Representing characters in a scenario: What makes two individuals a set?

Moxey, L.M., Sanford, A.J. and Tonks, K. (2012) Representing characters in a scenario: What makes two individuals a set? Language and Cognitive Processes, 27(9), pp. 1405-1424. (doi: 10.1080/01690965.2011.607728)

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Following two individually mentioned characters in a text it is possible to successfully refer to either the individuals, or the set of two. Various factors, syntactic and pragmatic, have been found to affect the ease with which these types of reference can be made, however. This is therefore an interesting puzzle for those attempting to work out how linguistic and pragmatic factors interact in determining the representation we build in the process of understanding text. We build on previous ideas of “equivalence” and a “common association base” to propose that the Scenario mapping and focus model may explain at least some of the factors which affect plural pronominal reference. Two experiments are described which together suggest that the roles assigned to the two individual characters, and the likelihood of these roles being associated with joint activity in subsequent text are crucial in determining the likelihood of plural pronominal reference. Our findings broadly support the view that our representation of characters is heavily dependent on the scenario-based roles which we assign to those characters as we read.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Moxey, Dr Linda and Tonks, Miss Karen and Sanford, Professor Anthony
Authors: Moxey, L.M., Sanford, A.J., and Tonks, K.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Language and Cognitive Processes
ISSN (Online):1464-0732
Published Online:17 November 2011

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
491421Using Scenario-mapping Theory to predict plural referenceLinda MoxeyEconomic & Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/G022127/1Psychology