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Reference and Accessibility from a Givenness Hierarchy Perspective

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image of International Review of Pragmatics

Most work on reference and discourse structure appeals, in some sense, to the notion of accessibility. While the term "accessibility" itself is rarely mentioned in research within Gundel, Hedberg and Zacharski's Givenness Hierarchy (GH) framework, the GH has often been interpreted by others as an accessibility hierarchy. This paper aims to clarify the major claims and predictions of the GH theory, showing how it is fundamentally diff erent from other referential hierarchies in a number of ways, most importantly because cognitive statuses on the hierarchy are assumed to encode manner of accessibility, not degree of accessibility. The GH thus differs from the other referential hierarchies, not only in the kinds of facts it aims to predict and explain, but in the specific empirical predictions that can plausibly be derived from it regarding degree of accessibility, as measured by ease of processing.


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