The timing of prominence information during the resolution of German personal and demonstrative pronouns

Clare Patterson, Petra B. Schumacher

Abstract


German personal and demonstrative pronouns have distinct preferences in their interpretation; personal pronouns are more flexible in their interpretation but tend to resolve to a prominent antecedent, while demonstratives have a strong preference for a non-prominent antecedent. However, less is known about how prominence information is used during the process of resolution, particularly in the light of two- stage processing models which assume that reference will normally be to the most accessible candidate. We conducted three experiments investigating how prominence information is used during the resolution of gender-disambiguated personal and demonstrative pronouns in German. While the demonstrative pronoun required additional processing compared to the personal pronoun, prominence information did not affect resolution in shallow conditions. It did, however, affect resolution under deep processing conditions. We conclude that prominence information is not ruled out by the presence of stronger resolution cues such as gender. However, the deployment of prominence information in the evaluation of candidate antecedents is under strategic control.


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www.dialogue-and-discourse.orgISSN: 2152-9620   Journal doi: 10.5087/dad