Teaching English as a Foreign Language: A Cognitive Perspective
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This paper is about Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) at both teacher training and translators’ programmes. The basic assumption to be developed here is that a deeper understanding of TEFL can be achieved if it is viewed from the cognitive perspective presented by Sperber and Wilson (1995) in their approach to the study of human cognitive and communicative behaviour known as Relevance Theory. Developed both as a reaction to, and continuation of, Grice’s theory of conversation, Relevance Theory forms part of the mentalist stance and comes into the picture to fill in the gap left by generative linguists such as Chomsky and conceptual semanticists such as Jackendoff, who deliberately leave behaviour aside to narrow down their object of study. It is precisely this mentalist stance that makes Sperber and Wilson’s proposal so appealing and so superior in explanatory adequacy to other pragmatic approaches. The theory is based on an ostensive-inferential model of communication. Sperber and Wilson’s primary concern is to identify the underlying mechanisms of the human mind which make communication possible. One of the important notions in the theory that will be taken up in this paper is that of cognitive environment, which can be defined as the set of all facts and assumptions that a person can perceive or infer and which is determined both by his physical environment and his cognitive abilities.