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The cognitive foundations of pragmatics: The role of executive functions in the processing of discourse coherence

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Keywords: Action Planning; Cognitive Pragmatics; Coherence; Cohesion; Executive Functions.

In this paper, we examine a particular property of language functioning: coherence. Through theoretical arguments and empirical data, we show that in order to explain the processing of coherence it is necessary to switch from the models of language grounded on grammar and sentence (microanalysis), such as Chomsky's Universal Grammar, to the models of language grounded on pragmatics and discourse (macroanalysis). Specifically, we argue that coherence is a property that emerges at the level of discourse and that its processing is independent from devices tied to the processing of the constituents structure of the sentence. By taking into account the studies on the discursive capacities of subjects with traumatic brain injuries, we show that discourse coherence relies on the executive functions of action planning and monitoring.

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