Structure, Meaning, and Constituency in Visual Narrative Comprehension.
Abstract: Narrative has been formally studied for at least two millennia,
dating back to the writings of Aristotle. While most theories began by describing the
construction of plotlines in theatre, most contemporary research on the structure and
comprehension of narratives has examined the discourse of spoken language. However, visual
narratives in the form of sequential images have also been ... read morepervasive throughout history,
whether drawn on cave walls, painted on pottery, or printed in contemporary comic books and
strips. Yet, compared with the study of discourse in verbal language, the study of
sequential image comprehension has been relatively impoverished. Just what are the
structures motivating visual narratives and how are they processed? This thesis will
explore this question using experiments guided by an overall theory that sequential images
at the narrative level are structured and processed analogously to sequences of words at
the sentence level. The main idea is that a narrative "grammar" organizes the structure of
sequential images in the visual language used in comics, similar to the way that syntax
organizes words into coherent sentences. We focus here on two salient parts of this
analogy. First, this thesis will explore the idea that visual narrative comprehension
involves a system of narrative structure and a system of semantic coherence that contribute
to comprehension. This correspondence is akin to the interaction between syntax and
semantics at the sentence level. This hypothesis will be examined in an experiment in
Chapter 1. Second, it explores the idea that narrative structure is a hierarchic system
that organizes images into groupings of constituents, analogous to the phrase structures of
syntax in sentences. This aspect of narrative structure will be explored in two experiments
in Chapter 2. In conclusion, Closing Remarks will briefly discuss the overall implications
for the analogy between narrative structure in sequential images and syntax in
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of Psychology.
Advisors: Ray Jackendoff, and Gina Kuperberg.
Committee: Phillip Holcomb, and Marianna Eddy.
Keywords: Cognitive psychology, and Linguistics.read less
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