Reference and Informativeness as cognitive processes in verbal communication

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Davies, CN ; Katsos, N (2016)
  • Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton

Overspecification in reference is the provision of more information than is minimally required for a hearer to identify an intended referent, e.g. ‘the stripy bowl’ in the context of a single bowl. Since this kind of referring expression is not predicted by traditional accounts of reference, this chapter reviews research documenting the frequency of such expressions in various contexts. Drawing together recent empirical findings, it proposes reasons for overspecified reference from both the speaker’s and the addressee’s perspective. The pragmatic, cognitive and social significance of overspecification is discussed, and applications of research in this area are considered. We close by suggesting promising future directions for this strand of research.
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