Referential choice in a second language: evidence for a listener-oriented approach

Carla Contemori, Paola E. Dussias

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20 Scopus citations


One central question in research on spoken language communication concerns how speakers decide how explicit to make a referential expression. In the present paper, we address the debate between a discourse-based approach and a listener-based approach to the choice of referring expressions by testing second language (L2) learners of English on the production of English referential expressions, and comparing their performance to a group of monolingual speakers of English. In two experiments, we found that when native speakers of English use full noun phrases, the L2 speakers tend to choose a pronoun, even when the use of a pronoun leads to ambiguity. Our results show that the pattern observed is not the result of cross-linguistic interference from the L1. Furthermore, a clear dissociation is found between calculating the discourse information and taking the listener's perspective into account, supporting a listener's based approach to the choice of referring expressions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1257-1272
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 25 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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