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Register Representation and Processing

Keller, Daniel Ryan (2021) Register Representation and Processing. Doctoral thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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Registers are culturally recognized varieties of language that are associated with situations of use (Biber, Egbert, & Keller, 2020). Variation in frequencies of linguistic forms across registers is thought to be functional for the situations they are associated with; that is, certain language features are more common in one register than another because they are suited for the situations associated with the register (Biber & Conrad, 2019, p. 6). It is not possible, however, for situations to influence discourse directly without a mediating layer of cognition; that is, for any aspect of a situation to influence language users’ selection or processing of linguistic forms, that aspect must be modeled mentally (van Dijk, 2005). Therefore, the nature of situational influences on language variation is constrained by cognitive processes. Despite this, little research has investigated registers as psychological (rather than cultural or textual) phenomena. Simultaneously, research on registers from an explicitly psycholinguistic perspective (e.g., Kerz et al., 2020) has focused on the relationships between linguistic items that commonly co-occur within registers, rather than on the relationships between situational cues and their contingent linguistic items. The current study had two main goals. First, to theorize register variation from an explicitly psycholinguistic perspective. Second, to test implications of the proposed psychological model. I propose that registers are mental categories of texts. Through processes of statistical learning, cross-modal associations are acquired between situational cues and linguistic features. Then, in similar situations, processing of situational cues activates linguistic representations contingent upon those cues. To test this explanation, 62 participants undertook a cross-modal, primed lexical decision task in which they were primed to recognize keywords for one of three registers by short video clips displaying typical situational cues for one of the registers. Findings suggest that viewing a video clip associated with a register facilitated recognition of that register’s keywords, but that this facilitation varied across registers. Registers with many keywords and high mean keyness values were less facilitating than registers with few keywords and low mean keyness values. These findings suggest that the psychological model of register representation and processing proposed here is valid, but underdeveloped.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: cross-modal priming; keyword analysis; language processing; language representation; register analysis; registers
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Arts and Letters > English
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2022 16:55
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2022 16:55
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5779

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