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Indirect anaphora in text

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Abstract

The term indirect anaphor (IA) refers to a definite NP which has no explicit antecedent in text and is linked via a cognitive process to some element in prior text which functions as some kind of anchor for the interpretation of IA. According to one popular view, IA are treated as phenomena that can best be explained in terms of associability. In this paper I will argue for a more complex cognitive approach. Taking a procedural perspective, I want to demonstrate, firstly, that there are different types of IA. A distinction will be drawn between IA which are based on the activation of semantic knowledge in the mental lexicon and IA which require more general conceptual knowledge for their interpretation. I will base the discussion on naturally occurring data from German texts. All kinds of indirect anaphora have to be seen as “given-and-new-entities”. Combining both easy accessibility and the establishment of new referential files in text-world models, they serve as “progressive continuity markers”. The second aim of this paper is to illustrate that in many cases there is no clear-cut distinction between direct and indirect anaphora in text, showing that the most typical examples of direct and indirect anaphors may best be regarded as two extremes on a continuum of textual reference, thereby weakening the claim for a strict distinction between the two types and arguing for a unified account in explaining the interpretation of referring expressions.

References

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