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Abstract

The length of a noun phrase has been shown to influence choices such as syntactic role assignment (e.g., whether the noun phrase is realized as the subject or the object). But does length also affect the choice between different forms of referring expressions? Three experiments investigated the effect of antecedent length on the choice between pronouns (e.g., he) and repeated nouns (e.g., the actor) using a sentence-continuation paradigm. Experiments 1 and 2 found an effect of antecedent length on written continuations: Participants used more pronouns (relative to repeated nouns) when the antecedent was longer than when it was shorter. Experiment 3 used a spoken continuation task and replicated the effect of antecedent length on the choice of referring expressions. Taken together, the results suggest that longer antecedents increase the likelihood of pronominal reference. The results support theories arguing that length enhances the accessibility of the associated entity through richer semantic encoding.
1 23
Memory & Cognition
ISSN 0090-502X
Mem Cogn
DOI 10.3758/s13421-014-0400-7
The effect of noun phrase length on the
form of referring expressions
Hossein Karimi, Kumiko Fukumura,
Fernanda Ferreira & Martin J.Pickering
1 23
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The effect of noun phrase length on the form of referring
expressions
Hossein Karimi &Kumiko Fukumura &
Fernanda Ferreira &Martin J. Pickering
#Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014
Abstract The length of a noun phrase has been shown to
influence choices such as syntactic role assignment (e.g.,
whether the noun phrase is realized as the subject or the
object). But does length also affect the choice between differ-
ent forms of referring expressions? Three experiments inves-
tigated the effect of antecedent length on the choice between
pronouns (e.g., he) and repeated nouns (e.g., the actor)usinga
sentence-continuation paradigm. Experiments 1and 2found
an effect of antecedent length on written continuations:
Participants used more pronouns (relative to repeated nouns)
when the antecedent was longer than when it was shorter.
Experiment 3used a spoken continuation task and replicated
the effect of antecedent length on the choice of referring
expressions. Taken together, the results suggest that longer
antecedents increase the likelihood of pronominal reference.
The results support theories arguing that length enhances the
accessibility of the associated entity through richer semantic
encoding.
Keywords Length .Language production .Referring
expressions .Accessibility
Introduction
Speakers can express the same meaning in many different
ways. For example, after saying the boy liked the girl,a
speaker can refer back to the girl with a pronoun (she)orwith
arepeatednoun(the girl). What makes people choose one
referring expression over another? Many theories of reference
assume that accessibility affects the choice of referring ex-
pressions: People produce less explicit referring expressions,
such as pronouns, more frequently when the referent is more
salient in the prior discourse and, hence, more easily retrieved
from memory (i.e., accessible; see Bock, 1982;Bock&
Warren, 1985), and they produce more explicit referring ex-
pressions, such as repeated nouns, more frequently when the
referent is less accessible (e.g., Ariel, 1990; Givón, 1983;
Gundel, Hedberg, & Zacharski, 1993). However, the question
of what sources of information affect accessibility and, hence,
choice of expressions has not been fully settled.
Previous research has identified some important factors
that influence the referents accessibility and, hence, the
choice of referring expressions. It has been shown, for exam-
ple, that pronouns are used more often when the antecedent is
the syntactic subject of the sentence than when it plays some
other grammatical role (Arnold, 2001;Brennan,1995;
Fletcher, 1984; Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2010,2011;
Stevenson, Crawley, & Kleinman, 1994). According to vari-
ous theoretical accounts (Brennan, 1995; Brennan, Friedman,
&Pollard,1987; Gordon, Grosz, & Gilliom, 1993;Grosz,
Joshi, & Weinstein, 1995), the syntactic subject is more ac-
cessible than other syntactic functions. Moreover, the pres-
ence of a referential competitor in the linguistic (Arnold &
Griffin, 2007) or visual (Fukumura, Van Gompel, &
Pickering, 2010) context reduces the use of pronouns, possi-
bly because similarity between referential candidates results in
semantic interference, thereby reducing the referentsaccessi-
bility (Fukumura, Hyönä, & Scholfield, 2013;Fukumura,Van
H. Karimi :F. Ferr ei ra
University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
K. Fukumura
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK
M. J. Pickering
University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
H. Karimi (*)
Institute for Mind and Brain, Department of Psychology, University
of South Carolina, 1800 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC 29201, USA
e-mail: karimihussein@gmail.com
Mem Cogn
DOI 10.3758/s13421-014-0400-7
Author's personal copy
Gompel, Harley, & Pickering, 2011). Additionally, people are
more likely to use pronouns to refer to animate rather than
inanimate entities (Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2011), and
animate entities have been argued to be more accessible
(Bock, 1982; Bock & Warren, 1985).
In the present study, we investigated whether the length of
an antecedent (hereafter, antecedent length) affects subse-
quent choice of referring expressions to that antecedent (pro-
noun vs. repeated noun). According to functional-linguistic
theories of reference (e.g., Ariel, 1990; Givón, 1983), the
amount of information attached to a noun phrase (henceforth,
NP) signals the referents accessibility in discourse. For ex-
ample, in Ariels(1990) accessibility hierarchy, long definite
descriptions such as thefirstwomanselectedtobeontheteam
of an American spaceship are ranked lower (i.e., are deemed
to be less accessible) than short definite descriptions such as
the woman or she in terms of the accessibility of the referent in
discourse. According to Ariel (1990,1996), longer NPs are
typically used when the referent is less accessible in the
context because they refer to new information in discourse,
whereas shorter NPs are more common when the associated
entity is given and, hence, more accessible (Ariel, 1990,1996;
Givón, 1983,1988,1989;Gundeletal.,1993). Importantly,
Ariel assumes that the amount of information predicated of an
NP indicates how accessible the referent isthat is, the
shorter the NP, the more accessible the referent in discourse.
Thus, on the basis of this account, there should be a greater
preference for reduced referring expressions following shorter
NPs.
Another possibility, however, is that longer NPs are more
accessible than shorter ones, because extra information tends
to lead to richer memory representations. Research on mem-
ory suggests that elaborative information on words enhances
later retrieval of those words, possibly because extra informa-
tion provides additional retrieval cues (e.g., Craik & Tulving,
1975; Fisher & Craik, 1980;Marks,1987). Therefore, it may
be that longer antecedents are more easily retrieved from
memory, increasing the probability of pronominal reference.
Consistent with this possibility, Hofmeister (2011) found that
semantically richer antecedents resulted in faster reading times
in long-distance dependencies than did semantically more
impoverished antecedents. For example, in (1a), the direct
object of banned is a communist, but this phrase does not
appear in its standard (canonical)location.
(1) a. It was a communist who the members of the club
banned from ever entering the premises.
b. It was an alleged Venezuelan communist who the
members of the club banned from ever entering the
premises.
Efficient comprehension involves rapidly associating a
communist with banned. Hofmeister found that people read
the words immediately following banned faster in (1b) than in
(1a), presumably because semantically richer phrases are
encoded more clearly in memory and, hence, are easier to
access.
Although no study thus far has examined the effect of
antecedent length on the choice of referring expressions,
previous research has shown that the length of an NP affects
constituent order. For instance, Stallings, MacDonald, and
OSeaghdha (1998) showed that English speakers preferen-
tially produce the prepositional object of a ditransitive sen-
tence before the direct object when the latter is long (the
manger exhibited to Jill the new line of bright summer beach
and resort fashions)(seealsoArnold,Wasow,Losongco,&
Ginstrom, 2000). Importantly, such an effect of length on
word order, often termed heavy NP shift, has been assumed
to occur because of accessibility. Researchers argue that
shorter NPs tend to precede longer NPs in English because
shorter NPs are more accessible (e.g., Arnold et al., 2000;
Stallings & MacDonald, 2011; Stallings et al., 1998), which
makes sense in light of the given-before-new ordering prefer-
ences observed more generally (E. Clark & Clark, 1978,H.H.
Clark & Haviland, 1977,Halliday,1967). Interestingly, how-
ever, Yamashita and Chang (2001) showed that, unlike
English speakers, Japanese speakers prefer to place the longer
NPs before the shorter NPs when producing both transitive
and ditransitive structures. Consistent with Hofmeister (2011),
Yamashita and Chang argued that longer NPs are more acces-
sible than shorter ones because extra linguistic material adds
more information to the referent, making it semantically richer
and, therefore, conceptually more salient. Thus, although
length may affect accessibility differently in different lan-
guages (e.g., Chang, 2009;Hawkins,1994), if the effect of
length on constituent order is indeed mediated by accessibil-
ity, we might expect length to also affect referential forms.
