Discourse op Dinsdag, 21 april: Sarah van Vliet

Date & time: April 21; 15:30-17:00

Location: Utrecht University, Janskerkhof 13, Room 0.06

 Sarah van Vliet

VU University Amsterdam


The use of proper nouns and pronouns in narrative discourse:

Towards a process model of reference maintenance


When narrators refer to the characters in their stories, they typically alternate between explicit referential expressions such as proper nouns (‘Henry’), and attenuated expressions such as pronouns (‘he’). In this talk I report an analysis of maintained protagonist references within a large corpus of elicited written Dutch narratives (van Vliet 2008). The analysis focuses on the consecutive choices between pronouns and repeated proper nouns, relative to a number of grammatical and discourse factors. On the basis of the results I present a model of reference maintenance in which the choice between proper nouns and pronouns is guided by both linear factors such as referential distance, and hierarchical factors such as episode structure.  I will discuss the role of referent salience (cf. Ariel 2001 inter alia) and attention fluctuation in this model of referential choice, and the question whether referential choice can best be explained in terms of speaker-based or addressee-oriented mechanisms (cf. Arnold 2008)


Ariel, M. 2001. Accessibility Theory: An overview. In T. Sanders & J. Schilperoord & W. Spooren (Eds.), Text Representation: Linguistic and Psycholinguistic Aspects. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Arnold, J.E. (2008). Reference production: production-internal and addressee-oriented processes. Language and Cognitive Processes, 23 (4), 495-527.

Van Vliet, S. (2008). Proper Nouns and Pronouns: The production of referential expressions in narrative discourse.   Ph.D. diss., Tilburg University. LOT series 175.

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Belgian Netherlands Cognitive Linguistics Association
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