Skip to main content

Cognitive aspects at issue in the processing of demonstrative expressions used anaphorically


Although psycholinguistic studies dealing with the processing and the interpretation of anaphoric expressions are very numerous, very few of them have been interested in studying demonstrative expressions. However, the deictic component of these markers make them particularly original expressions for studying anaphora processing. It seems, indeed, that the presupposition constraints which regulate the functioning and interpretation of these expressions may be stronger than for other expressions more prototypically anaphoric like definite pronouns. The aim of the research project is to study the impact of the instructional value of both types of English demonstrative markers: demonstrative descriptions like that man, and demonstrative expressions like the former/the latter, on sentence processing within a discourse context. These demonstrative markers will be contrasted with definite pronouns like he/she, by manipulating the focusing of discourse entities in working memory (high-focused entity vs. low-focused entity) in two self -paced reading experiments, where only the gender cue will differ from one experiment to the other. By studying the specific constraints and their interactions (level of entity activation (focused entities), gender agreement, presuppositional constraints) on the functioning of these three types of expressions, this project aims to specify the cognitive mechanisms underlying anaphora processing. Within the context of her post-doctoral research project, Marion Fossard would benefit from high quality training within a stimulating and supportive department where all the members are actively engaged in research. She would participate in weekly seminars and colloquia series on a wide variety of topics. Furthermore, the psycholinguistics group has extensive laboratory facilities that would provide her with all the necessary equipment to bring her project to fruition. In particular, self-paced reading studies (to be used by Fossard) are one of the principal research tools used in the laboratory. The study of demonstratives proposed by Marion Fossard would be overseen primarily by Professor Alan Garnham who has extensive research experience in the field of anaphoric processing. In this kind of work, however, using demonstrative markers is rare, and the results of such a study will complete and extend the results already obtained in this research field in a way that will be fruitful for both parties.

Funding Scheme

RGI - Research grants (individual fellowships)


BN1 9QG Brighton / Falmer
United Kingdom