We thus carried out three experiments to investigate wheth-
er and how the length of a potential antecedent affects the form
of the associated referring expressions. A functional-linguistic
account (Ariel, 1990,1996; Givón, 1983,1988,1989;Gundel
et al., 1993) predicts that shorter NPs signal higher accessibil-
ity, as compared with longer NPs, and that this should cause
people to produce more pronouns when the antecedent is
shorter than when it is longer. In contrast, the semantic
richness account claims that the more information predicated
of an NP, the more conceptually accessible it becomes, be-
cause extra semantic information leads to an enriched seman-
tic representation of the referent and/or provides additional
recall cues for retrieval. As was discussed earlier, research on
memory and recall (Craik & Tulving, 1975;Fisher&Craik,
1980;Marks,1987) and filler-gap dependencies (Hofmeister,
2011) is consistent with this account. If length indeed en-
hances the accessibility of the referent, we could expect more
pronouns following a long antecedent than a short antecedent.
In all experiments, we used a free sentence continuation task
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(Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2010; Garvey & Caramazza,
1974; Stevenson et al., 1994; Stevenson, Knott, Oberlander,
& McDonald, 2000). To preview the results, in all three
experiments, we found that participants produced more pro-
nouns when the antecedent was longer rather than shorter,
consistent with the semantic richness account.
Experiment 1
We examined the effect of antecedent length by manipulating
the presence or absence of a relative clause attached to a
potential antecedent. We created three preceding sentence
conditions,asin(2).Inthelongshort condition (2a), a
relative clause was attached to NP1 (the actor), but not to
NP2 (the actress), making NP1 longer than NP2. In the short
long condition (2b), the same relative clause was attached to
NP2, making NP2 longer than NP1. Finally, in the shortshort
(2c) condition, neither NP had a relative clause.
(2) a. Longshort: The actor who was frustrated and visibly
upset about the nights disastrous performance
walked away from the actress.
b. Shortlong: The actor walked away from the actress
who was frustrated and visibly upset about the nights
disastrous performance.
c. Shortshort: The actor walked away from the actress.
Participants were asked to read the sentences and then
provide a meaningful continuation for it. We were primarily
interested in how participants referred back to the entity they
chose to talk about in their continuationswith a pronoun (he
or she) or with a repeated noun (the actor or the actress)and
how this might be affected by the presence of a relative clause
attached to the antecedent.
The functional account predicts that shorter referents are
more accessible than longer ones in discourse (Ariel, 1990;
Givón, 1983). Specifically, in her corpus analyses, Ariel
(1996) found that NPs followed by relative clauses typically
occur when the referent is less accessible in the context, which
led her to argue that long descriptions are low accessibility
markers.Therefore, if the form of the antecedent is indeed
taken to signal the referents accessibility, participants should
produce fewer pronouns (relative to repeated head nouns)
when the antecedent is longer than when it is shorter. That
is, when the antecedent is NP1, more pronouns are expected in
the shortlong (2b) than in the longshort (2a) condition,
whereas when the antecedent is NP2, more pronouns are
expected in the longshort (2a) than in the shortlong (2b)
condition. Alternatively, the semantic richness account (e.g.,
Hofmeister, 2011;Marks,1987; Yamashita & Chang, 2001)
predicts that longer antecedents boost the referentsaccessi-
bility because of the additional information that is predicated
of the referent. Therefore, more pronouns are expected in the
longshort (2a) than in the shortlong (2b) condition for NP1
antecedents, whereas more pronouns are expected in the
shortlong (2b) than in the longshort (2a) condition for
NP2 antecedents. In addition, it is possible that the presence
of a relative clause generally influences the referentsaccessi-
bility (i.e., regardless of which NP it is attached to). For
instance, the additional words might increase the distance
between the antecedent and the anaphor, which may decrease
the referents accessibility (Ariel, 1990;Givón,1983). As a
result, participants may generally produce fewer pronouns,
rather than repeated head nouns, when the preceding sentence
contains a relative clause anywhere (the longshort and short
long conditions) than when both NPs are short (the short-short
condition).
Furthermore, because the participants were free to talk
about either of the entities in the preceding sentence, an
interesting question was how the length of the antecedent
would affect the choice of referent (i.e., which antecedent
the participants chose to talk about). Some previous studies
have argued that choice of referent and form of referring
expression are driven by the same underlying forces (e.g.,
Arnold, 2001,2008;Givón1988,1989); that is, language
users produce more reduced expressions such as pronouns
for the referent that is most likely to be referred to, because
the more predictable the referent is, the more accessible it is.
But other research suggests that choice and form of reference
are guided by different mechanisms (Fukumura & Van
Gompel, 2010; Kehler, Kertz, Rohde, & Elman, 2008;
Stevenson et al., 1994).
Method
Participants
Thirty-six undergraduate students studying at the University
of Edinburgh took part in the experiment in exchange for £6.
They were all native speakers of British English.
Materials and design
We constructed 42 experimental sentences such as (2). Each
sentence included two NPs of different genders (NP1 and
NP2), and a relative clause was attached to NP1, NP2, or
neither, creating three preceding sentence conditions. We
counterbalanced NP order by including three additional condi-
tions, in which the order of the NPs was reversed. This resulted
in six conditions for each experimental sentence: preceding
sentence (shortshort vs. longshort vs. shortlong) × NP order
(malefemale vs. femalemale). We also constructed 60 fillers.
The fillers did not contain relative clauses, but about half of
them contained constituents, such as prepositional phrases, that
made them appear similar to the long experimental sentences.
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The 42 experimental and 60 filler sentences were distributed in
a fixed random order across six lists, subject to the constraints
that at least one filler sentence occurred between two experi-
mental sentences and that no more than two experimental
sentences of the same condition occurred consecutively. Each
experimental list contained one version of each item and seven
items from each condition, together with all 60 fillers. Six
participants were randomly assigned to each list.
Procedure
Participants were given a booklet that contained the to-be-
continued sentences and were asked to write a meaningful
continuation for each sentence. The participants were encour-
aged to produce continuations quicklyand with the first
thing that comes to mind,but there was no time limit.
Participants were permitted to take a short break halfway
through. The experimental session lasted about 4560 min.
Scoring
We scored whether the subject of the continuation referred to
NP1 or NP2 in the preceding sentence and what referring
expressions were used to refer to them. Responses were
scored as other responses if (1) the referring expression re-
ferred to neither NP1 nor NP2, (2) neither a pronoun nor a
repeated noun was produced to refer to NP1 or NP2, (3) the
referent was not the first-mentioned entity in the continuation,
(4) participants did not produce a new sentence, and (5) the
referring expression was part of a subordinate clause in the
continuation (e.g., When he/the actor asked for an explana-
tion, she/the actress didnt provide one).
Results
Throughout this article, we analyze the effect of our manipu-
lations on the choice of referring expression (i.e., how the
participants referred to the antecedent they talked about, with
a pronoun or with a repeated noun), as well as on the choice of
referent (i.e., which antecedent the participants talked about in
the continuations). Because our dependent variable was cate-
gorical for both choice of referent and choice of referring
expression, we always used logit mixed-effects models
(Baayen, Davidson, & Bates, 2008;Jaeger,2008). For random
effects, we always included by-participants and by-items ran-
dom intercepts. We attempted fitting the maximum random
effect structure (Barr, Levy, Scheepers, & Tily, 2013), but
because the models failed to converge, as is often the case
with categorical data, we included by-participants and by-
items random slopes only if their inclusion was justified by
the model (Baayen et al., 2008). We also ran more traditional
F
1
and F
2
analyses of variance (ANOVAs) on by-participants
and by-items means, which, according to Barr et al., control
type 1 error rate well. The results were consistent with those
from the mixed effects reported below.
Choice of referring expressions
Tab le 1reports the percentage of pronominal reference rela-
tive to repeated noun reference for NP1 and NP2 references in
each preceding sentence. Participants rarely produced refer-
ring expressions other than pronouns and repeated nouns; the
ones they did generate included null pronouns (and went
out to smoke) and modified nouns (The frustrated actress )
(longshort, N=2;shortlong, N=1;shortshort, N=2).
These responses were therefore excluded from further analy-
ses on choice of referring expressions.
