Advertisement

Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 245–264 | Cite as

The use of heuristic strategies in the interpretation of pronouns

  • Rosalind A. Crawley
  • Rosemary J. Stevenson
  • David Kleinman
Article

Abstract

The aim of the two experiments reported here was to distinguish between two heuristic strategies that have been proposed to account for the assignment of pronouns: the subject assignment strategy and the parallel function strategy. According to the subject assignment strategy, a pronoun is assigned to a preceding subject noun phrase, whereas according to the parallel function strategy, a pronoun is assigned to a previous noun phrase in the same grammatical position as the pronoun. These two strategies were tested by examining the interpretation of single object pronouns, first in a reading task and second in an assignment task. In both experiments, there was a strong preference for assigning an object pronoun to the preceding subject noun phrase, thus supporting the subject assignment strategy. However, this was only the case for pronouns that were linguistically ambiguous. When assignment was constrained by gender, there was no effect of either strategy. It is suggested that heuristic strategies are only used in the absence of other strong cues to assignment.

Keywords

Cognitive Psychology Strong Preference Noun Phrase Single Object Function Strategy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Bever, T. G. (1970). The cognitive basis for linguistic structures. In J. R. Hayes (Ed.),Cognition and the development of language, New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  2. Broadbent, D. E. (1973).In Defence of Empirical Psychology, London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  3. Chafe, W. L. (1972). Discourse structure and human knowledge. In J. B. Carroll & R. O. Freedle (Eds.),Language comprehension and the acquisition of knowledge. Washington, DC: Winston.Google Scholar
  4. Chomsky, N. (1981).Lectures on government and binding, Dordrecht, Holland: Foris.Google Scholar
  5. Clancy, P. M. (1980). Referential choice in English and Japanese narrative discourse. In W. L. Chafe (Ed.),The pear stories, Vol. III: Advances in discourse processes, Norwood, NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
  6. Clark, H. H., & Begun, J. S. (1968). The use of syntax in understanding sentences.British Journal of Psychology, 59, 219–229.Google Scholar
  7. Cowan, J. R. (1980). The significance of parallel function in the assignment of intrasentential anaphora. In J. Kreiman & A. E. Ojeda (Eds.),Papers from the parasession on pronouns and anaphora. (pp. 110–124). Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.Google Scholar
  8. Crawley, R. A. (1985).The effects of local and global factors on the comprehension of pronouns. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Durham, Durham, England.Google Scholar
  9. Crawley, R. A. (1986). Some factors influencing the comprehension of pronouns. In C. Clifton (Ed.),Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 613–620). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  10. Dowty, D. (in press). Thematic roles as lexical semantic defaults.Language.Google Scholar
  11. Ehrlich, K. (1980). Comprehension of pronouns.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 32, 247–255.Google Scholar
  12. Ehrlich, K. & Rayner, K. (1983). Pronoun assignment and semantic integration during reading: Eye movements and immediacy of processing.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 22, 75–87.Google Scholar
  13. Fodor, J. D., & Frazier, L. (1980). Is the human parsing machine an ATN?Cognition, 8, 417–459.Google Scholar
  14. Frederiksen, J. R. (1981). Understanding anaphora: Rules used by readers in assigning pronominal referents.Discourse Processes, 4, 323–347.Google Scholar
  15. Garrod, S., & Sanford, A. J. (1985). On the real-time character of interpretation during reading.Language and Cognitive Processes, 1, 43–59.Google Scholar
  16. Garvey, C., Caramazza, A., & Yates, J. (1976). Factors influencing assignment of pronoun antecedents.Cognition, 3, 227–243.Google Scholar
  17. Grober, E. H., Beardsley, W., & Caramazza, A. (1978). Parallel function strategy in pronoun assignment.Cognition, 6, 117–133.Google Scholar
  18. Halliday, M. A. K. (1967). Notes on transitivity and theme in English.Journal of Linguistics, 3, 199–244.Google Scholar
  19. Hirst, W., & Brill, G. A. (1980). Contextual aspects of pronoun assignment.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 19, 168–175.Google Scholar
  20. Hobbs, J. R. (1976).Pronoun Resolution (Res. Rep. No. 76-1). New York: City University of New York, Department of Computer Sciences, City College.Google Scholar
  21. Kieras, D. E. (1979).The relation of topics and themes in naturally occurring technical paragraphs (Tech. Rep. No. 1). Tucson: University of Arizona.Google Scholar
  22. Maratsos, M. P. (1973). The effects of stress on the understanding of pronominal coreference in children.Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 2, 1–8.Google Scholar
  23. Norman, D. A., Rumelhart, D. E., & LNR (1975).Explorations in cognition. San Fransisco: Freeman.Google Scholar
  24. Rondal, J. A., Brédart, S., Leyen, N., Neuville, P., & Péree, F. (1984). Coreference et strategie des fonctions paralleles dans le cas des pronoms anaphoriques ambigus.Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive, 4, 151–170.Google Scholar
  25. Sanford, A. J., & Garrod, S. C. (1981).Understanding written language. Explorations in comprehension beyond the sentence. Chichester: J. Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  26. Sheldon, A. (1974). The role of parallel function in the acquisition of relative clauses in English.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 13, 272–281.Google Scholar
  27. Stevenson, R. J. (1979).The effects of linguistic and cognitive factors on memory for sentences. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University College London, London, England.Google Scholar
  28. Stevenson, R. J. (1986). The time course of pronoun comprehension. In C. Clifton (Ed.),Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 102–109). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  29. Vonk, W. (1984). Pronoun comprehension. In A. G. Gale & F. Johnson (Eds.),Theoretical and applied aspects of eye movement research. (pp. 203–212). Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  30. Winograd, T. (1972).Understanding natural language, New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  31. Wykes, T. (1981). Inference and children's comprehension of pronouns.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 32, 264–278.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosalind A. Crawley
    • 1
  • Rosemary J. Stevenson
    • 1
  • David Kleinman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Durham, Science LaboratoriesDurhamEngland

Personalised recommendations