Pronouns & At-Issueness

Pronoun resolution is known to be sensitive to information-structure and related factors that contribute to the salience of an antecedent. According to some pragmatic theories, At-Issueness (AI) is defined as contributing to the current Question Under Discussion (QUD) such that not at-issue (NAI) content may be considered less salient, leading to the prediction that it should be harder for a pronoun to ‘find’ its antecedent in NAI content compared to AI content. I tested this prediction experimentally, with the result that At-Issueness does not affect pronoun resolution in this way. This finding is in line with processing accounts to At-Issueness (e.g. Dillon et al. 2014), as well as other experimental studies, which argue that NAI content is processed separately from AI content but that its syntactic form is lost quickly, assuming that pronouns require discourse referents with a semantic representation. I am currently working on an extension to these results to see to what extent NAI status has an effect on pronoun resolution after all by restricting the ‘search space’ for finding an antecedent.

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