We analyzed the number of pronouns and repeated nouns
as functions of antecedent position (NP1 vs. NP2) and pre-
ceding sentence. We first analyzed how the inclusion of a
relative clause modulated the effect of antecedent position
by comparing (1) the shortshort condition with the long
short condition and (2) the shortshort condition with the
shortlong condition. We then analyzed the effect of anteced-
ent length on pronoun use by comparing (3) the longshort
condition with the shortlong condition. In all three analyses,
both antecedent position and preceding sentence were cen-
tered, so that the results could be interpreted in the same way
as in traditional ANOVAs. We collapsed across NP order,
because this was merely a counterbalancing variable.
Tab le 2provides a summary of all the coefficients for choice
of referring expression analyses.
The comparison of the shortshort and the longshort
conditions revealed a significant main effect of antecedent
position, with more pronominal reference to NP1 than to
NP2, but there was no significant main effect of preceding
sentence, nor any interaction between antecedent position and
preceding sentence (shortshort vs. longshort). The compar-
ison between the shortshort and the shortlong condition,
which included by-items random slopes for antecedent posi-
tion and preceding sentence, also revealed a significant main
effect of antecedent position, with more pronoun use for NP1
Ta b l e 1 The percentage of pronouns out of all pronouns and repeated
nouns for NP1 and NP2 referenceby preceding sentence in Experiment 1
Antecedent Position Mean
NP1 NP2
Preceding sentence Longshort 99.3%
(146/147)
74.4%
(172/231)
84.1%
Shortlong 93.9%
(218/232)
80.0%
(116/145)
88.5%
Shortshort 98.7%
(152/154)
76.4%
(149/195)
86.2%
Mean 96.8% 76.5%
Mem Cogn
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than for NP2, but there was no significant main effect of
preceding sentence. However, the effect of antecedent posi-
tion was significantly modulatedbyprecedingsentence
(shortshort vs. shortlong). We followed up this interaction
by analyzing simple effects of preceding sentence (longshort
vs. shortlong) for NP1 and NP2 separately. When the ante-
cedent was NP1, there was no difference between the short
short and the shortlong condition, but when the antecedent
was NP2, there were significantly more pronouns in the short
long condition than in the shortshort condition.
Finally, the comparison between the longshort and the
shortlong conditions, which included by-item random slopes
for antecedent position and preceding sentence, revealed that
antecedent position had a significant influence on pronoun
use, indicating that there were more pronouns following NP1
than NP2 antecedents. There was no overall effect of preced-
ing sentence (longshort vs. shortlong), however, suggesting
that participants produced similar numbers of pronouns fol-
lowing longshort and shortlong sentences. Importantly,
there was a significant antecedent position × preceding sen-
tence (longshort vs. shortlong) interaction, indicating that
the effect of antecedent position was larger in the longshort
than in the shortlong condition. When the antecedent was
NP1, although there was a numerical tendency for more
pronouns for the longshort than for the shortlong condition,
this difference did not reach significance. However, when the
antecedent was NP2, there were significantly more pronouns
in the shortlong condition than in the longshort condition,
indicating that a longer antecedent was more likely to be
realized with a pronoun, as compared with a shorter
antecedent.
Choice of referent
We also analyzed whether and how the choice of referent was
affected by our manipulations. Table 3reports the percentage
of NP1, NP2, and other references for each condition.
There were slightly more other responses in the shortshort
condition than in both the longshort condition (p=.08) and
the shortlong condition (p=.08), but there was no difference
in other responses between the longshort and the shortlong
conditions (p= .92). Given that the number of other responses
differed between the conditions, we analyzed the number of
NP1 references and NP2 references relative to all trials (in-
cluding NP1, NP2, and other). As in the analyses on the
choice of referring expression, we first compared the short
short (baseline) condition with (1) the longshort and with (2)
the shortlong conditions and then compared (3) the long
short and the shortlong conditions with respect to the num-
bers of NP1 and N2 references (out of all trials). Table 4
reports the results.
The results revealed no significant difference in NP1 refer-
ence between the shortshort and the longshort conditions,
but there weresignificantly fewer NP2 references in the short
short than in the longshort condition. There were significant-
ly fewer NP1 references in the shortshort condition than in
the shortlong condition and significantly more NP2 refer-
ences in the shortshort condition than in the shortlong
condition. The comparison between the longshort and the
shortlong conditions included by-items random slopes for
preceding sentence. The results showed significantly fewer
NP1 references in the longshort condition than in the short
long condition and significantly more NP2 references in the
Ta b l e 2 Summary of the coefficients from the analyses on choice of
referring expressions in Experiment 1
(1) Model summaries for the comparison between shortshort and long
short
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 3.29 0.35 9.24 <.001
Antecedent position 1.35 0.15 8.48 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. LS ) 0.02 0.15 0.18 .85
Antecedent position × preceding
sentence (SS vs. LS)
0.10 0.16 0.64 .51
(2) Model summaries for the comparison between shortshort and short
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 3.74 0.41 9.11 <.001
Antecedent position 1.72 0.23 7.43 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. SL) 0.30 0.22 1.36 .17
Antecedent position × preceding
sentence (SS vs. SL)
0.43 0.20 2.08 .03
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) for NP1
(Intercept) 5.43 0.83 6.47 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. SL) 0.95 0.87 1.08 .27
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) for NP2
(Intercept) 2.00 0.39 5.04 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. SL) 1.09 0.52 2.07 .03
(3) Model summaries for the comparison between longshort and short
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 4.76 0.62 7.61 <.001
Antecedent position 2.01 0.46 4.34 <.001
Preceding sentence (LS vs. SL) 0.25 0.47 0.54 .58
Antecedent position × preceding
sentence (LS vs. SL)
0.99 0.42 2.31 .02
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) for NP1
(Intercept) 6.38 1.13 5.63 <.001
Preceding sentence (LS vs. SL) 1.38 1.17 1.17 .23
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) for NP2
(Intercept) 1.83 0.39 4.62 <.001
Preceding sentence (LS vs. SL) 1.33 0.54 2.46 .01
Note.SS,LS,and SL stand for shortshort, longshort, and shortlong
conditions, respectively
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longshort condition than in the shortlong condition, indi-
cating that there was a tendency to talk about the relatively
shorter, rather than the longer, antecedent.
Discussion
The results of Experiment 1revealed that participants pro-
duced more pronouns for NP2 in the shortlong condition than
in the longshort condition, which indicated that people tend to
use more pronouns when referring to long rather than short
antecedents. When the antecedent was NP1, although there
was a numerical tendency toward more pronouns in the long
short than in the shortlong condition, the effect was not
significant. In addition, there were more pronouns for NP2 in
the shortlong condition than in the shortshort condition.
However, participants did not generally use more pronouns
when the preceding sentence was longer: for NP1 reference,
there was no significantdifference between the shortshort and
the shortlong condition. Instead, participants may have pref-
erentially produced more pronouns for longer antecedents.
The tendency to use pronouns more often with longer
antecedents is compatible with the semantic richness account,
which claims that additional semantic information in long NPs
makes them conceptually more accessible, and is incompati-
ble with the functional linguistic account, which claims that
longer descriptions signal low accessibility in discourse. In
addition, participants used more pronouns when the anteced-
ent was NP1 (subject) than NP2 (object), in accord with
previous research (Arnold, 2001; Brennan, 1995; Fletcher,
1984; Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2010,2011; Stevenson
et al., 1994). The preference to use pronouns to refer to NP1
antecedents was so strong that pronominal reference
approached ceiling level in the NP1 conditions (over 90%).
This might explain why the effect of antecedent length did not
reach significance in this condition.
Interestingly, there were more NP1 references in the short
long condition than in the longshort condition, whereas there
were more NP2 references in the longshort condition than in
the shortlong condition. This indicated that participants re-
ferred to the shorter antecedents more often. Such preference to
refer to relatively shorter antecedents may also explain why
there were more NP1 and fewer NP2 references in the short
long condition than in the shortshort condition and more NP2
references in the longshort than in the shortshort condition.
