Conversational Implicatures in Anaphora Resolution: Alternative Constructions and Referring Expressions

  • Peter BaumannEmail author
  • Lars Konieczny
  • Barbara Hemforth
Part of the Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics book series (SITP, volume 44)


Like many other processes in language comprehension, anaphora resolution is determined by what is said. But is this all? Or to what extent is anaphora resolution also influenced by what is not said but could have been said? We present a questionnaire, a self-paced reading study and a corpus analysis, suggesting that the existence of possible alternative constructions and referring expressions helps to constitute preferences for anaphora in referentially ambiguous sentences and also affects online sentence processing. These disambiguating effects may be understood as conversational implicatures licensed by pragmatic principles.


Pronoun resolution Conversational implicatures European Portuguese 



The authors thank Daniel Müller-Feldmeth and Christoph Wolk for many fruitful discussions. We are very grateful to all the volunteers who participated in our experiments, and to Padre Hugo dos Santos, Catarina Matos Correia and Frederico Fiúza, who helped recruiting them.


  1. Alonso-Ovalle, L., Fernández-Solera, S., Frazier, L., & Clifton., C. (2002). Null vs. overt pronouns and the topic-focus articulation in Spanish. Rivista di Linguistica, 14(2), 1–19.Google Scholar
  2. Ariel, M. (1990). Accessing noun-phrase antecedents. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Baayen, R., Davidson, D., & Bates, D. (2008). Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Journal of Memory and Language, 59(4), 390–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bosch, P., Katz, G., & Umbach, C. (2007). The non-subject bias of German demonstrative pronouns. In M. Schwarz-Friesel, M. Consten, & M. Knees (Eds.), Anaphors in text: Cognitive, formal and applied approaches to anaphoric reference (pp. 145–164). Amsterdam: Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carminati, M. N. (2002). The processing of italian subject pronouns. Ph.D. thesis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.Google Scholar
  6. Colonna, S., Schimke, S., & Hemforth, B. (2014). Information structure and pronoun resolution in German and French: Evidence from the visual-world paradigm. In B. Hemforth, B. Schmiedtová, & C. Fabricius-Hansen (Eds.), Psycholinguistic approaches to meaning and understanding across languages (Studies in theoretical psycholinguistics, pp. 175–195). Cham: Springer.Google Scholar
  7. Frazier, L., & Clifton, C. (1996). Construal. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  8. Geber, D. (2006). Processing subject pronouns in relation to non-canonical (quirky) constructions. Cahiers Linguistiques d’Ottawa/Ottawa Papers in Linguistics, 34, 47–61.Google Scholar
  9. Gennari, S., & MacDonald, M. (2009). Linking production and comprehension processes: The case of relative clauses. Cognition, 111, 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gernsbacher, M. A., & Hargreaves, D. J. (1988). Accessing sentence participants: The advantage of first mention. Journal of Memory and Language, 27(6), 699–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Givón, T. (1983). Topic continuity in discourse: A quantitative cross-language study. Amsterdam: Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. L. Morgan (Eds.), Speech acts. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  13. Hemforth, B., Colonna, S., Pynte, J., & Konieczny, L. (2004). Pronoun resolution across languages. In 10th annual conference on architectures and mechanisms for language processing (AMLaP), Aix-en-Provence.Google Scholar
  14. Hemforth, B., Konieczny, L., Scheepers, C., Colonna, S., Schimke, S., Baumann, P., & Pynte, J. (2010). Language specific preferences in anaphor resolution: Exposure or Gricean maximes? In S. Ohlsson & R. Catrambone (Eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd annual conference of the cognitive science society, Oregon (pp. 2218–2223). Portland: Cognitive Science Society.Google Scholar
  15. Järvikivi, J., van Gompel, R. P., Hyönä, J., & Bertram, R. (2005). Ambiguous pronoun resolution: Contrasting the first-mention and subject-preference accounts. Psychological Science, 16(4), 260–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kehler, A. (2002). Coherence, reference and the theory of grammar. Stanford: CSLI.Google Scholar
  17. Koehn, P. (2005). Europarl: A parallel corpus for statistical machine translation. In MT summit, Phuket.Google Scholar
  18. Levinson, S. C. (1987). Pragmatics and the grammar of anaphora: A partial pragmatic reduction of binding and control phenomena. Journal of Linguistics, 23(2), 379–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Miltsakaki, E. (2002). Towards an aposynthesis of topic continuity and intrasentential anaphora. Computational Linguistics, 28(3), 319–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mitchell, D. C., Cuetos, F., & Corley, M. M. B. (1992). Statistical versus linguistic determinants of parsing bias: Cross-linguistic evidence. In 5th annual CUNY conference on human sentence processing, New York.Google Scholar
  21. Perera, J., & Bel, A. (2011). Propietats pragmàtiques i gramaticals en el desenvolupament de la coreferència pronominal. Zeitschrift für Katalanistik, 24, 183–211.Google Scholar
  22. Sanders, T. J. M. (1997). Semantic and pragmatic sources of coherence: On the categorization of coherence relations in context. Discourse Processes, 24, 119–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sanford, A. J., & Garrod, S. C. (1989). What, when, and how?: Questions of immediacy in anaphoric reference resolution. Language and Cognitive Processes, 4(3–4), 235–262.Google Scholar
  24. Thornton, R., Gil, M., & MacDonald, M. (1998). Accounting for crosslinguistic variation: A constraint-based perspective. In D. Hillert (Ed.), Syntax and semantics: A crosslinguistic perspective, vol. 31 (pp. 211–225). New York: Academic.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Baumann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lars Konieczny
    • 2
  • Barbara Hemforth
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Cognitive ScienceUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  3. 3.Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle, UMR 7110CNRS et Université Paris DescartesParisFrance

Personalised recommendations