Faculty Publications

Title

Comprehension of anaphoric pronouns

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior

Volume

16

Issue

5

First Page

601

Last Page

609

Abstract

This study was undertaken to demonstrate that a property of verbs, implicit causality, is an important factor in determining coreference of potentially ambiguous anaphoric pronouns in a timed comprehension task. Subjects were required to decide the coreferentiality of a pronoun in pairs of sentences such as John telephoned Bill because he withheld some information/wanted some information. Verbs were first empirically classified into those that bias assignment toward the first noun phrase of the main clause and those that bias assignment toward the second noun phrase. Pairs of sentences were constructed for each verb such that the subordinate clause in one sentence established a reading consistent with the natural bias of the verb while the others established a reading inconsistent with the bias of the verb. Time to respond was faster for the congruent sentences. This was also true for control sentences such as Sue telephoned Bill because he withheld some information in which gender differences eliminated all potential ambiguities. It was argued from these results that implicit causality is an important determinant of pronoun assignment and that ambiguities are normally resolved at clause boundaries. © 1977 Academic Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

Original Publication Date

1-1-1977

DOI of published version

10.1016/S0022-5371(77)80022-4

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