The role of pronominalization and ellipsis in texts: Some memory experiments

Elizabeth Bates, Walter Kintsch, Charles R. Fletcher, Vittoria Giuliani

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43 Scopus citations


Experiments on recognition memory for real-life language materials suggest that memory for surface form is more robust in these situations than in traditional laboratory experiments with artificial texts. Furthermore, the probability that surface form will be retained seems to depend on the role played by a given form in the discourse as a whole. Surface form memory for "marked" or explicit forms of reference was investigated in 3 experiments to determine whether markedness effects in surface memory are based on retrieval or reconstruction. Results of Exp I with 60 undergraduates indicate that surface memory is unaffected by modality of input (video, audio, or written). In Exp II with 45 adult native speakers of Italian, the markedness effect was obtained not only with the noun-pronoun contrast used in English but with a pronoun-deletion contrast that is grammatically acceptable in Italian. Exp III with 40 undergraduates indicated that recognition memory involved the actual forms used rather than reconstruction of the form that should have occurred at a given point in the context. A recognition test within the original discourse context was used. Results are discussed in terms of the function of explicit vs anaphoric reference in the production and comprehension of natural discourse. (20 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)676-691
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1980


  • input modality vs pronominalization vs response strategy, recognition memory of real-life discourse, college students vs Italian speaking adults


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