Schumacher, Petra B. ORCID: 0000-0003-0263-8502, Roberts, Leah and Järvikivi, Juhani (2017). Agentivity drives real-time pronoun resolution: Evidence from German er and der. Lingua, 185. pp. 25-41. ISSN 00243841

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We report two experiments on the referential resolution of the German subject pronoun er and the demonstrative der (‘he’). Using the visual world eye-tracking paradigm, we examined the effects of grammatical role, thematic role and the information status of potential referents in the antecedent clause operationalized by word-order (canonical/non-canonical), in the context of active–accusative verbs (Exp. 1) and dative-experiencer verbs (Exp. 2). In information-structurally neutral contexts, er prefers the proto-agent and der the proto-patient. This suggests that agentivity is a better predictor for pronoun resolution than subjecthood or sentence topic as previously proposed. It further supports the claim that agentivity is a core property of language processing and it more generally substantiates the proposal from cognitive sciences that agentivity represents core knowledge of the human attentional system. With non-canonical antecedent clauses, because they lack alignment of prominence features, interpretive preferences become less stable, indicating that multiple cues are involved in pronoun resolution. The data further suggest that the demonstrative pronoun elicits more reliable interpretive biases than the personal pronoun.

Item Type: Journal Article
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Schumacher, Petra
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-376588
DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2016.07.004
Journal or Publication Title: Lingua
Volume: 185
Page Range: pp. 25-41
Date: 2017
ISSN: 00243841
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Divisions: Collaborative Research Centers > CRC 1252: Prominence in Language > TP C07
Subjects: Language, Linguistics
Refereed: Yes


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