Information structure and the accessibility of clausally introduced referents

Michael Hegarty, Jeanette K. Gundel, Kaja Borthen

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19 Scopus citations


Propositions, situations, and certain other entities, introduced into a discourse with a non-nominal expression, are typically available to immediate subsequent reference with a demonstrative pronoun, but not with a personal pronoun. The paper examines the effects of information structure and the lexical semantics of verbs taking clausal complements on these possibilities of subsequent reference. A one-way relationship is found between possibilities for subsequent reference and an information structural bifurcation into focus and ground (or comment and topic, rheme and theme). When an expression introducing one of the entities in question occurs in the informational focus, the contrast in subsequent reference by a demonstrative versus a personal pronoun mentioned above is obtained; when such an expression occurs in the informational ground, the contrast is neutralized. Furthermore, the contrast is obtained for an entity introduced by a (informationally focal) bridge verb complement, but not by a non-bridge verb complement. These effects are explained in terms of the referential possibilities conferred by different referring forms according to Gundel, Hedberg and Zacharski (1993), and the role of information and lexical structure in bringing an entity into focus of attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-186
Number of pages24
JournalTheoretical Linguistics
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2001


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