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Text World Theory

An Introduction

Joanna Gavins

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Text World Theory is a cognitive model of all human discourse processing. In this introductory textbook, Joanna Gavins sets out a usable framework for understanding mental representations. Text World Theory is explained using naturally occurring texts and real situations, including literary works, advertising discourse, the language of lonely hearts, horoscopes, route directions, cookery books and song lyrics. The book will therefore enable students, teachers and researchers to make practical use of the text-world framework in a wide range of linguistic and literary contexts.

Key Features

  • An accessible and enabling course book which includes suggestions for exploration and further reading.
  • Draws on linguistics, cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, poetics and stylistics, and will be attractive to students and researchers working in all of these disciplines.
  • Each chapter provides a reader-friendly introduction to an aspect of Text World Theory and includes at least two practical applications of these ideas to real discourse examples.


1. Conceptualising Language
2. Participating in Discourse
3. Scenes
4. Processes
5. Layers
6. Attitudes
7. Distances
8. Narratives
9. Double-vision
10. Futures

About the Author

Joanna Gavins is a lecturer in English language and literature at the University of Sheffield, UK, where she teaches courses in stylistics, cognitive poetics, linguistics and contemporary literature. Her innovative work in Text World Theory continues to advance the evolution of this powerful and exciting approach to human language and cognition.


It is not often that academic books come along which change your way of seeing things. But this book does just that. It offers an astonishing richness of texts, combining genuinely innovative theory and insight with readable, usable and practical analysis. Joanna Gavins shows Text World theory to be a way of understanding and engaging with texts that will continue to push back frontiers for many years to come.
- Professor Ronald Carter, University of Nottingham
This reader-friendly book makes a valuable contribution to the booming field of cognitive poetics… I hope this stimulating book will attract and inspire increasing academic interest in more in-depth explorations into the fascinating realm of mental representations.
- Zhiying Xin, Xiamen University, China, Discourse & Society
Text world theory has long been awaiting a comprehensive and comprehensible introduction. Joanna Gavins’ engaging book draws on the rich insights now available in the many strands of cognitive linguistics and discourse studies, and weaves them into her illuminating explanations, analyses and often witty commentary. This work is an excellent textbook. But it is more than that: it is a unified theoretical synthesis which at the same time provides usable tools for practical analysis.
- Paul Chilton, Lancaster University