Thus, although participants were less likely to refer to
longer antecedents, they tended to use more pronouns to refer
to them. These findings run counter to theories of reference
production that assume that choice of referent and choice of
referring expression are both driven by the same underlying
force (Arnold, 2001,2008;Givón1988,1989), because these
theories maintain that the more likely an entity is to be referred
Ta b l e 3 Percentage of NP1, NP2, and other references by preceding sentence in Experiment 1
Choice of Referent
NP1 NP2 Other
Preceding sentence Longshort 29.3% (147) 46.0% (231) 24.7% (124)
Shortlong 46.1% (232) 28.9% (145) 25.0% (126)
Shortshort 30.7% (154) 38.8% (195) 30.5% (153)
Mean 35.3% 37.9% 26.8%
Note. Numbers in parentheses represent frequencies
Ta b l e 4 Summary of the coefficients from the analyses on the choice of
referent in Experiment 1
(1) Model summaries for the comparison between shortshort and long
short
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.92 0.15 5.82 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. LS) on NP1 reference
0.09 0.16 0.56 .57
(Intercept) 0.53 0.17 3.13 <.01
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. LS) on NP2 reference
0.34 0.15 2.17 .03
(2) Model summary for the comparison between shortshort and short
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.92 0.15 5.82 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) on NP1 reference
0.73 0.14 4.98 <.001
(Intercept) 0.53 0.17 3.13 <.01
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) on NP2 reference
0.49 0.15 3.14 <.01
(3) Model summary for the comparison between longshort and short
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.71 0.13 5.36 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) on NP1 reference
0.34 0.08 4.29 <.001
(Intercept) 0.58 0.14 3.92 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) on NP2 reference
0.34 0.07 4.77 <.001
Note.SS,LS,and SL stand for shortshort, longshort, and shortlong
conditions, respectively
Mem Cogn
Author's personal copy
to, the more accessible it is and, hence, more reduced referring
expressions should be used to refer to it.
Experiment 2
In Experiment 1, the tendency to use a pronoun to refer to the
NP modified by a relative clause was significant for NP2 but
not for NP1. This difference might be related to the fact that
pronouns were generally used much more often than repeated
nouns in all conditions, and this was especially the case for
NP1 reference, where participants hardly produced any re-
peated nouns at all (2.6%). Thus, a data set containing fewer
pronouns overall might allow us to observe an effect of NP
length on both NP1 and NP2. In Experiment 2,therefore,we
attempted to increase the proportion of repeated nouns relative
to pronouns by matching the genders of the two NPs in the
preceding sentence, as in (3). Previous studies have shown
that people tend to use fewer pronouns and more repeated
nouns to refer to one of two NPs that share gender or other
semantic features than otherwise (Arnold & Griffin, 2007;
Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2011; Fukumura et al., 2013;
Fukumura et al., 2011;Fukumuraetal.,2010).
(3) a. Longshort: The actor who was frustrated and visibly
upset about the nights disastrous performance walked
away from the cameraman.
b. Shortlong: The actor walked away from the camera-
man who was frustrated and visibly upset about the
nights disastrous performance.
c. Shortshort: The actor walked away from the
cameraman.
Method
Participants
Thirty-six participants were drawn from the same population
as in Experiment 1and compensated in the same manner.
None had participated in Experiment 1.
Materials, design, and procedure
Unlike in Experiment 1, the two NPs in the preceding
sentences were always of the same gender, as in (3). A few
other minor changes were also made to keep the sentences as
natural as possible given the gender changes (see the
Appendix). Fillers, design, and procedure were the same as
in Experiment 1.
Scoring
The criteria for scoring were the same as in Experiment 1.
Because the two NPs had the same gender, a pronoun referring
back to either of the NPs was ambiguous. We thus asked two
native speakers of British English who were blind to the
purposes of the study to score all the continuations containing
pronouns and decide whether the pronoun referred to NP1 or
NP2 or was ambiguous. Any continuation for which the
scorers did not agree about the referent of the pronoun was
also excluded. This resulted in the removal of 18
continuations.
Results
Choice of referring expression
Tab le 5reports the percentage of pronominal reference rela-
tive to repeated noun reference to NP1 and NP2 by preceding
sentence. As before, participants almost never produced other
referring expressions (longshort, N=0;shortlong, N=0;
shortshort, N= 1), so these (as well as other responses) were
excluded.
We analysed the choice of referring expression (pronouns
vs. repeated nouns) in the same way as in Experiment 1,by
including antecedent position (NP1 vs. NP2) and preceding
sentence (shortshort vs. longshort and shortshort vs.
shortlong) as the fixed factors. Table 6provides a summary
of all the coefficients for choice of referring expression
analyses.
First, we compared the shortshort condition with (1) the
longshort and (2) the shortlong conditions in terms of
pronoun use. The comparison between the shortshort and
Ta b l e 5 The percentage of pronouns out of all pronouns and repeated nouns for NP1 and NP2 reference by preceding sentence in Experiment 2
Antecedent Position Mean
NP1 NP2
Preceding sentence Longshort 92.5% (185/200) 16.3% (28/171) 57.4%
Shortlong 78.8% (157/199) 37.5% (51/136) 62.0%
Shortshort 96.0% (170/177) 32.9% (51/155) 66.5%
Mean 88.8% 28.1%
Mem Cogn
Author's personal copy
the longshort conditions (which included by-subjects ran-
dom slopes for antecedent position) revealed a significant
main effect of antecedent position, with more pronouns used
to refer to NP1 than to NP2. Also, there was a main effect of
preceding sentence (shortshort vs. longshort), with signifi-
cantly more pronouns in the shortshort condition than in the
longshort condition. There was also a significant interaction
between antecedent position and preceding sentence (short
short vs. longshort). For NP1 reference, there was no differ-
ence between the shortshort and the longshort conditions,
but for NP2 reference, there were significantly more pronouns
in the shortshort condition than in the longshort condition.
The comparison between the shortshort and the shortlong
condition, which included by-subjects random slopes for an-
tecedent position and by-items random slopes for antecedent
position, preceding sentence (shortshort vs. shortlong), as
well as their interaction, also revealed a significant antecedent
position effect, with more pronominal reference to NP1 than
to NP2. In addition, there were significantly more pronouns in
the shortshort condition than in the shortlong condition.
There was also a significant interaction between antecedent
position and preceding sentence (shortshort vs. shortlong).
When the antecedent was NP1, there were more pronouns in
the shortshort than in the shortlong condition, but when the
antecedent was NP2, there was no significant difference be-
tween the shortshort condition and the shortlong condition.
Next, we examined the effect of antecedent length by
comparing (3) the longshort and the shortlong conditions.
As before, there was a significant effect of antecedent posi-
tion, with more pronouns following NP1 than NP2 anteced-
ents, but there was no effect of preceding sentence.
Importantly, there was a significant antecedent position ×
preceding sentence (longshort vs. shortlong) interaction,
which indicated that the effect of antecedent position was
greater in the longshort than in the shortlong condition.
Simple effects further revealed that when the antecedent was
NP1, there were significantly more pronouns in the longshort
than in the shortlong condition. In contrast, when the ante-
cedent was NP2, there were significantly fewer pronouns in
the longshort than in the shortlong condition, indicating that
participants used more pronouns for longer antecedents.
Choice of referent
Tab le 7reports the frequencies of NP1, NP2, and other refer-
ences. There were significantly more other responses in the
shortshort condition than in the longshort condition (p<.01),
but there was no difference between the shortshort
condition and the shortlong condition (p= .95). In addition,
there were more other responses in the shortlong condition
than in the longshort condition (p< .05). Therefore, we
analyzed the number of NP1 references and that of NP2
references, relative to all trials (including other responses).
The analysis was the same as in Experiment 1.
Tab le 8reports the results of analyses on choice of
referent for Experiment 2.
Ta b l e 6 Summary of the coefficients from the analyses on the choice of
referring expressions in Experiment 2
(1) Model summaries for the comparison between shortshort and long
short
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.94 0.30 3.10 <.01
Antecedent position 1.88 0.15 12.18 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. LS ) 0.29 0.10 2.66 <.01
Antecedent position × preceding
sentence (SS vs. LS)
0.24 0.10 2.28 .02
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. LS) for NP1
(Intercept) 4.13 0.61 6.69 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. LS) 0.55 0.62 0.89 .37
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. LS) for NP2
(Intercept) 2.42 0.49 4.93 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. LS) 1.49 0.38 3.86 <.001
(2) Model summaries for the comparison between shortshort and short
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 1.17 0.33 3.50 <.001
Antecedent position 2.17 0.18 11.54 <.0 01
Preceding sentence (SS vs. SL) 0.34 0.14 2.34 .01
Antecedent position × preceding
sentence (SS vs. SL)
0.51 0.14 3.44 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) for NP1
(Intercept) 3.96 0.54 7.21 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. SL) 1.84 0.55 3.32 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) for NP2
(Intercept) 0.86 0.50 1.72 .08
Preceding sentence (SS vs. SL) 0.36 0.38 0.93 .35
(3) Model summaries for the comparison between long-short and short-
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.90 0.30 2.94 <.01
Antecedent position 1.88 0.14 12.88 <.001
Preceding sentence (LS vs. SL) 0.13 0.13 0.98 .32
Antecedent position × preceding
sentence (LS vs. SL)
0.79 0.13 5.92 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) for NP1
(Intercept) 3.39 0.43 7.74 <.001
Preceding sentence (LS vs. SL) 1.62 0.39 4.15 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) for NP2
(Intercept) 2.36 0.49 4.73 <.001
Preceding sentence (LS vs. SL) 1.91 0.39 4.90 <.001
Note. SS, LS, and SL stand for shortshort, longshort, and shortlong,
respectively
Mem Cogn
Author's personal copy
We first compared the shortshort condition with (1) the
longshort and (2) the shortlong conditions in terms of choice
of referent. There was no significant difference between the
shortshort and the longshort conditions for NP1 reference or
for NP2 reference. Similarly, the comparison between the
shortshort and the shortlongconditionrevealednosignifi-
cant difference in NP1 or NP2 reference. We then compared
(3) the longshort and the shortlong conditions, which in-
cluded by-item random slopes for preceding sentence (long
short vs. shortlong). The results showed no significant differ-
ence between the longshort and the shortlong conditions in
NP1 references, but there were more NP2 references in the
longshort condition than in the shortlong condition.
