Pragmatics and Information Structure

Gregory L Ward, Betty J. Birner, Elsi Kaiser

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Information structure deals with the question of how—and specifically, in what order—we choose to present the informational content of a proposition. In English and many other languages, this content is structured in such a way that given, or familiar, information precedes new, or unfamiliar, information. Because givenness and newness are largely matters of what has come previously in the discourse, information structuring is inextricably tied to matters of context—in particular, the prior linguistic context—and this is what makes information structure quintessentially pragmatic in nature. While it has long been recognized that various non-canonical word orders function to preserve a given-before-new ordering in an utterance, a great deal of research has focused on how to determine the specific categories of givenness and newness that matter for information structuring. A growing body of psycholinguistic work explores the role that these categories play in language comprehension.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Pragmatics
EditorsYan Huang
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199697960
StatePublished - 2017


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