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Information structure effects on anaphora resolution in German and French: A crosslinguistic study of pronoun resolution

Abstract : This paper presents an off-line study consisting of five questionnaires in which we observed interpretational preferences for ambiguous intra-sentential pronouns in parallel structures in German and French. We tested the influence of information structural factors, in particular, we compared the effects of topicalizing versus focusing potential antecedents of the ambiguous pronoun. Results replicated a baseline difference between the two languages: a subject preference in German and an object preference in French (Hemforth et al. 2010). We argue that the object preference in French is due to the fact that speakers take into account an alternative nonambiguous construction. In addition, we found that in both languages, topicalization enhances, but focusing reduces the accessibility of antecedents for pronouns in the same sentence. This stands in contrast with previous results showing an equal accessibility of focused and topicalized referents for pronouns in subsequent sentences (Cowles et al. 2007). We explain this difference with the different function of focus within and across sentences.
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Saveria Colonna, Sarah Schimke, Barbara Hemforth. Information structure effects on anaphora resolution in German and French: A crosslinguistic study of pronoun resolution. Linguistics, De Gruyter, 2012, 50 (5), pp.901-1073. ⟨hal-00799557⟩

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