The Referential Properties of Dutch Pronouns and Demonstratives: Is Salience Enough?


  • Elsi Kaiser
  • John Trueswell



According to many researchers, the form of referring expressions is connected to the accessibility/topicality of their referents: The most reduced referring expressions refer to highly accessible referents, whereas fuller expressions refer to less accessible referents. Thus, in languages with full and reduced pronouns, full forms are said to refer to less accessible referents. In this paper, we investigate these claims by looking at Dutch, which has full and reduced pronouns and demonstratives. We report here the results of a sentence-completion study as well as an eye-tracking experiment that we conducted, and argue that the results are only partly compatible with a straightforward accessibility-based approach to referential form. More specifically, our results suggest that the full vs. reduced pronoun choice is not triggered by referent salience, but the choice of a demonstrative over a pronoun is. Corpus examples indicate that use of full form of pronouns may in fact be prompted by contrast. Overall, these results – as well as work on Finnish and Estonian (Kaiser 2003) – show that different anaphoric forms within one language can be sensitive to different factors, and their referential properties cannot be captured by a unified notion of salience.




How to Cite

Kaiser, E., & Trueswell, J. (2019). The Referential Properties of Dutch Pronouns and Demonstratives: Is Salience Enough?. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 8, 137–150.