Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2214-3157
  • E-ISSN: 2214-3165
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In the children’s film , toys spring to life when their human owners are away, creating an alternative world of transferred animacy relations signalled by visual and linguistic cues. The storylines and characters explore the nature of animacy and relationships between conspecifics and ‘others’. Our analysis focuses on the use of referring expressions over the course of the narrative, as they reflect the animacy of their referents. We relate these findings to well-established scales of animacy which link our perception of the world to the categories imposed by language. We find that, as predicted by models of animacy proposed by Dahl (2008) and Yamamoto (1999) , among others, shifts in reference – specifically from common noun to proper noun to pronoun, and from collective to individuated referents – reflect characters’ shifting conceptualisation of, and empathy with, each other. We argue that referring expressions are used at key points in the film script to subtly mediate accessible cues to animacy like eyes, speech and motion, and to guide viewers’ empathies and allegiances, extending our understanding of animacy beyond ordinary anthropocentrism.


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