Perspective shift increases processing effort of pronouns: a comparison between direct and indirect speech

Franziska Köder, Emar Maier, Petra Hendriks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the processing of deictic pronouns in two types of speech reports, direct speech (Elephant said: “I get the football”) and indirect speech (Elephant said that I get the football). According to Hypothesis 1, pronoun processing in direct speech is more demanding because it requires a perspective shift from the actual to the original speaker. Hypothesis 2 suggests the opposite, based on a previous study that found a positive effect of direct speech on discourse comprehension. In a referent selection task, 116 native speakers of Dutch identified the referents of first-, second- and third-person pronouns in direct and indirect speech. We found higher error rates and longer decision times for pronoun interpretation in direct speech, confirming Hypothesis 1. Furthermore, accuracy depended on the pronoun (most mistakes for he). We discuss how our results can be reconciled with seemingly conflicting evidence that suggests a processing advantage for direct speech.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)940-946
Number of pages7
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • direct speech
  • indirect speech
  • personal pronoun
  • perspective shift
  • deixis

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