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The Processing and Acquisition of Reference$
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Edward A. Gibson and Neal J. Pearlmutter

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262015127

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262015127.001.0001

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Not All Subjects Are Born Equal

Not All Subjects Are Born Equal

A Look at Complex Sentence Structure

Chapter:
(p.355) 14 Not All Subjects Are Born Equal
Source:
The Processing and Acquisition of Reference
Author(s):

Eleni Miltsakaki

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262015127.003.0014

This chapter examines antecedent accessibility and salience within the framework of Centering Theory, based on the traditional accessibility/salience hierarchy for referential forms. In particular, it explores the effects of complex sentence structure on topichood, subjecthood, and pronominal interpretation from an empirical point of view by asking whether all subjects are born equal, whether subordinate clauses establish their own topics, and whether pronominal interpretation is sensitive to complex sentence structure. It also considers whether entities referenced within subordinate clauses interact with those in main clauses. It discusses the results of a number of experiments on adverbial subordinate clauses suggesting that entity topic status is updated sentence-by-sentence rather than clause-by-clause and that entities in subordinate clauses are relatively less available as candidate topics. The chapter also compares the use of pronouns versus full noun-phrase referring expressions to refer to entities within preceding relative clauses.

Keywords:   antecedent accessibility, salience, Centering Theory, referential forms, subordinate clauses, topichood, pronouns, relative clauses, subjecthood, sentence structure

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