Attention and Construal in Figure-Ground Organization

25 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2010 Last revised: 14 Mar 2011

See all articles by Ryan Dewey

Ryan Dewey

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Cognitive Science

Date Written: Spring 2011


Several directions can be taken within the study of the domains of attention. Indeed, whether or not these domains are acknowledged as belonging to the same single cognitive system of attention is another distinction which cuts across the range of approaches to studying attention.

This survey, within the context of the enterprise of cognitive linguistics, takes the view that attention is a comprehensive and cohesive system accounting for the entire range of valid attentional phenomena. As a further focus, this survey attends to the specifics of salience in Figure-Ground organization in both perception and the ensuing linguistic encoding of perception in speech and text to serve the function of establishing shared attention to serve communicative functions.

Additionally, several case studies are presented to illustrate: 1) the necessity of joint attention in communication relying on figure-ground distinction, 2) the multiplex nature of visual grounds, 3) ground-before-figure in situations of failed communication with cataphora recognized as anaphora, and 4) ground-before-figure in hip-hop lyrics.

Keywords: Linguistic Figure-Ground, Ground-Before-Figure Constructions, Attention, Construal, Communication

Suggested Citation

Dewey, Ryan, Attention and Construal in Figure-Ground Organization (Spring 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Ryan Dewey (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Cognitive Science ( email )

10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-7068
United States

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