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Proper names as controllers of discourse focus

Sanford, A.J., Moar, K., and Garrod, S.C. (1988) Proper names as controllers of discourse focus. Language and Speech, 31 (1). pp. 43-56. ISSN 0023-8309

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Abstract

An important aspect of the psychological focus of character-based discourse is the character that is the most prominent at any given point during reading, since prominent characters can control a number of processes leading to the cohesiveness of text. In this paper, three experiments are reported which investigate the proposition that the use of a proper name for a character (e.g., Louise) makes that character more prominent than does a role description (e.g., The hairdresser), even when the description denotes the same individual, playing the same narrative role. The studies show that named characters are more likely to be used in continuations of stories (referential availability), and that sentences containing pronominal anaphoric references to named characters are read more rapidly than those referring to corresponding role descriptions (referential accessibility). Naming thus appears to be a major factor in focus control. Some explanations and implications are discussed.

Item Type:Article
Status:Published
Refereed:No
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Sanford, Prof Anthony and Garrod, Prof Simon
Authors: Sanford, A.J., Moar, K., and Garrod, S.C.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Language and Speech
ISSN:0023-8309
ISSN (Online):1756-6053

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