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Auteur: Fatima SILVA

Nominal indirect anaphora and information structure in complex sentences with 'before' and 'after'

Abstract/Résumé: This paper presents the results of an empirical study of nominal indirect anaphora and information structure (IS) in complex sentences with a subordinate clause beginning by ‘antes de’ (before) or ‘depois de’ (after). Erkü & Gundel (1987:543) have already pointed out the correlation between anaphora resolution and the sentence topic, as shown in (1): (1) We stopped for drinks at the New York Hilton before going to the Thai restaurant. The waitress was from Bangkok. These authors claim that, in sentences like (1), the anaphoric expression is more likely to be interpreted anaphorically referring to the Hilton than to the Thai restaurant, in spite of the fact that world knowledge and the immediacy between the NP Thai restaurant and the anaphoric expression might suggest otherwise. Based on this analysis, several authors (e.g. Hajičová, Partee & Sgall 1998; Schielder & Tenbrink 2001; Komagata 2003) pointed out some problems regarding the following topics: i) the IS of complex sentences, and ii) the resolution of such types of indirect anaphora, namely the possibility of more than one compatible antecedent. Following these studies and some unanswered questions on their results, we have applied a test to Portuguese native speakers’ to know: (i) Which is the IS of sentences with ‘before’ or ‘after’? ii) In which part of the information structure do speakers resolve indirect anaphora? iii) How do speakers choose between the two NP antecedents? iv) Is there any correlation between nominal indirect anaphora resolution in complex sentences and the information structure of those sentences? The results of the tests show that: i) in a complex sentence with a subordinate with ‘before’ or ‘after’, the main clause corresponds to the focus and the subordinate clause corresponds to the topic concerning its IS; ii) in such contexts, the anaphora is typically resolved on focus; iii) in cases where it is solved on topic, the results show that the distance between the anaphora and the previous context is a relevant factor. References Erkü, F.& J. Gundel (1987). The pragmatics of indirect anaphors. In Verschuren, J. & Bertuccelli-Papi, M. (eds.). The Pragmatic Perspective: selected papers from the 1985 International Pragmatics Conference. Amsterdam: John Benjamin’s. Hajičová, E., B. Partee & P. Sgall (1998). Topic-Focus Articulation, Tripartite Structures, and Semantic Content. Dordrecht: Kluwer. Komagata, N. (2003). Information Structure in Subordinate and Subordinate-Like Clauses. Journal of Logic, Language and Information, 12. Schilder, F & T. Tenbrink (2001). Before and after: sentence-internal and-external discourse relations. Workshop From Sentence Processing to Discourse Interpretation: Crossing the Borders. Utrecht.