Linguistic and cognitive prominence in anaphor resolution: Topic, contrastive focus and pronouns

Topoi 26 (1):3-18 (2007)
This paper examines the role that linguistic and cognitive prominence play in the resolution of anaphor–antecedent relationships. In two experiments, we found that pronouns are immediately sensitive to the cognitive prominence of potential antecedents when other antecedent selection cues are uninformative. In experiment 1, results suggest that despite their theoretical dissimilarities, topic and contrastive focus both serve to enhance cognitive prominence. Results from experiment 2 suggest that the contrastive prosody appropriate for focus constructions may also play an important role in enhancing cognitive prominence. Thus different types of linguistic prominence (topic, contrastive focus) appear to have the common effect of increasing the cognitive prominence of the discourse referent. For pronouns with two possible antecedents, the cognitive prominence of an antecedent aids in anaphor resolution, immediately biasing selection towards the more prominent (and ultimately preferred) antecedent.
Keywords Anaphora  Language processing  Presupposition  Topic  Focus  Constrastive  Pronouns  Discourse  Mental models  Cross-modal
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