The Cataphoric Potential of Indefinites in German

  • Annika Deichsel
  • Klaus von Heusinger
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 7099)


Not only do indefinite noun phrases introduce new discourse referents, they also equip them with a cataphoric (or forward-looking) potential, i.e. with a certain degree of activation which is mirrored in discourse effects such as the frequency of anaphoric references back to the referent in the subsequent discourse. Comparing the two German indefinite determiners ein ‘a(n)’ and indefinite demonstrative dieser ‘this’, we claim that the degree of the cataphoric potential of an indefinite noun phrase (i) correlates with specificity and (ii) a second parameter independent of specificity.


Discourse structure referent tracking referentiality specificity cataphoric potential 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Ariel, M.: Referring and Accessibility. J. Linguistics 24, 65–87 (1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Arnold, J.: How Speakers Refer: The Role of Accessibility. Language and Linguistic Compass 4, 187–203 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Chiriacescu, S.: The Discourse Structuring Potential of Indefinite Noun Phrases. Special Markers in Romanian, German and English. Doctoral Dissertation. University of Stuttgart (2011)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Chiriacescu, S., von Heusinger, K.: Discourse Prominence and Pe-Marking in Romanian. International Review of Pragmatics 2(2), 298–332 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Fodor, J., Sag, I.: Referential and Quantificational Indefinites. Linguistics and Philosophy 5, 355–398 (1982)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Gernsbacher, M., Shroyer, S.: The Cataphoric Use of the Indefinite ‘this’ in Spoken Narratives. Memory and Cognition 17, 536–540 (1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Givón, T.: Topic Continuity in Discourse: An Introduction. In: Givón, T. (ed.) Topic Continuity in Discourse. A Quantitative Cross-Language Study. John Benjamins, Amsterdam (1983)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Gundel, J., Hedberg, N., Zacharski, R.: Cognitive Status and the Form of Referring Expressions in Discourse. Language 69, 274–307 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ionin, T.: This is Definitely Specific: Specificity and Definiteness in Article Systems. Natural Language Semantics 14, 175–234 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Karttunen, L.: Discourse Referents. In: 1969 Conference on Computational Linguistics. Sång-Säby, Sweden, 1–38, Reprinted in: J. McCawley (ed.) Syntax and Semantics 7: Notes from the Linguistic Underground, pp. 363–385. Academic Press, New York (1969/1976)
  11. 11.
    Kehler, A., Kertz, L., Rohde, H., Elman, J.: Coherence and Coreference Revised. J. Semantics 25, 1–44 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Maclaren, R.: The Semantics and Pragmatics of the English Demonstratives. Doctoral Dissertation. Cornell University (1982)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Prince, E.: On the Inferencing of Indefinite-this NPs. In: Josh, A., Webber, B., Sag, I. (eds.) Elements of Discourse Understanding, pp. 231–250. CUP, Cambridge (1981)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Reinhart, T.: Pragmatics and Linguistics: An Analysis of Sentence Topics. Philosophica 27(1), 53–93 (1981)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Roberts, C.: Topics. In: von Heusinger, K., Maienborn, C., Portner, P. (eds.) Semantics: An International Handbook of Natural Language Meaning, vol. 2, pp. 1909–1935. De Gruyter, Berlin (2011)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Von Heusinger, K.: Specificity. In: von Heusinger, K., Maienborn, C., Portner, P. (eds.) HSK Semantics. An International Handbook of Natural Language Meaning, vol. 2, pp. 1025–1058. De Gruyter, Berlin (2011)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Wright, S., Givón, T.: The Pragmatics of Indefinite Reference: Quantified Text-Based Studies. Studies in Language 11(1), 1–33 (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annika Deichsel
    • 1
  • Klaus von Heusinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Germanistik/LinguistikUniversität StuttgartStuttgartGermany

Personalised recommendations