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Title: Focus and discourse representation theory
Author: Cormack, Sophia Harriet
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1993
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The thesis puts forward a psychologically plausible and computationally explicit theory of pronoun resolution, concentrating on semantic and focusing effects and their interaction. Hans Kamp's (1981) Discourse Representation Theory (DRT) was the first of a series of recent formal semantic theories able to describe semantic accessibility conditions on anaphora occurring outside the logical scope of a quantifier. Kamp's original aim was to capture the truth conditions and anaphoric constraints in so-called 'donkey sentences'. DRT also opened up the possibilities of inter-sentential anaphoric connections. Kamp claimed psychological plausibility for DRT. However, in allowing intersentential anaphora DRT permits too many possible anaphoric connections - for instance a discourse containing no triggers for semantic embedding results in a model where every noun phrase is accessible to every anaphor: (1) I picked up some meringues with the tongs. They were mildly singed but I put them on a plate and gave them to Lisa. They were still very hot. (*tongs) In text (1), DRT allows the final they to access the tongs, which I claim is psychologically implausible for two reasons: firstly because the preferred antecedent for they is the much more salient focused nominal the meringues. Since this choice is also contextually plausible it would block out any less preferred candidates for resolution. Secondly, I argue that the discourse referent for the tongs is in fact no longer available for reference: it has passed from the hearer's memory of the entities being discussed and is only retrievable using a full definite noun phrase.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available