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Towards an understanding of the use of indefinite expressions for definite reference in English discourse

Jones, Katy Sarah 2014. Towards an understanding of the use of indefinite expressions for definite reference in English discourse. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This study examines the nature of a particular type of atypical reference. In [1], it is possible to understand ‘a man who…’ as a newly introduced referent or ‘type’. But once seen in context, where the identity of this particular man has been firmly established, it becomes clear that its function is more definite than indefinite. [1] […] a man who achieved the rare feat of becoming a pivotal member of the Cameron inner circle in the space of just a few months in the summer and autumn of 2007 Expressions such as that in [1], with the structure A(n)+NOUN+RESTRICTIVE RELATIVE CLAUSE are examined in the context of British English journalistic opinion writing from four different, but related perspectives: - Readers’ interpretations: Empirical evidence from two experiments shows that readers largely do not interpret the expression as referring to a ‘type’, but rather to the previously mentioned, fully-identified entity. The results also suggest that the amount and detail of conceptual information in the relative clause plays a role in the interpretation. - Cognitive processes in referring: The expression is examined and analysed alongside cognitive models of referring and it is shown that these expressions are considered ‘accessible’ in the mind of the addressee. - Lexical cohesive ties: The meaning relation of co-extension (Hasan 1985) is exploited to explain how these expressions become functionally definite within their specific context. Cohesive semantic ties (i.e. similarity chains)between the expression and the preceding text and on-going discourse aid the transformation from formally indefinite to functionally definite. - Insights on the discourse: Insights from linguists and journalists are brought together to examine the function of these expressions. It is suggested that they have a dual function, to refer to the identified individual as well as to others with similar features. This study concludes that this atypical expression carries both definite and indefinite information and to fully capture its use and function, the entire discourse event needs to be taken into consideration.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
Funders: AHRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 08:00

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