Speakers use their own discourse model to determine referents' accessibility during the production of referring expressions.

Kumiko Fukumura, Roger van Gompel

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We report two experiments that investigated the widely-held assumption that speakers use the addressee's discourse model when choosing referring expressions, by manipulating whether the addressee could hear the immediately preceding linguistic context. Experiment 1 showed that speakers increased pronoun use (relative to definite NPs) when the referent was mentioned in the immediately preceding sentence compared to when it was not, but whether their addressee heard that the referent was mentioned had no effect, indicating that speakers use their own, privileged discourse model when choosing referring expressions. The same pattern of results was found in Experiment 2. Speakers produced fewer pronouns when the immediately preceding sentence mentioned a referential competitor than when it mentioned the referent, but this effect did not differ depending on whether the sentence was shared with their addressee. Thus, we conclude that choice of referring expression is determined by the referent's accessibility in the speaker’s own discourse model rather than the addressee's.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the PRE-CogSci 2009 Workshop
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • reference production
  • accessibility
  • pronoun

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