Please see my follow-up blog dd 02/11/13 for the summery:
"A Grook by Piet Hein"
I have attempted to address this matter before - ie the relationship between poet and audience. The following article sums it up to a T. The poet assumes that the audience has a certain amount of knowledge on a topic when a thought/cultural reference/reference to location or season/ etc, is expressed.
It was pointed out to me recently that footnotes to a poem (other than quoting the reference on which a poem was based or the inspiration of the poem) detracts from the enjoyment of the poem. However, for certain poems to be fully understood or enjoyed the foreseen lack of information should perhaps be appended? Or do I need to write "soft poetry" which do not call for the understanding or any depth of knowledge from the audience - ie a "universal voice"? Will this not in fact defeat the purpose of exploring our poetry talents and expressing ourselves in a language which is familiar to us (if not to all)?
What is your feeling about this?
Relevance theory is a proposal by Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson that seeks to explain the second method of communication: one that takes into account implicit inferences. It argues that the hearer/reader/audience will search for meaning in any given communication situation and having found meaning that fits their expectation of relevance, will stop processing.
Relevance theory contrasted with the Conduit Metaphor:
There are two ways to conceive of how thoughts are communicated from one person to another. The first way is through the use of strict coding and decoding, (such as is used with Morse code). In this approach the speaker/author encodes their thoughts and transmits them to their audience. The audience receives the encoded message and decodes it to arrive at the meaning the speaker/author intended. This can be visualized as follows:
Speaker's thought/intention - encoded - transmitted - decoded - retention /thought understood.
This is usually referred to as the code model or the conduit metaphor of communication. Human communication however, is almost never this simple. Context almost always plays a part in communication as do other factors such as the author's intentions, the relationship between the sender and receiver and so forth.
The second way of conceiving how thoughts are communicated is by the author/speaker only conveying as much information as is needed in any given context, so that the audience can recover their intended meaning from what was said/written as well as from the context and implications. In this conceptual model, the author takes into account the context of the communication and the mutual cognitive environment between the author and the audience, ie That is what the author/speaker thinks that audience already knows. They then say just enough to communicate what they intend - relying on the audience to fill in the details that they did not explicitly communicate. This can be visualized as follows:
Speaker's thought/intention ± context-mediated information - encoded - transmitted - decoded ± context-mediated information -thought/intention understood by hearer (an interpretive resemblance to the speaker's intention).
Here is a simple example:
Mary: How many loaves of bread do we have?
Bill did not say "five loaves". He also did not say "five loaves of bread". Both are implied with his reply. But both are somewhat redundant. What Bill said was just enough to understand his meaning. Mary fills in the missing context-mediated information, i.e. that the question was about loaves of bread and not about something else. She understands that they have five loaves of bread from Bill's one word answer.
Here is another slightly harder example:
Mary: Would you like to come for a run?
Bill: I'm resting today.
We understand from this example that Bill does not want to go for a run. But that is not what he said. He only said enough for Mary to add the context-mediated information: i.e. someone who is resting doesn't usually go for a run. The implication is that Bill doesn't want to go for a run today.
These examples illustrate an important point: speech undermines thought. What we say (write, etc.) is small compared to the thoughts which generate the communicative act as well as the thoughts the act typically provokes.
Sperber and Wilson’s theory begins with some watershed assumptions that are typical of pragmatic theories. Namely, it argues that all utterances are encountered in some context and that utterances convey a number of implicatures. In addition, they posit the notion of manifestness, which is when something is grasped either consciously or unconsciously by a person.
They further note that it will be manifest to people who are engaged in inferential communication that each other have the notion of relevance in their minds. This will cause each person engaged in the interaction to arrive at the presumption of relevance, which is the notion that (a) implicit messages are relevant enough to be worth bothering to process, and (b) the speaker will be as economical as they possibly can be in communicating it.
The core of the theory is the “communicative principle of relevance”, which states that by the act of making an utterance the speaker is conveying that what they have said is worth listening to, i.e. it will provide "cognitive effects" worthy of the processing effort required to find the meaning. In this way, every ostensive act of communication (that is the lexical "clues" that are explicitly conveyed when we speak/write) will look something like this:
1. The speaker purposefully gives a clue to the hearer, ("ostensifies"), as to what she wishes to communicate - that is a clue to her intention.
2. The hearer infers the intention from the clue and the context-mediated information. The hearer must interpret the clue, taking into account the context, and surmise what the speaker intended to communicate.
For Sperber and Wilson, relevance is conceived as relative or subjective, as it depends upon the state of knowledge of a hearer when they encounter an utterance. However, they are quick to note that their theory does not attempt to exhaustively define the concept of "relevance" in everyday use, but tries to show an interesting and important part of human communication, in particular ostensive-inferential communication.
Please read Cyndi MacMillan's blog of today, which will give you further insight into this blog: "WHEN POETRY IS PERSONAL... footnotes, background, revelations... PROVIDING KEYS TO LOCKS"