Discussion
We obtained even clearer results concerning the effect of
antecedent length in this experiment, as compared with
Experiment 1. Participants were more likely to use pronouns
for NP1 in the longshort condition than for NP1 in the short
long condition, whereas they were less likely to use pronouns
for NP2 in the longshort than for NP2 in the shortlong
condition, indicating that antecedent length increases pronoun
use for both NP1 and NP2 antecedents. These results are in
line with the semantic richness account, which assumes that
the amount of information predicated of the antecedent in-
creases its accessibility (Hofmeister, 2011; Yamashita &
Chang, 2001). However, there were more pronouns for NP2
reference in the shortshort than in the longshort condition
and more pronouns for NP1 reference in the shortshort than
in the shortlong condition. These results are unlikely to be
due to a general tendency to use more pronouns when the
preceding sentence is shorter, because there were no more
pronouns in the shortshort condition, as compared with the
longshort condition for NP1, and similarly, the shortshort
and shortlong conditions did not differ in NP2 reference.
Instead, the effect may have occurred because participants
were less likely to use pronouns when referring to an anteced-
ent shorter than the referential alternative.
As in Experiment 1, there was a preference to refer to the
shorter of the two potential antecedents in a sentence, although
the effect was less pronounced: Although there were more
NP2 references in the longshort condition than in the short
long condition, indicating a preference to refer to shorter
antecedents, there was no difference in the number of NP1
references between the longshort and shortlong conditions.
Experiment 3
In the first and second experiments, we found that antecedent
length affects the use of pronouns. Experiment 3examined
Ta b l e 7 The percentages of NP1, NP2 and other references by preceding sentence in Experiment 2
Choice of Referent
NP1 NP2 Other
Preceding sentence Longshort 39.7% (200) 33.9% (171) 26.4% (133)
Shortlong 39.5% (199) 27.0% (136) 33.5% (169)
Shortshort 35.2% (177) 30.8% (155) 34.0% (171)
Mean 38.1% 30.6% 31.3%
Note. Numbers in brackets represent frequencies
Ta b l e 8 Summary of the coefficients from the analyses on the choice of
referent in Experiment 2
(1) Model summaries for the comparison between shortshort and long
short
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.78 0.21 3.64 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. LS) on NP1 reference
0.30 0.19 1.59 .10
(Intercept) 0.92 0.16 5.69 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. LS) on NP2 reference
0.16 0.14 1.16 .24
(2) Model summary for the comparison between shortshort and short
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.78 0.21 3.64 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) on NP1 reference
0.29 0.24 1.20 .22
(Intercept) 0.92 0.16 5.69 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) on NP2 reference
0.20 0.14 1.41 .15
(3) Model summary for the comparison between longshort and short
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.54 0.13 4.18 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) on NP1 reference
0.01 0.07 0.17 .86
(Intercept) 0.93 0.13 6.70 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL on NP2 reference
0.15 0.05 2.56 .01
Note. SS, LS, and SL stand for shortshort, longshort, and shortlong
conditions, respectively.
Mem Cogn
Author's personal copy
whether the effect of antecedent length could also be observed
in spoken language production. Some research suggests that
task demands can modulate language processing (Ferreira,
Ferraro, & Bailey, 2002; Ferreira, Foucart, & Engelhardt,
2013; Ferreira & Patson, 2007; Sanford & Sturt, 2002;
Swets, Desmet, Clifton, & Ferreira 2008). Since the linguistic
signal is transient in speech, the representations of the dis-
course entities might fade faster in memory, as compared with
written language processing, and this difference could poten-
tially influence the choice of referring expressions. Therefore,
in Experiment 3, we presented the preceding sentences audi-
torily and asked participants to continue the discourse orally.
The stimuli for this experiment were the ones used in
Experiment 1.
Method
Participants
Twenty-four undergraduate students were drawn from the
participant pool of the University of South Carolina. They
were all native speakers of American English and participated
in the study in exchange for course credit.
Materials and design
The materials and design were identical to those in
Experiment 1, except that the sentences were recorded by a
female native speaker of North American English at a slightly
slower than normal speech rate.
Procedure
The recorded experimental lists were programmed in the
Experiment Builder software such that each sentence was
orally played to the participants once they pressed the space
button on the keyboard. Immediately after the sentence was
finished, a speakprompt appeared on the screen and indi-
cated that they could start speaking their continuations into a
microphone. They were required to press the spacebutton
again to stoprecording themselves and one more time to move
to the next sentence. All the participants were tested
individually in a quiet testing room. As in the previous exper-
iments, the participants were encouraged to respond quickly
and with the first thing that comes to mind,but there was no
time limit for starting to speak the continuation. In addition,
they could take a break in the middle of the experiment if they
needed to do so. The experiment took approximately 30 min
to complete.
Scoring
The scoring of this experiment was identical to that in
Experiment 1.
Results
Choice of referring expression
Tab le 9reports the percentage of pronominal reference rela-
tive to repeated noun reference to NP1 and NP2 for each
preceding sentence. As in Experiments 1and 2, other referring
expressions were extremely rare (longshort, N=2;short
long, N=2;shortshort, N= 0), so we focused on the number
of pronouns relative to repeated nouns in our analyses.
Tab le 10 contains a summary of the coefficients for choice
of referring expression analyses. As before, we included an-
tecedent position (NP1 vs. NP2) and preceding sentence
(shortshort vs. longshort and shortshort vs. shortlong)
as the fixed factors. The comparison between the shortshort
and the longshort conditions (1) revealed a significant effect
of antecedent position, with more pronoun use for NP1 than
for NP2, and also an effect of preceding sentence (shortshort
vs. longshort), with more pronoun use in the longshort
condition than in the shortshort condition, but there was no
significant interaction between antecedent position and pre-
ceding sentence (shortshort vs. longshort). The comparison
between the shortshort and the shortlong conditions (2) also
revealed a significant effect of antecedent position, with more
pronominal reference to NP1 than to NP2, and a significant
effect of preceding sentence (shortshort vs. shortlong),
showing that there were significantly more pronouns in the
shortlong condition than in the shortshort condition.
Additionally, there was a significant interaction between
Ta b l e 9 Percentages of pronouns (out of all pronouns and repeated nouns) for NP1 and NP2 reference by preceding sentence in Experiment 3
Antecedent Position Mean
NP1 NP2
Preceding sentence Longshort 64.5% (71/110) 13.3% (17/127) 37.1%
Shortlong 48.6% (56/115) 38.0% (38/100) 43.7%
Shortshort 50.0% (44/88) 11.2% (15/133) 26.6%
Mean 54.6% 19.4%
Mem Cogn
Author's personal copy
antecedent position and preceding sentence (shortshort vs.
shortlong). When the antecedent was NP1, there was no
significant difference between the shortshort and the short
long conditions, but when the antecedent was NP2, there were
significantly more pronouns in the shortlong condition than
in the shortshort condition. The comparison between the
longshort and the shortlong conditions (3) revealed a main
effect of antecedent position, with more pronouns following
NP1 than NP2 antecedents, but there was no main effect of
preceding sentence (longshort vs. shortlong). Most
important and in line with the results of the previous experi-
ments, we found a significant antecedent position × preceding
sentence (longshort vs. shortlong) interaction, indicating
that that the effect of antecedent position was larger in the
longshort than in the shortlong condition. Simple effects
revealed that when NP1 was the antecedent, there were more
pronouns in the longshort than in the shortlong condition.
