Constraints on the formation of plural reference objects: The influence of role, conjunction, and type of description

L M Moxey, A J Sanford, P Sturt, L I Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper examines the use of singular and plural pronominal references to split antecedents such as John and Mary. Current opinion suggests that under the right circumstances, singular reference should be difficult, and plural reference facilitated, but currently only the first of the these predictions has been demonstrated. We report four experiments that explore the preferences for plural and singular pronouns following split antecedents, and through eyetracking data show predicted effects for plural references as well as for singular. Experiments 3 and 4 show that when one character is introduced by name and the other by role description, people produce less plural continuations, but do not show evidence of a reduction in the facilitation of reading plural pronouns. This suggests that the use of and forces the availability of a plural reference object. The results are consistent with the view that the assignment of characters to common thematic roles supports plural reference. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-364
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Volume51
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004

Keywords

  • RESOLUTION
  • PRONOUNS
  • EXPRESSIONS
  • CONTROLLERS
  • ANTECEDENTS
  • DISCOURSE
  • ANAPHORS
  • PHRASES
  • SERIAL
  • MODELS

Cite this