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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2020

Referential form, word order and emotional valence in Turkish pronoun resolution in physical contact events

From the book Discourse Meaning
Duygu Özge and Ebru Evcen


This study investigates the effect of information structure (revealed in SOV versus OSV orders), the type of anaphoric expression (zero versus overt pronouns), and the verb valence (positive valence versus negative valence) on the interpretation of ambiguous pronouns in Turkish physical contact action verbs. Turkish speaking adult participants were asked to determine the reference for a nonsense adjectival predicate in an utterance with an action verb and two clauses connected by a causal connector ‘because’. We found that there was a greater subject preference when the subject was located preverbally in the focus position. Participants linked the null pronoun to the subject in the SOV order regardless of the verb valence. In the overt pronoun condition in the SOV order, they took the overt pronoun as coreferential with the object in the positive valence verbs while linking it to the subject in the negative valence verbs. We argued that the topic shifting mission of the overt pronoun may change according to the context such that the overt pronoun shifts the topic from the subject to the object in the positive valence events while keeping the topic constant in the negative valence events. There was also an increase in the subject reference in the OSV order, which revealed that the entity salience increases with the combined effect of subjecthood and focushood. Finally, there was a greater subject preference in the positive valence verbs than in negative valence verbs in the OSV order, which suggests that the information structure locating the object as the topic (i.e., given) entity might be decreasing the causality attribution to the subject in these contexts.

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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