Journal of Universal Language
Sejong University Language Research Institue

A Cognitive-pragmatic Approach to Discourse Topic: A Cross-linguistic Analysis and Universal Account

Vincent Taohsun Chang1
1National Chengchi University

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


This paper investigates contemporary Mandarin Chinese and English discourse topic across text genres to render plausible interpretations based upon a relevance-theoretic approach, as opposed to previous studies from syntactic/structural and functional/cognitive points of view. Examining discourse topic from a cognitive-pragmatic perspective will not merely facilitate readers with more accessible contextual effects such as implicatures, but also subtopics such as grounding and composite topics can also be approached layer by layer with regard to cognition and language. This plays a crucial role in perception, comprehension and interpretation of utterances and non-verbal communication, and hence the mental processes of assigning/deciding a topic. The topic may thus vary from a word, short phrases to a sentence, and, above all, it is the gist that inferred by the audience that eventually forms the basis for the topic of the text/discourse.

Keywords: pronunciation; allophones; transferability; differential salience; discourse topic



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