The Effects of Frequency on Pronoun Production

Volume 17
Issue 4
Sin Hang Lau & Heeju Hwang
The present study aims to examine whether pronoun production is influenced by referent frequency. We used a story continuation task and manipulated the frequency of referent nouns in one-entity (the woman(HF)/ postman(LF) skated to the house) and two-entity contexts (HF Subject-LF Object: the girl(HF) calmed the monk(LF) & LF Subject-HF Object: the postman(LF) warned the mother(HF)). We found that frequency had no effect in one-entity contexts. However, the frequency e ect was signi cant in two- entity contexts. When the subject had a high frequency while the object had a low frequency (HF Subject-LF Object), the rate of pronoun use increased for subject but decreased for object referents, compared to when the subject had a low frequency while the object had a high frequency (LF Subject-HF Object). That is, participants tended to use more pronouns for high frequency referents. This suggests that frequency is a factor that modulates pronoun production in the presence of multiple entities. We discuss the implications of our results in terms of existing theories.

Keywords: language production, pronouns, reference, accessibility, discourse, frequency