Anaphoric Demonstratives and Their Antecedents in English Academic Discourse

Cunying Fan


This paper investigates the distribution and specific properties of anaphoric demonstratives with directly recoverable antecedents in English academic discourse. By analyzing 359 tokens of demonstrative reference of this, that and it with directly recoverable antecedents from the academic section of the online corpus COCA, the paper finds that the general frequency of demonstratives in English academic discourse is that this is more frequent than it and then it is more frequent than that. The main reason underlying this order is due to the different functions of this, that and it to mark topics. These functions correlate with features or purposes of academic discourse. About the types of antecedents, the paper finds that most common antecedents of this are non-nominal and most common antecedents of it and that are nominal. What’s more, three different semantic relations between demonstratives and their antecedents are recognized in this paper: direct coreference, indirect coreference and labeling or rephrasing relations. The paper suggests that the underlying motivation for the interaction between anaphoric demonstratives and their antecedents is the writer’s perception of events in temporal order.

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International Journal of English Linguistics   ISSN 1923-869X (Print)   ISSN 1923-8703 (Online)

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