Representations and processes in the production of pronouns: Some perspectives from Dutch

Meyer, A. S., & Bock, K. (1999). Representations and processes in the production of pronouns: Some perspectives from Dutch. Journal of Memory and Language, 41(2), 281-301. doi:doi:10.1006/jmla.1999.2649.
The production and interpretation of pronouns involves the identification of a mental referent and, in connected speech or text, a discourse antecedent. One of the few overt signals of the relationship between a pronoun and its antecedent is agreement in features such as number and grammatical gender. To examine how speakers create these signals, two experiments tested conceptual, lexical. and morphophonological accounts of pronoun production in Dutch. The experiments employed sentence completion and continuation tasks with materials containing noun phrases that conflicted or agreed in grammatical gender. The noun phrases served as the antecedents for demonstrative pronouns tin Experiment 1) and relative pronouns tin Experiment 2) that required gender marking. Gender errors were used to assess the nature of the processes that established the link between pronouns and antecedents. There were more gender errors when candidate antecedents conflicted in grammatical gender, counter to the predictions of a pure conceptual hypothesis. Gender marking on candidate antecedents did not change the magnitude of this interference effect, counter to the predictions of an overt-morphology hypothesis. Mirroring previous findings about pronoun comprehension, the results suggest that speakers of gender-marking languages call on specific linguistic information about antecedents in order to select pronouns and that the information consists of specifications of grammatical gender associated with the lemmas of words.
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