- Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics
- Copyright Page
- List of figures and tables
- List of abbreviations
- The contributors
- Language Comprehension, Inference, and Alternatives
- Constraint-Based Pragmatic Processing
- Scalar Implicatures
- Event (De)composition
- Presuppositions, Projection, and Accommodation
- Spatial Terms
- Modified Numerals
- Quantifier Spreading
- Adjective Meaning and Scales
- Ironic Utterances
- Verbal Uncertainty
- Word Senses
- Antecedent-Contained Deletion
- Exhaustivity in <i>It</i>-Clefts
- Negative Polarity Items
- Reference and Informativeness
- Prosody and Meaning
- Theory of Mind
- Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics
Abstract and Keywords
How do speakers get other people to understand what they are talking about? Language wouldn’t succeed unless we were able to refer to ideas and things in the world, and get other people to understand them. Yet this human ability is complex, not least because it requires speakers and addressees to pay attention to context. This chapter reviews research on reference and informativeness in communication. It outlines the problem of referential choice, that is, how speakers select from the variety of expressions available to them. It then compares findings from two previously distinct literatures—pragmatic informativeness and discourse-based models of reference—and discusses how each has investigated (i) speakers’ choice of referring expressions; and (ii) how speakers’ choices affect addressees. It also examines processing, by reviewing the constraints affecting referential choice, both those associated with interlocutors themselves and those stemming from the referents under discussion. It concludes by raising some of the outstanding questions in linguistic reference.
Catherine Davies is Lecturer in Linguistics in the School of Languages, Cultures & Societies at the University of Leeds. Catherine uses experimental data (behavioural; eye-tracking) to investigate the development and processing of pragmatics, especially in the use of referring expressions. Her main area of research investigates how children and adults integrate information from communicative contexts into their referential choices in production and comprehension. She is also interested in psycholinguistic processing within its social context, for example how language environments interact with language processing and development.
Jennifer E. Arnold is Professor in the department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She does research on the psychology of language, examining how the discourse context affects both language production and comprehension. Much of her research examines reference. When does the speaker say ‘she’ vs. ‘the woman’? How clearly are the words pronounced? Dr Arnold examines these questions as they relate to processes of utterance planning, disfluency, and the ability for speakers to model the knowledge and perspective of their addressee.
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