In contrast, when the antecedent was NP2, there were fewer
pronouns in the longshort than in the shortlong condition.
Thus, there were more pronoun references to longer
antecedents.
Choice of referent
Tab le 11 reports choice of referent by preceding sentence.
There was no significant difference in the number of other
responses between the shortshort condition and the long
short condition (p=.25)orbetweentheshortshort condition
and the shortlong condition (p= .35). However, there were
significantly more other responses in the shortlong condition
than in the longshort condition (p< .05). We thus analyzed
the numbers of NP1 and NP2 references relative to all trials
(NP1, NP2, and other references). We also analyzed the
choice of referent, as in Experiments 1and 2. Table 12 reports
the results of these analyses. The comparisons between the
shortshort and the longshort condition (1) revealed that
there were significantly fewer NP1 references in the short
short condition than in the longshort condition, but there was
no significant difference in NP2 reference. The comparisons
between the shortshort and the shortlong condition (2)
found fewer NP1 references in the shortshort condition than
in the shortlong condition, whereas there were significantly
more NP2 references in the shortshort condition than in the
shortlong condition. There were significantly more NP2
references in the longshort condition than in the shortlong
condition (3), but no difference between these two conditions
for NP1 reference.
Discussion
Experiment 3replicated the effect of length in speech; partic-
ipants were more likely to use pronouns to refer to longer than
to refer to shorter antecedents. Specifically, similar to
Experiment 2, participants were more likely to use a pronoun
to refer to NP1 in the longshort condition than in the short
long condition and more likely to use a pronoun to refer to
NP2 in the shortlong condition than in the longshort con-
dition. The advantage of longer antecedents was also found
between the shortshort and the shortlong conditions; there
were significantly more pronouns for NP2 in the shortlong
condition than in the shortshort condition. This effect was
unlikely to be due to the length of the preceding sentence,
Ta b l e 1 0 Summary of the coefficients from the analyses on the choice of
referring expressions in Experiment 3
(1) Model summaries for the comparison between shortshort and long
short
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.86 0.52 1.64 .09
Antecedent position 1.27 0.14 8.90 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. LS) 0.26 0.12 2.21 .02
Antecedent position × preceding
sentence (SS vs. LS)
0.19 0.12 1.64 .10
(2) Model summaries for the comparison between shortshort and short
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.88 0.54 1.61 .10
Antecedent position 1.35 0.15 8.94 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. SL) 0.46 0.13 3.43 <.001
Antecedent position × preceding
sentence (SS vs. SL)
0.61 0.13 4.58 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) for NP1
(Intercept) 0.30 0.59 0.50 .61
Preceding sentence (SS vs. SL) 0.19 0.39 0.49 .61
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) for NP2
(Intercept) 2.89 0.63 4.58 <.001
Preceding sentence (SS vs. SL) 2.30 0.49 4.70 <.001
(3) Model summaries for the comparison between long-short and short-
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.60 0.52 1.15 .250
Antecedent position 1.19 0.17 6.92 <.001
Preceding sentence (LS vs. SL) 0.16 0.14 1.11 .265
Antecedent position × preceding
sentence (LS vs. SL)
0.89 0.15 5.74 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) for NP1
(Intercept) 1.36 0.61 2.21 .02
Preceding sentence (LS vs. SL) 1.35 0.37 3.60 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) for NP2
(Intercept) 2.81 0.65 4.26 <.001
Preceding sentence (LS vs. SL) 2.21 0.48 4.56 <.001
Note. SS, LS, and SL stand for shortshort, longshort, and shortlong,
respectively
Mem Cogn
Author's personal copy
because there were no significant differences in NP1 reference
between these two conditions. Instead, the effect is most
straightforwardly explained by the semantic richness account:
Longer antecedents were more salient, and participants were
more likely to use pronouns to refer to them.
Antecedent length also affected choice of referent.
Participants were more likely to refer to NP2 in the longshort
than in the shortlong condition, although the two conditions
did not differ in NP1 reference. In addition, more NP1 refer-
ences and fewer NP2 references in the shortlong condition
than in the shortshort condition indicate that participants
tended to refer to the relatively shorter antecedents, consistent
with the findings from Experiments 1and 2. The only result
that goes against this interpretation is the comparison between
the shortshort and longshort conditions for NP1 reference,
where we found more NP1 references in the longshort con-
dition. However, neither Experiments 1nor 2revealed such an
effect, which suggests the effect is rather weak.
General discussion
Across experiments, there was a clear and strong effect of
antecedent position, with NP1 (the sentence subject) being
considerably more likely to be realized with a pronoun than
NP2 (the sentence object). This effect has repeatedly been
shown in previous studies and is attributed to the greater
prominence associated with the first-mentioned entity and
the syntactic subject of a sentence (Arnold, 2001; Brennan,
1995; Fletcher, 1984; Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2010,2011;
Stevenson et al, 1994). More important, all experiments con-
sistently showed an interaction between antecedent length and
antecedent position. Specifically, the advantage of NP1 over
NP2 antecedents for pronominal reference increased when
NP1 was longer than NP2, whereas it decreased when NP2
was longer than NP1, indicating that longer antecedents re-
ceived more pronoun referring expressions. These results are
in line with theories of language processing that maintain that
length increases the accessibility of the associated NP (e.g.,
Almor, 1999,2004;Hofmeister,2011; Yamashita & Chang,
2001) and run counter to the functionalist view of accessibility
which assumes that a longer NP might be perceived as less
givenby comprehenders and, therefore, should be rendered
less accessible (Ariel, 1990,1996;Givón,1988,1989;Gundel
et al., 1993). Although Ariels corpus analyses found that NPs
that are modified by relative clauses tend to be produced when
the referent is less accessible in the prior discourse context, we
found that long antecedents attenuate anaphoric forms, sug-
gesting that length increases accessibility for subsequent ref-
erence. Therefore, longer antecedents do not seem to signal
low referent accessibility, contrary to what Ariel has proposed.
Ta b l e 1 1 Percentages of NP1, NP2 and other references by preceding sentence in Experiment 3
Choice of Referent
NP1 NP2 Other
Preceding sentence Longshort 33.0% (110) 38.0% (127) 29.0% (97)
Shortlong 34.4% (115) 30.0% (100) 35.6% (119)
Shortshort 26.2% (88) 39.6% (133) 34.2% (115)
Mean 31.1% 35.9% 33.0%
Note. Numbers in brackets represent frequencies
Ta b l e 1 2 Summary of the coefficients from the analyses on the choice of
referent in Experiment 3
(1) Model summaries for the comparison between shortshort and long
short
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 1.16 0.19 6.11 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. LS) on NP1 reference
0.34 0.17 1.95 .05
(Intercept) 0.46 0.16 2.81 <.01
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. LS) on NP2 reference
0.08 0.16 0.51 .61
(2) Model summary for the comparison between shortshort and short
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 1.16 0.19 6.11 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) on NP1 reference
0.42 0.17 2.44 .01
(Intercept) 0.46 0.16 2.81 <.01
Effect of preceding sentence
(SS vs. SL) on NP2 reference
0.47 0.16 2.83 <.01
(3) Model summary for the comparison between longshort and short
long
Predictor βSE Z p
(Intercept) 0.89 0.15 5.77 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) on NP1 reference
0.03 0.07 0.53 .59
(Intercept) 0.65 0.13 4.73 <.001
Effect of preceding sentence
(LS vs. SL) on NP2 reference
0.15 0.06 2.30 .02
Note. SS, LS, and SL stand for shortshort, longshort, and shortlong
conditions, respectively
Mem Cogn
Author's personal copy
But the question then is: Why does length enhance acces-
sibility? One possibility, as Hofmeister (2011) pointed out, is
that the extra information predicated of longer NPs causes
them to be encoded more firmly in memory and, therefore,
allows them to be retrieved faster, by providing additional
retrieval cues when language users reaccess the referent.
This possibility is consistent with theories proposing that
processing of an NP whose representation depends on some
other modifying information requires reactivating that NP so
that the new information can be efficiently incorporated into
the discourse representation (Hofmeister, 2011;Lewis&
Vasishth, 2005). In our study, the head noun of the long
antecedent has likely been repeatedly reactivated in the pro-
cess of incorporating the words included in the attached
relative clause, facilitating subsequent retrieval (i.e., higher
accessibility).
