Getting to “Hearer-old”: Charting Referring Expressions Across Time

Ieva Staliunaite, Hannah Rohde, Bonnie Webber, Annie Louis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


When a reader is first introduced to an entity, its referring expression must describe the entity. For entities that are widely known, a single word or phrase often suffices. This paper presents the first study of how expressions that refer to the same entity develop over time. We track thousands of person and organization entities over 20 years of New York Times (NYT). As entities move from hearer-new (first introduction to the NYT audience) to hearer-old (common knowledge) status, we show empirically that the referring expressions along this trajectory depend on the type of the entity, and exhibit linguistic properties related to becoming common knowledge (e.g., shorter length, less use of appositives, more definiteness). These properties can also be used to build a model to predict how long it will take for an entity to reach hearer-old status. Our results reach 10-30% absolute improvement over a majority-class baseline.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing
Place of PublicationBrussels, Belgium
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Event2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing - Square Meeting Center, Brussels, Belgium
Duration: 31 Oct 20184 Nov 2018


Conference2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing
Abbreviated titleEMNLP 2018
Internet address


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