Anaphoric reference to mereological entities

Derya Çokal, Ruth Filik, Patrick Sturt, Massimo Poesio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Corpus evidence suggests that in contexts in which the presence of multiple antecedents might favor plural reference, the disadvantage observed for singular reference may disappear if the potential antecedents are combined in a group-like plural entity. We examined the relative salience of antecedents in conditions where the context either made a group interpretation available (i.e., mereological entity) (e.g., The engineer hooked up the engine to the boxcar …, where group = train), or not (e.g., The engineer detached the engine from the boxcar …). Results from three experiments in which participants were asked to identify referents for singular versus plural pronouns (Experiment 1), to confirm the referents of pronouns in a sentence completion task (Experiment 2), and to provide paraphrases for given texts (Experiment 3), collectively provided evidence that the creation of a group makes that entity (i) a possible referent for singular anaphoric reference and (ii) more salient than its constituents.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDiscourse Processes
Early online date27 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Apr 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • plural pronouns
  • plural object reference
  • atomic interpretation
  • complex anaphors
  • groups
  • underspecification
  • singular pronoun


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