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The Production and Interpretation of Anaphora and Ellipsis

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The paper tries to apply a psychological theory of language production and interpretation to the linguistic description of pronouns. The claim is that this is possible and helpful and that a full theory of the use and interpretation of pronouns is possible from this perspective, that can both predict when pronouns are used and what is their antecedent. In particular, the theory should be able to explain the properties of pronoun resolution, pronoun selection in natural language generation and the grammaticalisation processes that lead to pronouns. The psychological theory proposed is motivated as an account of parity: the probable identity between the speaker intention and the hearer interpretation. It has four components: a minimal account of legal forms for a given input, speaker self-monitoring for a prioritised set of features, cue-based understanding and filtering by production. A good form for an intention is legal and marks the most prioritised features best, a good interpretation meets the production filter and is most strongly cued by the signal. Descriptively, the main component of self-monitoring for pronouns is an extension of the referential hierarchy (Gundel et al., 1993). Recency, frequency and relevance are effects of cue-based interpretation and central to pronoun resolution. The role of syntax is limited to the agreement features and subclassification of pronouns. The aim of the paper is not to contribute to pronoun resolution or generation but to explore the descriptive potential of a psychologically inspired account of parity in linguistic communication, with of course the hope that the understanding of pronouns benefits from this exercise.


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