Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details


An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: van der Auwera, Johan

IMPACT FACTOR increased in 2015: 0.763
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.872
Rank 78 out of 179 in category Linguistics in the 2015 Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Report/Social Sciences Edition

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.496
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 1.099
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2015: 0.689

99,00 € / $149.00 / £75.00*

See all formats and pricing
Select Volume and Issue


30,00 € / $42.00 / £23.00

Get Access to Full Text

How grammatical and discourse factors may predict the forward prominence of referents: two corpus studies

Henk Pander Maat1 / Ted Sanders1

1Utrecht University

Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS, Utrecht University, Trans 10, NL-3512 JK Utrecht, The Netherlands. E-mail:

Citation Information: Linguistics. Volume 47, Issue 6, Pages 1273–1319, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: 10.1515/LING.2009.045, December 2009

Publication History

Published Online:


One of the ways in which discourse coheres is by means of repeated reference to entities. Theoretical accounts of referential coherence propose heuristics for the interpretation of referential expressions, which are especially important when there is more than one potential antecedent. One of the most explicit accounts is provided by Centering Theory (Grosz et al., Computational Linguistics 21: 203–225, 1995). Using features such as grammatical status, expression type, and the referential relation with sentences still further back in the discourse, it produces a ranking of discourse referents in terms of forward prominence. We present two corpus studies of how these features, in combination with discourse topichood, help to predict referential continuations in actual discourse.

In Study 1, we analyzed newspaper fragments in which he is preceded by a sentence presenting two male singular participants. The factors Grammatical Role (being a Subject), Backward Center Status and Discourse Topichood appear to increase the chance that a referent is the intended one for a potentially ambiguous pronoun, while Expression Type (noun or pronoun) makes no difference. In Study 2, the continuations for sentences with two referents differing on the same four factors were compared, assuming that the most prominent referent will reappear in the next sentence. The study reveals that Grammatical Role only affects the form of continuation: subject referents do not reappear more often, but when reappearing they are more often realized as pronouns. Backward Center Status increases the chance of subsequent references to a referent, and also decreases the chances for its competitor of being referred to again. Discourse Topichood has the same double effect. In conclusion, both global and local factors affect referential prominence, but in different ways.

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Yu-Chen Hung and Petra B. Schumacher
Brain Research, 2014, Volume 1555, Page 36

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.