Places as referents in discourse

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The present study investigated how the prominence of places in discourse is influenced by their role in the described situations and their order of mention in the text. Experiment 1 compared descriptions, where places have a central role as theme, with narratives, where thematic places are less central because they serve as setting for characters and events. Readers chose places as referent for an ambiguous pronoun. For descriptions, they tended to choose thematic places, but for narratives they tended to choose recently mentioned places. This suggests that when places are central to discourse, their prominence is determined by their role in the described situations; otherwise it is determined by order of mention. Experiment 2 provides further evidence that places are noncentral to narratives because cause of their setting function. Thus, readers try to choose as referents entities that are central to the described situations. They resort to order of mention only when situational cues are absent or conflicting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)676-690
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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