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Area C - Prominence management in discourse

Projects in Area C explore how prominence is managed in discourse. The main focus is on prominence relations between semantic entities, e.g. individuals, eventualities and propositions referred to in discourse by various linguistic means. 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 entity in the mental model of the interlocutors: More elaborate types of anaphoric expressions, like full noun phrases, are associated with referents that are less prominent at the discourse level; formally reduced types of anaphoric expressions, like zero pronouns, are associated with referents that are more prominent.

One of the core questions addressed by Area C projects is what makes an entity more prominent within a set of entities of equal type. The contribution and interaction of various prominence-lending features is investigated, including syntactic function, thematic role properties, aspectual properties and topicality, among others. Furthermore, the construction of prominence structure is an ongoing process and prominence structure is dynamically updating as a conversation unfolds. The prominence status of semantic entities changes as interlocutors shift their attention from one entity to another in the course of a conversation. Area C projects therefore investigate which cues are used to indicate upcoming changes or maintenance of the current prominence structure and how this affects discourse processes.

Projects in research area C