This research project aims to determine how mechanisms of nominal anaphoric encapsulation contribute to the construction of discourse. In contrast to other mechanisms for discourse progression merely oriented to reference assignment (1), nominal encapsulation (2) involves more complex processes by which interlocutors must recover an explicature:

(1) John and Ann developed [a schedule of activities]. The agenda took much effort.

(2) [John and Ann developed a schedule of activities.] The development took much effort.

The complexity of explicature retrieval by means of nominal encapsulation may vary. Certain encapsulators, such as of nominalizations (announced → announcement) in (3) require minimal inferencing; others, such as discourse labels lead to a recategorization (4) or axiological evaluation of the referent:

(3) [Piqué and Shakira announced their divorce.] The announcement caused astonishment in social networks.

(4) [Piqué and Shakira announced their divorce.] The bombshell caused astonishment in social networks.

These nominal anaphoric mechanisms have great communicative potential, including communication for manipulation purposes, because the complexity of the inferential operations they trigger seems to be compensated for stronger contextual effects. However, with the exception of the Accessibility Theory, nominal anaphoric encapsulation mechanisms have received scarce attention compared to other anaphoric processes, especially from an experimental viewpoint. Against this background, this research project aims to gather cognitive evidence that contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the cognitive processes underlying linguistic communication.

Prof. Dr. Carlos Gelormini-Lezama on encapsulation, its characteristics and why research into it is important (video in Spanish)
Celia Hernández Pérez on the last experiment (see Revista Signos) and the dual approach from a cognitive and experimental perspective (video in Spanish)
Mathis Teucher on the main results of the last experiment (see Revista Signos) and the different processing patterns of encapsulation and coreference (video in Spanish)

Research questions:

  • What processing patterns do nominal encapsulation and discursive labels activate compared to other anaphoric mechanisms?
  • Does informativeness – i.e. the amount of new information conveyed by the encapsulating expression – shape how nominal encapsulation is processed?
  • Does discursive saliency constrain the need for linguistic encoding to refer to previous discourse?
  • How does language proficiency and learning vs. acquisition relate to the processing patterns of nominal encapsulation?

Current Researchers

  • Genoveva Daniela Medel Bravo, M.A.

Funded Projects

Doctoral fellowship awarded to Celia Hernández Pérez within the HCIAS Doctoral Research Group. Funded by the program Langesgraduiertenförderung of Baden-Württemberg (2022-2025).

Proyecto REDESWritten Discourse and Cognition: Processing and comprehension of verbal and multimodal texts. Cooperation with the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. Funded by the Agencia Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo (ANID) of Chile (2020-2022).