions to different input (video, text, sentences, words, pictures, etc.) in various communicative contexts, such as reading or interaction. These studies follow the “eye-mind assumption” (Rayner, 1998), which relates ocular movements (number, direction, and especially, duration) to difficulty processing information.

Pragmatics has included experimental methods to test hypotheses and problems that cannot be solved completely from a theoretical perspective (Duchowski, 2007), such as reformulation and the form-function trap. Studying functions by addressing text comprehension based on ocular movements would seem a complex task (see Underwood, 1992 about the acceptability (or not) of the eye-mind assumption); however, this method does not differ from functional linguistics and corpus studies. In the end, they share the same aim: to support theoretical linguistic descriptions with specific data. Corpus-based studies address oral or written patterns in conversations, interviews, or real texts; eye-tracking employs reading data also obtained from texts in order to test how the different functions they show are processed and understood by people. As Godman (1996) and Nelson et al. (2008) suggest:

(…) reading is described as the process of constructing meaning from print. From this perspective reading is a transactional interaction between the individual reader and texts for the purpose of making meaning (Nelson et al., 2008, p. 294).

In other words, since...

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