Another possibility is that since length necessarily adds
more information to the associated antecedent, it renders it
more predicable (Keil, 1979). Simply put, predicability refers
to the number of possible conceptual pathways for retrieving a
certain concept from memory (Bock, 1982;Bock&Warren,
1985). For example, an animate entity such as an actor can
move, stop, fall, think, sleep, and eat. However, an inanimate
entity such as a car can move, stop, and fall but cannot think,
sleep, or eat. Consequently, actoris connected to more con-
cepts than car,making it possible to predicate more ideas of
actorand, therefore, making it more conceptually accessible.
It could be the case that length acts in a similar fashion. That is,
the extra information attached to the long entity necessarily
connects it to more concepts, rendering it more accessible.
Regardless of the precise mechanism underlying the effect
of length, an important question is why more accessible
antecedents are realized with less marked referring expres-
sions. One possible explanation of this inverse relationship
between accessibility and explicitness of referring expressions
is that subsequent retrieval of an accessible referent is easier
than that of a less accessible referent. Fukumura et al. (2011;
Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2010) thus suggested that when
referring to less accessible referents, speakers need to reacti-
vate more information about the referent, which affects the
activation of concepts associated with more explicit referring
expressions. In contrast, when referring to more accessible
antecedents, less information needs to be activated to retrieve
the referent, which leads to the production of less explicit
referring expressions.
Another potential explanation is that the language process-
ing system might have a bias toward keeping a constant ratio
between information to be relayed and amount of linguistic
signal, a view proposed by Jaeger (2010) and dubbed the
uniform information density(UID) hypothesis. Originally,
it aimed at explaining optional that realization inEnglish (e.g.,
Ferreira & Dell, 2000). Take the following sentences, for
example:
(4) My boss confirmed/thought (that) I was absolutely crazy.
According to UID, that is more likely to be included in (4)
when the main clause verb is confirmed rather than thought,
because the verb confirm is statistically less likely to take a
complement clause.(This pattern occurs because confirm can
take both complement clauses and direct objects, whereas
think almost always takes only complement clauses;
Garnsey, Pearlmutter, Myers, & Lotocky, 1997)Therefore,
speakers are more likely to produce that after confirmed,as
compared with thought as a way of preventing a sudden
disturbance in the information-to-linguistic signalbalance,
thus achieving a more uniform distribution of information
over words. We might therefore wonder whether participants
produced more pronouns following longer antecedents in our
study because longer antecedents conveyed more information
about the referent, and therefore, the use of a pronoun, which
encoded less information than repeated nouns, was more
efficient from an information-theoretic point of view.
However, UID is primarily based on statistical predictabil-
ity: Jaeger (2010)arguedthatspeakers should be more likely
to produce pronouns (e.g. she) instead of full NPs (e.g. the
girl) when reference to the expressions referent is probable in
that context(p.48). Whether speakers are more likely to
choose pronouns over repeated NPs when the referent is more
likely to be referred to is controversial, however (Arnold,
2001; Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2010; Stevenson et al.,
1994). In the present study, whereas pronouns were more
frequently used to refer to longer antecedents, participants
were more likely to refer to shorter than to longer antecedents
in their continuations. Thus, UID is not likely to be the
underlying force behind the effects of length. How can this
tendency to refer to relatively shorter antecedents be ex-
plained? Can this tendency be linked to the results for the
choice of referring expression? Although we can only specu-
late on what factors might be behind the findings related to
choice of referent, one possibility is that the more information
is predicated of an antecedent, the more specific it becomes
and, as a result, the harder itbecomes to add more information.
This is because the new information that is added to a long
antecedent should semantically fit the information already
predicated of it. However, because short antecedents (in our
case, bare nouns such as the actor) have no extra informa-
tion, the participants had more freedom in describing them
(because almost any new information would fit). Thus, talking
about a longer antecedent is perhaps more difficult than
talking about a shorter antecedent. Note that, under this view,
both choice of referent and choice of referring expression are
guided by the general tendency to minimize processing effort
(Jaeger, 2010;Zipf,1949).
Another possibility is that speakers prefer to refer to the
shorter NP in order to balance the amount of information
associated with the discourse entities. That is, speakers may
Mem Cogn
Author's personal copy
not decide to refer to a particular antecedent merely because it
is accessible. Instead, they choose what to refer to depending
on whether it is communicatively informative or semantically
sensible. In our experiments, participants tended to refer more
often to the NPs that did not include a relative clause, possibly
because there was little description of those characters, as
compared with the characters described with a relative clause.
In other words, participants may have produced reference in
order to fill the gap in their knowledge (cf. Simner &
Pickering, 2005). But because of the relatively limited infor-
mation about those characters, participants used fewer pro-
nouns to refer to them through the mechanisms discussed
earlier. In support of this idea, Brennan (1995) found that
participants typically first make a character salient in the
discourse by referring to it in subject position and with a fuller
form of reference before referring to that same character with a
pronoun.
An alternative explanation of our results for choice of
referent and choice of referring expression comes from the
connectionist account proposed by Chang (2002,2009).
Under this account, the notion of accessibility is not restricted
to conceptual factors such as animacy (Bock, 1982;Bock&
Warren, 1985) and can be extended to include lexical factors.
Therefore, the choice between different forms of referring
expressions may be driven by the conceptual accessibility of
the antecedent, as well as the lexical accessibility of the
anaphoric expression itself. Assuming that lexical accessibil-
ity is affected by competition among different alternatives
(Chang, 2002,2009), there may have been fewer linguistic
forms that can be used to refer to shorter antecedents (he,
the actor) than longer ones (he,”“the actor,”“the frustrated
actor,”“the upset actor,the frustrated and upset actor,etc.).
If so, there would be less competition between referring forms
for short antecedents than for long antecedents.This may have
made it easier to refer to shorter antecedents, as compared with
longer ones, and may have led to more pronouns for longer
antecedents: Under stronger competition, pronouns may be
more likely to win over other alternative forms of reference,
due to their ease of production.
However, if the lexical competition account (Chang, 2002,
2009) is correct, we would expect to have found more vari-
ability in the form of referring expressions for longer anteced-
ents. For example, participants would have used more modi-
fied NPs (e.g., the frustrated actor,”“the frustrated and upset
actress) to refer to the longer antecedents. Examination of our
data revealed that such modified referring expressions were
almost nonexistent. Thus, the lexical competition account is
not fully supported by our data. In fact, Fukumura et al. (2013)
recently showed that factors that affect pronoun use are dif-
ferent from those that affect lexical competition. Although
pronoun use can be affected by competing representations of
different discourse entities (Arnold & Griffin, 2007;
Fukumura et al., 2013; Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2011;
Fukumura et al., 2011), the competition is assumed to occur
at a nonlinguistic level (between the nonlexicalized represen-
tations), so the idea that lexical competition drives pronoun
use goes against current theories of pronoun production.
In conclusion, our study demonstrates that antecedent
length has a major effect on form of reference: Language users
were more likely to use a pronoun when the antecedent was
elaborated on with a modifier than when it was a simple NP.
This finding is consistent with the proposal that the additional
information increases the referents prominence and, thus,
supports the view that semantic enrichment enhances
accessibility.
Appendix
Experimental sentences for Experiment 1,2and 3. The words
to the left of the slash belong to Experiment 1and 3, and those
to the right are for Experiment 2.
1. The actor who was frustrated and visibly upset about the
night's disastrous performance walked away from the
actress/cameraman.
2. The bridesmaid who had enjoyed the wedding ceremony
and was getting ready to leave photographed the
choirboy/choirgirl.
3. The kitchenmaid who had a chronic psychological ill-
ness and had recently been taking medication mistreated
the milkman/housewife.
4. The cowboy who was unpredictable and terribly dis-
tressed because of a recent bitter argument ignored the
barmaid/waiter.
5. The waitress who had time off work and was traveling in
Africa missed the waiter/barmaid.
6. The monk who was getting seriously worried about lack
of formalities at the cathedral supported the nun/
clergyman.
7. The boy who was extremely unpopular at school be-
cause of uncontrollable impulsiveness approached the
girl/choirboy.
8. The gunman who had formerly served as an officer in the
American army shot the lady/pilot.
9. The mermaid who was adventurous and was travelling
to discover the unknown world encountered the sailor/
goddess.
10. The stewardess who had experienced many long flights
and could foresee the hazards informed the pilot/woman.
11. The stableman who was fussy and was disgusted by the
sheds filthy conditions helped the maid/shepherd.
