e-ISSN 2231-8542
ISSN 1511-3701

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The Role of Cognitive Context in the Interpretation of Riddles: A Relevance Theory Perspective

Juma'a Qadir Hussein and Imran Ho Abdullah

Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, Volume 24, Issue S, February 2016

Keywords: Relevance Theory, cognitive context, riddle, optimal relevance, co-text

Published on: 26 Apr 2016

This paper addresses the role of cognitive context in the interpretation of riddles within the framework of Relevance Theory. Relevance Theory, proposed by Sperber and Wilson (1986/1995), implicates assumptions suitable for the interpretation of how cognitive context is created in the act of riddling. It is argued that this theory shows how and why the riddlee resorts to the cognitive context to give appropriate resolution to the riddle. In this regard, the cognitive context proposed by Relevance Theory is more powerful than the co-text or the context of situation in giving appropriate interpretation to the riddle. The riddles under analysis are confined to one type of riddle, the metaphorical riddle, selected from Pepicello and Green's 1984 'The Language of Riddles'. The cognitive context here does not refer to the co-text or the context of situation but to the set of assumptions and beliefs in the mind of the riddlee about the world available to him in the process of riddle interpretation. The context determines the interpretation of an utterance while the lack of contextual information will lead to communication failure or misinterpretation. This relates to the fact that the cognitive context is affected differently by different individuals due to various factors ranging from one's cognitive ability to one's social and cultural experiences. Hence, riddle interpretation, according to Relevance Theory, is an inferential process where cognitive context determines the interpretation of the riddle.

ISSN 1511-3701

e-ISSN 2231-8542

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