Discourse focus and conceptual relations in resolving referential ambiguity

Hans Strohner, Lorenz Sichelschmidt, Ingo Duwe, Klaus Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study discusses the cognitive aspects of discourse focus, verbal descriptions, and conceptual relations in resolving referential ambiguity. In three experiments, subjects were presented with pictorial and verbal materials that constituted a referentially ambiguous situation. The focus built up during preceding tasks determined the selection of a referent in a critical reference task. Judgments of task difficulty, as well as the speed of referent identification, did depend on the type of verbal description used (definite vs. indefinite) and on the degree of denotative aptness. The findings suggest that focusing and the establishment of semantic relations are integral parts of cognitive activity in the resolution of ambiguous reference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-516
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2000


  • discourse focus
  • conceptual relations
  • descriptions
  • reference
  • ambiguity
  • cognitive processing


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