Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 3–23 | Cite as

Pragmatic Versus Form-Based Accounts of Referential Contrast: Evidence for Effects of Informativity Expectations

  • Julie C. Sedivy


Characterizing the relationship between form-based linguistic knowledge and representation of context has long been of importance in the study of on-line language processing. Recent experimental research has shown evidence of very rapid effects of referential context in resolving local indeterminacies on-line. However, there has been no consensus regarding the nature of these context effects. The current paper summarizes recent work covering a range of phenomena for which referential contrast has been shown to influence on-line processing, including prenominal and postnominal modification, focus operators, and intonational focus. The results of the body of work suggest that referential context effects are not limited to situations in which the linguistic form of the utterance directly specifies the point of contact with context. Rather, context effects of a pragmatic, Gricean nature appear to be possible, suggesting the relationship between linguistic form and context in rapid on-line processing can be of a very indirect nature.

referential contrast pragmatic knowledge discourse context eyetracking nominal modifier 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie C. Sedivy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive and Linguistic SciencesBrown UniversityProvidence

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