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Complex Anaphors in Discourse: Ontology and Resolution

1. Complex Anaphors: Definition

Complex anaphors are nominal anaphoric expressions with propositionally structured antecedents (clauses or longer text segments). Thus, they refer to propositionally structured referents (s. 2.) while introducing them as unified entities into a discourse representation (s. 3).

2. Complexation: Ontological Types and Constraints

There are several detailed analyses on propositionally structured referents (DAVIDSON 1967, ASHER 1993, MAIENBORN 2003, 2004). We categorise them (in terms of increasing abstractness) as event (e), process (p), state (s), fact (f), or proposition (pp).

(1) [The earth turns about the sun.]e [This process]p / [this state]s will presumably last for 7×109 years. [This fact]f is well known since the Middle Ages. Researchers of the Vatican were not allowed to examine [this possibility]pp / *[This event]e…

As (1) shows, anaphorical complexation can shift referents of any ontological type to a discourse entity of either the same ontological type or an ontological type that is more abstract. They cannot be shifted to a discourse entity that is less abstract. Thus, anaphorical complexation can be a process of increasing abstractness.

3. Resolution of Complex Anaphors

In our model, we will integrate procedural aspects in using a combination of DRT-like structures and cognitive Text-world Models (Schwarz 2000). It will be shown how ontological features as well as lexical and conceptual knowledge constrain the resolution process.

In contrast to nominal anaphors (which refer to objects already introduced as discourse entities), complex anaphors establish new discourse entities at the text-world level. They condense prementioned propositional referents and establish them as unified discourse entities. Thus, it results in a sort of reification since complex items are handled like “things” by language