Monday, September 27, 2004

Given-New (2)

The given-new relationship in communication is like a contract. When someone speaks to me or writes something I will read, I expect that person to begin with what I know. In other words, the contract says speakers and writers begin with something the audience knows before introducing something the audience might not know.

To give an example. If I meet someone and the first thing that person says is “She was really excited last night,” I am lost if I do not know who she is or that she was excited. My first question would be who? In other words, what is the given I am supposed to know?

Given-new patterns can vary from paragraph to paragraph. Three common patterns are:


In this pattern the new information is introduced by connecting to the given information. Then the new information becomes given information to introduce new information.

A dog is a very good pet. This pet will meet you affectionately at the door everyday. This affection will not be lost if you fail a test or have a bad day.

Another pattern is

A => B
A => C
A => D

This pattern connects to the same given information to introduce different kinds of new information. For example, in this paragraph dog is the repeated given information.

A dog makes a very good pet. A dog will remain a true friend even when it is ignored. A dog will help you through times when a person feels sad or does not do well.
There are other patterns of development with the given new relation connection, but they are basically variations on these two.

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