The Referent of Accented Pronouns is Determined by Coherence Relations


This study investigates the effect of coherence relations and accent on pronoun reference. Participants heard sentences like "John saw Jeff, and Jane called him," and indicated which noun the pronoun referred to. Here, the pronoun is said to be ambiguous because it can refer either to John or to Jeff. The sentences had one of two different types of coherence relations (Kehler, 2002), and were varied for pronoun accent. Coherence relations describe the relation between two different propositions. Accenting the pronoun changed the referent in one coherence relation condition, but not the other. Contra Kehler, Kertz, Rohde, and Elman (2008), different coherence relations responded to accenting in dissimilar ways. Furthermore, coherence relations were more important in determining pronoun referent than syntax, against Smyth (1994).

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