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Reference directions within a text. The anaphoric as a backward reference and the cataphoric as a forward reference.

Anaphorics (cf. Greek ἀναφέρειν, anapherein, “bring up”, also “relate to something”) denotes the reference of a part of a sentence to another part of the sentence before it; it is also said that the part of the sentence creates an anaphoric connection to another part of the sentence.

This is where the difference between the two terms from the respective areas of rhetoric and linguistics lies . In rhetoric it is a repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of sentences or verses. In linguistics, on the other hand, a comparison from a revision of an earlier text passage (back reference). In the example: “Peter is sick. He's in bed. He's not feeling well. ”“ He ”is an anaphor in the linguistic sense. In the sequence of sentences: “Who would have thought that her name was Anna? Who would have thought that Anna had such a good report card? ”“ Who would have thought ”is an anaphor in the rhetorical sense.

The front part of the sentence is called the antecedent , the back part of the sentence is an anaphor . Part of a sentence is a single word or part of a sentence . An anaphoric connection is called direct if it can be understood simply by applying grammatical rules. An indirect anaphoric connection ("bridging"), however, requires additional knowledge. If the antecedent and anaphor are in the same sentence, one speaks of intrasentential anaphorics, they are in different sentences, of intersentential anaphorics.

The anaphoric (backward reference) is similar to the cataphoric (forward reference), in which a part of a sentence is connected to a later part of a sentence instead of an earlier one. Both forms are explored by linguistics and computational linguistics .

Definition: A sentence part α is anaphoric to a sentence part β if and only if β is the antecedent of α and α depends on β in its interpretation.

Anaphor and deixis

Anaphers differ from deictic elements in that their reference elements are to be found in the text, i.e. in-linguistic or endophoric, while in a deixis they are to be found extra-linguistic or exophoric ( see also: Deixis vs. anaphor). The first and second person of personal pronouns ( I , you , we , her ) have a deictic function in that they refer to the speaker (s) or his / her addressee, whereas the third person ( he , she , it ) usually fulfills an anaphoric function in that it continues an existing orientation towards a person or thing.

Direct anaphoric connections

Direct anaphoric references are mostly obvious and can be resolved using the grammar of the text. The type of direct anaphor is identified by the type of anaphor. The most important examples are:

  • Pronouns : Pronouns stand as substitutes for other words.
Personalpronomen:      Hans geht heute essen. Er mag besonders Pizza.
Possessivpronomen:     Peter hat Geburtstag und seine Mutter hat ihm dazu einen Kuchen gebacken.
Reflexivpronomen:      Ich habe mir ein Auto gekauft.
Demonstrativpronomen:  Lisa hat Gabi eingeladen, doch diese kam nicht.
Relativpronomen:       Das ist der Satz, den ich meinte. /  Sie gingen Skilaufen, was Sabine gar nicht mochte.
Interrogativpronomen:  Der's getan hat, ist ein Lump! – Wer hat's denn getan?
Indefinitpronomen:     Die Studenten gehen in die Mensa. Einer isst Kuchen.
  • Noun phrases : A noun phrase has a noun and any directly associated another set of parts.
Eigennamen:          Hans Meier geht heute essen. Herr Meier mag besonders Pizza.
  • Profiforms :
für Adverbien:       Hans fliegt nach Mallorca. Er will dort Urlaub machen.
  • Null anaphers

Indirect anaphoric connections (bridging)

Indirect anaphorics is a subtle method of linking two parts of a sentence with one another. Understanding such a connection requires a so-called bridge assumption. By the term "bridge acceptance", the name is derived Bridging ( Engl. Is used synonymously with "indirect anaphoric link" "Building Bridges") from.

Origin and function of the bridge acceptance

A.  Der Motor ist kaputt. Der Keilriemen ist gerissen.

Here the second sentence provides the justification for the first. You could just as easily say: "The engine is broken because the V-belt is torn". But how does the reader know? Although the sentence

B.  Der Motor ist kaputt. Der Schnürsenkel ist gerissen.

has the same grammatical structure, no reader would assume that what is meant is: "The engine is broken because the shoelace is torn". With A. there is a connection between the sentences that cannot be grasped with grammar. This relationship is established by the anaphor “the V-belt” and the antecedent “the engine”. In order to understand them, the reader must also make the following assumption: "The V-belt is an important part of the engine".

This is actually an assumption in the sense of a hypothesis : the reader does not need to know that an engine has a V-belt; to understand the anaphorics, a mere guess is sufficient.

Forms of bridging

One can classify indirect anaphoric connections according to two characteristics:

  1. How is the connection established?
  2. What kind of connection are you making?

The first question is used to distinguish between different forms of bridging:

  • Schematic :
Das Restaurant ist leer. Die Kellnerin hat nichts zu tun.
The first sentence gives the reason for the second. The bridge assumption is "the waitress works in the restaurant"; This assumption is part of a scheme that the general knowledge part: "Working in a restaurant waitresses." The first sentence opens a scheme ( here: "Restaurant"), from which the second sentence is used (here by selecting a waitress) .
  • Semantic :
Der Motor ist kaputt. Der Keilriemen ist gerissen.
Semantic (meaningful) relationships are very similar to schematic relationships; the difference is that schemata consist of experiences and experiences of self-experienced situations, while semantic connections such as expertise are not acquired through personal experience.
  • Discourse-based :
Hans findet Marthas Abendessen scheußlich, aber anstandshalber hat er zumindest das Fleisch probiert.
Many indirect anaphoric relationships are suggested by the wording of the text. Here the bridging assumption “the meat is part of the dinner” appears obvious, but it cannot be derived from the grammatical structure of the sentence. For comparison: A sentence with the same grammatical structure without anaphorics would read:
Hans findet Marthas Abendessen scheußlich, aber anstandshalber hat er zumindest eine Entschuldigung vorgebracht.
A comparable sentence with a direct anaphoric connection would read:
Hans findet Marthas Abendessen scheußlich, aber anstandshalber hat er es zumindest probiert.

The second question, about the type of connection established, is examined in connection with discourse relations and does not directly belong to the questions of bridging. One differentiates here z. B. causal relationships - the second sentence establishes the first - or elaborative relationships - the second sentence explains the first in more detail.

Purpose of research

The linguistics is mainly interested in theoretical questions like: What are the connections between grammar and bridging? What forms of bridging are there? Of particular practical importance is the interest in computational linguistics : How can I teach a computer bridging? How can bridging help a computer understand natural language?

See also


  • Manfred Consten: Anaphoric or deictic? Niemeyer, Tübingen 2004.
  • Michael AK Halliday, Ruqaiya Hasan: Cohesion in English . Longman, London 1976.
  • Claus Ehrhardt; Hans Jürgen Heringer: Pragmatics. Fink, Paderborn 2011, p. 25 f.
  • Helene Schmolz: Anaphora Resolution and Text Retrieval. A Linguistic Analysis of Hypertexts. Berlin, De Gruyter 2015.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Peter Auer (Ed.): Linguistics. Grammar interaction cognition. JB Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, ISBN 978-3-476-02365-0 , p. 14