Dependency precedes independence: Online evidence from discourse processing

Burkhardt, P. (2008). Dependency precedes independence: Online evidence from discourse processing. In A. Benz, & P. Kühnlein (Eds.), Constraints in discourse (pp. 141-158). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
This paper investigates the integration of definite determiner phrases (DPs) as a function of their contextual salience, which is reflected in the degree of dependency on prior information. DPs depend on previously established discourse referents or introduce a new, independent discourse referent. This paper presents a formal model that explains how discourse referents are represented in the language system and what kind of mechanisms are implemented during DP interpretation. Experimental data from an event-related potential study are discussed that demonstrate how definite DPs are integrated in real-time processing. The data provide evidence for two distinct mechanisms – Specify R and Establish Independent File Card – and substantiate a model that includes various processes and constraints at the level of discourse representation.
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