Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Kognitive Sprachforschung

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Abstract Niemeier

The integration of situational and cultural meaning structures in the understanding of audiovisual texts: A cognitive approach to the analysis of media discourse

I would like to talk about the cognitive processes which can be seen as a result of understanding media-texts. Elements of (media) texts guide our attention and have to be completed and coordinated or structured by the cognitive system of the addressee. Hence, an intelligible text can be considered as a semiotic system which is able to guide the cognitive system of the addressee. But the addressee must be able to integrate the information of the text into his knowledge. Analysing metaphorical projections (Lakoff / Johnson 1980), conceptual blendings (Fauconnier / Turner 2002) and deixis (in a cognitive perspective; cf. Blühdorn 1995) a lot can be said about how this process works and how meaning structures of a given text enable the addressee to construct coherence.

A cognitive approach to the analysis of media discourse can be seen as a fruitful contribution to the analysis of media “contents”. It doesn’t just consider “given” meanings of “fixed” texts. On the contrary it can take processes of the addressee’s meaning construction into account. Those are likely to integrate cultural and situational meaning structures (not explicitly given in a text) to achieve a coherent understanding. The integration of these “extra-textual” meaning structures can be shown if online-structures in the process of meaning construction are considered. A cognitive approach like this also shows that “text meanings” always stay dynamic structures which can change with the change of cultural and situational contexts or the knowledge of the addressee. At the same time the potential of media texts to impulse changes of meaning can be discussed within the scope of this kind of analysing texts.

My talk shall therefore focus on cognitive online structures of potential television-addressees. Their construction of coherent meanings in French television trailers (short television spots, announcing parts of the programme) shall be modelled with the help of the Conceptual Blending Theory.

Fauconnier and Turner (2002) have shown that Blending is involved in a vast range of phenomena (such as visual perception, mathematical and logical thinking, learning of everyday patterns of bodily action, counterfactual thinking and so forth). This is why Conceptual Blending can be seen as an appropriate model for the analysis of television spots because they include different semiotic levels (image, discourse, written language, music, noise) which influence on the construction and mental representation of the meaning. This can especially be shown for the discourse- (or language-) level and the visual-level. It shall also be discussed for the musical level in certain audiovisual examples.

It shall furthermore be shown that situational elements and cultural meaning structures are integrated by the Conceptual Blending-processes when a television spot is understood. While the addressee tries to construct a coherent meaning of certain audiovisual texts, situational and cultural meaning-structures seem to improve the understanding and the better remembrance of the text. If parts of the cultural definition of the situation (e.g. father Christmas bringing presents) which provide semantic structure to the process of meaning construction are blended with other semantic structures (e.g. in a TV-trailer: meanings of a film or a TV-show), this could change the idea of how the current situation is like. This kind of (potential) change seems to be very similar to the change of meaning in mythic thinking of oral cultures and shall be shown in different examples.