12. The butler who was determined to provide an unforget-
table experience at the Christmas celebrations talked to
the duchess/duke.
Mem Cogn
Author's personal copy
13. The postman who came from a different culture and was
feeling increasingly insecure insulted the housewife/
Dutchman.
14. The businesswoman who was rich and successful and
was going to open a restaurant met the gentleman/
saleswoman.
15. The countess who was struggling to accumulate wealth
for the impending retirement years blackmailed the
duke/noblewoman.
16. The god who was confused and had been distracted by
the irreparable situation misunderstood the goddess/
sorcerer.
17. The fisherman who was made fully aware of the volatile
market conditions negotiated with the saleswoman/
gentleman.
18. The housemaid who was tall and good-looking and
was wearing fashionable clothes followed the
shepherd/lady.
19. The wizard who was an ardent patriot opposing foreign
interference in the kingdom trapped the witch/sailor.
20. The governess who was lively and energetic and was
walking in the park poked the schoolboy/schoolgirl.
21. The spokeswoman who had learned many valuable ar-
gument skills and was quite eloquent debated with the
congressman/maid.
22. The ballerina who was outgoing and was very well
connected in the society befriended the boxer/
cheerleader.
23. The man who was walking on the cliff and looking at the
shore below spotted the woman/schoolboy.
24. The camerawoman who had filmed/was involved in
many famous movies and had won several awards wel-
comed the cameraman/actress.
25. The friar who was enthusiastic and truly proud of the
singing in the church spoke to the choirgirl/
congressman.
26. The policeman who had been traveling to police stations
as an undercover investigator fell in love with/sought
help from the policewoman/detective.
27. The colonel who was becoming increasingly powerless
and had failed to prevent the war betrayed the empress/
prince.
28. The godmother who was wise and highly considerate of
the diverse problems in society wrote to the clergyman/
policewoman.
29. The huntsman who had discovered the cause of the
repeated fires in the forest called the shepherdess/
horseman.
30. The baroness who was deeply scared by the recent
armed uprising in the country visited the bishop/
empress.
31. The chairwoman who was trying to find a way to solve
the tax problem argued with the lord/duchess.
32. The deliveryman who was impatient and terribly irate
about the mistaken receipt phoned the salesgirl/
milkman.
33. The sportsman who had drunk a lot of whiskey and had
taken some drugs kissed/patted the cheerleader/boxer.
34. The sportswoman who was a backpacker and was
climbing a mountain in the Alps rescued the
Dutchman/girl.
35. The princess who was deeply happy and relieved after
hearing the final verdict hugged the prince/shepherdess.
36. The nanny who had not been in a relationship for ages
and was lonely married/consulted with the garbageman/
salesgirl.
37. The baron who was completely panicked and was inca-
pable of overcoming the crisis defied the duchess/
bishop.
38. The horsewoman who was an inexperienced fighter and
had not been in many battles attacked the horseman/nun.
39. The nobleman who was attempting to make a huge
fortune by buying the land misled the noblewoman/lord.
40. The mayoress who had been cunning and appallingly
dishonest in the recent election campaign bribed the
governor/congresswoman.
41. The headmaster who was lazy and disorganized and had
forgotten about the appointment bumped into the
schoolgirl/governor.
42. The heroine who was hiding behind a tree and was
holding a big mace killed the knight/witch.
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... Numerous recent studies have shown that enriching a word through modification (e.g., the injured and dangerous bear) facilitates its subsequent retrieval compared to leaving the same word unmodified (i.e., the bear; e.g., Hofmeister, 2011;Hofmeister & Vasishth, 2014;Karimi et al., 2014Karimi et al., , 2018Karimi & Ferreira, 2016;Troyer et al., 2016). In a seminal study, Hofmeister (2011) showed that pre-modified words such as the alleged Venezuelan communist result in faster reading times at a subsequent verb (that triggers the retrieval of the target, namely, communist) compared to unmodified words such as the communist. ...
... In a seminal study, Hofmeister (2011) showed that pre-modified words such as the alleged Venezuelan communist result in faster reading times at a subsequent verb (that triggers the retrieval of the target, namely, communist) compared to unmodified words such as the communist. Importantly, it does not matter whether the modifying information is added pre-nominally (i.e., the injured and dangerous bear) or post-nominally (i.e., the bear that was injured and dangerous, Karimi et al., 2014Karimi et al., , 2019Karimi & Ferreira, 2016a). In fact, Karimi & Ferreira (2016a) showed that ambiguous pronouns tend to be interpreted as referring to post-modified rather than unmodified words, suggesting that retrieval is easier for post-modified than unmodified words. ...
... However, we observed essentially the same pattern of results replacing modifiers with solid squares. Consistent with Experiment 1, the result of Experiment 2 also replicated the standard modification effect observed in Experiment 1 and previous research (Hofmeister, 2011;Hofmeister & Vasishth, 2014;Karimi et al., 2014Karimi et al., , 2018Karimi & Ferreira, 2016a;Troyer et al., 2016), that is, faster reading times for pre-modified than unmodified words when the critical verb triggered the retrieval of the target word. ...
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... she) rather than repeated nouns (e.g. Susan, Arnold, 2001;Brennan, 1995;Fletcher, 1984;Fukumura & Van Gompel, 2010a, 2011Gordon et al., 1993;Grosz et al., 1995;Gundel et al., 1993;Karimi et al., 2014;Stevenson et al., 1994). For example, replicating numerous prior findings, Fukumura and Van Gompel (2010a) showed that the syntactic subject of a preceding sentence is significantly more likely to be realised with a pronoun rather than a repeated noun. ...
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... The experiments were conducted at University of Edinburgh, University of South Carolina, University of California, Davis, Pennsylvania State University, and Mississippi State University between 2011 and 2021. Each experiment had its own manipulation including modifications, modifier position, phonological similarity, animacy, disfluency etc., but entropy was never manipulated in any of the studies; instead, entropy naturally emerged as a function of re-mention probabilities for each referential candidate (see Karimi et al., 2014Karimi et al., , 2018Karimi et al., , 2019Karimi & Ferreira, 2014; for details of the studies that the current study is based on). Moreover, the verb semantics were never manipulated to vary the re-mention probabilities in any of the experiments. ...
... The experiments were conducted at University of Edinburgh, University of South Carolina, University of California, Davis, Pennsylvania State University, and Mississippi State University between 2011 and 2021. Each experiment had its own manipulation including modifications, modifier position, phonological similarity, animacy, disfluency etc., but entropy was never manipulated in any of the studies; instead, entropy naturally emerged as a function of re-mention probabilities for each referential candidate (see Karimi et al., 2014Karimi et al., , 2018Karimi et al., , 2019Karimi & Ferreira, 2014; for details of the studies that the current study is based on). Moreover, the verb semantics were never manipulated to vary the re-mention probabilities in any of the experiments. ...
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... An important question in psycholinguistics is which factors influence the retrieval difficulty of previously encoded NPs. Recent years have seen numerous studies showing that for both syntactic and referential dependencies, enriching an NP through modification at encoding (e.g., the injured and dangerous bear) facilitates its subsequent retrieval compared to leaving the same NP unmodified (i.e., the bear; e.g., Hofmeister, 2011;Hofmeister & Vasishth, 2014;Karimi et al., 2014Karimi et al., , 20182019;Karimi & Ferreira, 2016;Troyer et al., 2016). In a seminal study, Hofmeister (2011) showed that pre-modified noun phrases such as the alleged Venezuelan communist result in faster reading times at a subsequent verb that triggers the retrieval of that NP compared to unmodified NPs such as the communist. ...
... In three self-paced reading experiments, we asked whether the retrieval effects on modified NPs reported in the literature (Hofmeister, 2011;Hofmeister & Vasishth, 2014;Karimi et al., 2014Karimi et al., , 20182019;Karimi & Ferreira, 2016;Troyer et al., 2016) are due to the added semantic content and/or the greater complexity of modified NPs, or, alternatively, due to the longer time that the processor spends with or expects the target representation, and the concomitant heightened attention to the target NP's representation. ...
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... This is a different understanding of accessibility than that found in the literature on (pro)nominal reference (e.g.,Ariel, 1990;Gundel et al., 1993). This literature takes more contentful expressions to signal low-accessibility referents, while we assume the opposite (for more discussion, seeKarimi et al. 2014). However,Ariel (1990) predicts, as we do, that accessible antecedents are preferably paired with less explicit anaphors. ...
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