In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Anaphora

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks and Other Introductory Works
  • Glossaries
  • Reference Books
  • Edited Collections
  • Data Sources

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Linguistics Anaphora
Eric Reuland, Martin Everaert, Anna Volkova
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 October 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0050


Anaphora can be generally defined as “subsequent reference to an entity already introduced in discourse” (Safir 2004a; see Representing Anaphoric Dependencies). The study of anaphora spans various fields of linguistics, from formal syntax and semantics to linguistic typology and pragmatics, and from computational linguistics to language processing and language acquisition. A major divide in this field is that between intrasentential anaphora—more specifically, binding relations—and intersentential, or discourse, anaphora. The former attracted attention in the 1960s and is one of the central topics in generative syntax and semantics, but also in current typological studies. The latter has been studied extensively since the early 1990s within computational linguistics, discourse representation theory, and functional approaches such as centering theory.

Textbooks and Other Introductory Works

As anaphoric dependencies involve a variety of factors, and prima facie show substantial cross-linguistic variation, it is often the case that textbooks offer only a partial overview of the phenomena or provide only one theoretical account of a limited set of data. King 2010 offers a concise overview of the topic. Aoun 1985 and Lasnik and Uriagereka 1988 outline the view of anaphora within the Government and Binding framework. Hornstein, et al. 2005, a textbook on Minimalist syntax, contains an informative chapter on Binding theory. Chierchia and McConnell-Ginet 2000 offers an accessible introduction to formal semantics, a necessary background for further reading on the topic. Heim and Kratzer 1998, a classic textbook on semantics, provides a semantic account of anaphora. Büring 2005 offers a very useful and extensive overview of anaphoric dependencies. The perspective is primarily semantic, but in a way that does justice to the main syntactic aspects as well. Kamp and Reyle 1993 explains the basics of Discourse Representation theory (DRT), a theoretical framework introduced by Hans Kamp in the early 1980s for dealing with issues in the semantics and pragmatics of anaphora and tense. Mitkov 2002 focuses on automatic anaphora resolution and provides a well-structured overview of approaches and issues in the field. Reuland 2011, though not a textbook, presupposes relatively little knowledge and focuses on the factors governing unity versus diversity in anaphoric systems cross-linguistically.

  • Aoun, Joseph. 1985. A grammar of anaphora. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Very accessible, though not a textbook, this book aims at a more advanced reader and provides an excellent overview on anaphora in Government and Binding theory.

  • Büring, Daniel. 2005. Binding theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Büring provides a broad discussion of the main puzzles in the field of intersentential anaphora, along with exercises to facilitate understanding. A must-read for linguists who want an overview of the state of the art.

  • Chierchia, Gennaro, and Sally McConnell-Ginet. 2000. Meaning and grammar: An introduction to semantics. 2d ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    This textbook introduces formal semantics to students with little or no knowledge of logic and some of linguistics. Especially recommended are chapter 6 (“Contexts: Indexicality, Discourse, and Presupposition,” pp. 329–389) and chapter 7 (“Lambda Abstraction, pp. 392–429).

  • Heim, Irene, and Angelika Kratzer. 1998. Semantics in generative grammar. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    Authoritative introduction to the semantics of binding.

  • Hornstein, Norbert, Jairo Nunes, and Kleanthes Grohmann. 2005. Understanding minimalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Contains an informative chapter developing the syntactic perspective on Binding theory (chapter 8, “Binding Theory,” pp. 247–285).

  • Kamp, Hans, and Uwe Reyle. 1993. From discourse to logic: Introduction to modeltheoretic semantics of natural language, formal logic and Discourse Representation Theory. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

    This book provides an accessible overview of Discourse Representation Theory (DRT). DRT is a theory of interpretation based on the idea that a representation of the discourse is built up as it unfolds, and that every incoming sentence prompts additions to that representation.

  • King, Jeffrey C. Anaphora. In The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2010.

    This article offers a concise overview of the main problems in the study of anaphora and current approaches to solving them.

  • Lasnik, Howard, and Juan Uriagereka. 1988. A course in GB syntax: Lectures on empty categories and binding. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Provides a very useful outline of the view on anaphora within the Government and Binding framework.

  • Mitkov, Ruslan. 2002. Anaphora resolution. New York: Longman.

    This book is aptly described as a useful introduction for a novice in the field and a good reference source.

  • Reuland, Eric. 2011. Anaphora and language design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Though not written as a textbook, it provides an extensive overview of the development of Binding theory over the past few decades, including a recent Minimalist approach. It presupposes relatively little knowledge and focuses on the factors governing commonalities and cross-linguistic variation in anaphoric systems.

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