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Area C - Prominence management in discourse

At the discourse level, prominence-related phenomena are often discussed with reference to the notion of salience. Lewis (1979) and von Heusinger (1997) use salience as a semantic-pragmatic principle for defining both the situation-dependent reference and the anaphoric reference of definite descriptions. The salience structure is dynamically updated mirroring discourse dynamicity. Sgall, Hajicova, and Panevova (1986: 55) describe how an unfolding discourse not only changes the set of discourse referents, but also “a certain relationship between its elements, namely their salience, foregrounding, or relative activation.” Grosz and Sidner (1986: 179) define the attentional state, the third component of discourse, as “inherently dynamic, recording the objects, properties, and relations that are salient at each point in the discourse.” The general assumption is that there is an inverse relation between the explicitness of an anaphoric expression (in terms of descriptive, lexical, and phonological material) and the prominence of the associated discourse item in a language user’s mental model. More elaborate types of anaphoric expressions, like full noun phrases (including determiners and modifiers), are associated with referents that are less prominent at the discourse level. This generalization is captured in different scales or hierarchies of givenness, accessibility, or (cognitive) activation (Chafe 1976; Ariel 1990; Gundel, Hedberg, and Zacharski 1993). See also Chiarcos (2011) and Falk (2014) for a complex system of different dimensions of salience, as well as Chiarcos, Berry, and Grabski (2011) for a general characterization. More recent approaches investigate the various factors that interact in promoting discourse referents to a prominent status, including morphosyntactic prominence hierarchies (Almor 1999; Arnold 2010; Kaiser and Trueswell 2008; Kibrik 2011; Kehler and Rohde 2013, Schumacher, Dangl, and Uzun accepted). 

Projekte in Forschungsfeld C