Taking the perspective of narrative characters: A mouse-tracking study on the processing of ambiguous referring expressions in narrative discourse

Jorrig Vogels*, Sofia Bimpikou, Owen E.J. Kapelle, Emar Maier

*Corresponding author for this work

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An ongoing debate in the interpretation of referring expressions concerns the degree to which listeners make use of perspective information during referential processing. We aim to contribute to this debate by considering perspective shifting in narrative discourse. In a web-based mouse-tracking experiment in Dutch, we investigated whether listeners automatically shift to a narrative character’s perspective when resolving ambiguous referring expressions, and whether different linguistic perspective-shifting devices affect how and when listeners switch to another perspective. We compared perspective-neutral, direct, and free indirect discourse, manipulating which objects are visible to the character. Our results do not show a clear effect of the perspective shifting devices on participants’ eventual choice of referent, but our online mouse-tracking data reveal processing differences that suggest that listeners are indeed sensitive to the conventional markers of perspective shift associated with direct and (to a lesser degree) free indirect discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-162
Number of pages19
JournalLinguistics in the Netherlands
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2021

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