Psychological explanations of deep and surface anaphora

Gregory L. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A distinction has been made between two classes of anaphora. One class can take as antecedents not only linguistic constituents, but also objects and events in the extra-linguistic context. The other class accepts only certain linguistic elements as antecedents. It is not well understood why there should be two such classes, nor why a given form of anaphora is in one class rather than the other. This article attempts to explain the existence of the two classes by analyzing the difficulty a listener would have in recovering the antecedents of various forms of anaphora. This analysis suggests that it is intrinsically more difficult to discover the antecedents of some forms than of others, and that it is just these forms (with one exception) that have restrictions on acceptable antecedents. Therefore, the grammatical distinction between these two classes is not arbitrary, but subserves an important communicative function - that of ensuring that antecedents for anaphors are always recoverable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-813
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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