Conclusions and research prospects
In this chapter I have presented arguments for the core assumption of my quest according to which contexts as ontological entities are intricately related to contexts as epistemic constructs. I have found that the relationship is reciprocal and the nature of the connection is that of an unceasing interplay. The object-level ontology of a situation yields a mental representation as a meta-level epistemic construct constituted by the linguistic context. It acquires a meta-level ontology as a text. A text, in turn, incorporates conceptual knowledge and prompts the construction of mental contexts so that plausible interpretations can be created under the notion of contextual appropriateness. It is claimed that such complex mental contexts are meta-meta-level epistemic constructs functioning as actualized mental contexts with a meta-meta-level ontology only to become the ultimate entities determining interpretation serving as the onetime, on-line basis for situated language use.
Situated language use is a combined and integrated system that exerts identifiable ontological commitments and dynamic epistemological states. It is a dynamic information processing system that can handle incompleteness and uncertainty by delicately mastering meta-stability. The construction of ephemeral but decisive mental contexts exploited as the ultimate stage in any interpretation process is the warrant for plausible interpretations of the ever-changing information flow. With the construction of complex mental contexts speech participants can avoid the direct impact of unpredictable contextual features. Looking at the interpretation of everyday discourse practices, we are to acknowledge that situated language use is a result of a contextual mastery of language that depends on a great variety of linguistic and social, cognitive and affective skills of the interlocutors functioning as interacting agents.
The paper also argues that the interpretation of linguistically mediated and realized meanings is taken to be the result of complex mental processes that are dynamically interactive on different levels. Synergy and synergistic effects are claimed to contribute to this complex system. Emergence is understood as complexity and complex patterns creating complex systems that arise out of numerous, relatively simple interactions. The study of language use in social contexts is a prime candidate for facilitating an improved understanding of complex, interactive cognitive systems.
A challenging solution to the epistemology-ontology dichotomy proposed by Lorenz (1993) is discussed and compared with the findings of the paper. Lorenz depicts polarities in human experience and gives a profound analysis of the distinction between perceptual knowledge and conceptual knowledge with respect to language use. The acknowledgement of these two types of knowledge is of paramount importance in designing scalable context-adaptive systems that could model humans applying intelligent reasoning processes for interpretation cum contextualization.
As an additional result of the research on contextualization, the paper proposes that meaning extension should be treated as a fundamental means to construct mental contexts for interpretation, where meaning extension is seen as a productive way of cognitive enrichment. Thus cognition should be conceived of as a special mixture of different cognitive abilities and a result of a culture-specific, contextualized socialization that ought to make use of both (i) the reproductive-analytic mode (mapping existing conceptual structures) and (ii) the experimenting-holistic mode (blending and integrating elements of potential input mental spaces) of meaning construction.