Effects of Topic and Focus on Salience


  • Elsi Kaiser




This paper investigates what factors make a particular referent a good antecedent for subsequent pronominal reference. In particular, it explores two seemingly conflicting claims in the literature regarding the effects of topicality and focusing on referent salience. In light of new experimental results combined with a review of existing work, I conclude that neither topicality nor focusing alone can explain referent salience as indicated by patterns of pronoun reference. Rather, the data provide support for a multiple-factor model of salience (e.g. Arnold 1999). More specifically, the results show that grammatical role has a striking effect: being a subject makes a referent more salient than either pronominalization/givenness or focusing alone. Furthermore, the results of the experiment suggest that the likelihood of subsequent pronominal reference is also influenced by structural focusing and pronominalization, but not as strongly as by subjecthood. I argue that these data are best captured by a multiple-factor model in which factors differ in how influential they are relative to one another, i.e. how heavily weighted they are. A single-factor system does not seem adequate for these data.




How to Cite

Kaiser, E. (2019). Effects of Topic and Focus on Salience. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 10(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2006.v10i1.680

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