The length of a noun phrase has been shown to influence choices such as syntactic role assignment (e.g., whether the noun phrase is realized as the subject or the object). But does length also affect the choice between different forms of referring expressions? Three experiments investigated the effect of antecedent length on the choice between pronouns (e.g., he) and repeated nouns (e.g., the actor) using a sentence-continuation paradigm. Experiments 1 and 2 found an effect of antecedent length on written continuations: Participants used more pronouns (relative to repeated nouns) when the antecedent was longer than when it was shorter. Experiment 3 used a spoken continuation task and replicated the effect of antecedent length on the choice of referring expressions. Taken together, the results suggest that longer antecedents increase the likelihood of pronominal reference. The results support theories arguing that length enhances the accessibility of the associated entity through richer semantic encoding.
- language production
- referring expression