Discourse op Dinsdag: this monday (!)

Discourse op Maandag

Date & time: March 30; 11:00-12:30

Location: Utrecht, Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, Stijlkamer van Ravesteyn 1.06

Jennifer Spenader

University of Groningen

Coherence Relations, Anaphora and Presupposition


Consider the following sentences and what the preferred interpretation of “he” is:

(1) Samuel threatened Justin with a knife, and he blindfolded Erin with a scarf (too). (Parallel)
(2) Justin was threatened by Samuel with a knife, and he blindfolded Erin with a scarf (too). (Parallel)
(3) Justin was threatened by Samuel with a knife, and he was arrested. (Cause-Effect)

The verb meaning makes clear that “he” should be interpreted as Justin in all three sentences, but somehow (2) is awkward. Kehler’s (2002) theory claims parallel coherence relations between two clauses constrains antecedent-anaphor relationships to parallel interpretations, e.g. object antecedents for object anaphora, etc. Because (2) has a passive-active voice mismatch, interpreting the pronoun in (2) is more awkward than in (1).  Cause-Effect relations are claimed to permit freer anaphoric links,  thus the same voice mismatch in a cause-effect relation in (3) is claimed not to influence anaphoric relationships.

Kehler illustrates his theory with convincing natural examples, but recently his theory has been tested experimentally, with a number of conflicting results (e.g. Frazier & Clifton, 2006, Kehler et al. 2008, Kertz 2008, Kobele et al. 2008). As a possible explanation, Frazier & Clifton (2006) and Hendriks (2002) have both suggested that the presence of presupposition triggers like “too” might influence pronoun interpretation possibilities.

In this talk I will present the motivation and set-up of a series of planned experiments to clarify the contribution of presuppositional triggers to pronoun interpretation in Parallel and Cause-Effect coherence relations, and discuss potential outcomes and their explanations.

The Discourse op Dinsdag discussion group is intended for researchers working on discourse from a language use perspective, and offers a platform to discuss their work (in progress). For more information check our website http://www.let.uu.nl/vici.

About benecla

Belgian Netherlands Cognitive Linguistics Association
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