Centering Theory ranks the discourse entities in a particular utterance based on the likelihood that they will persist as centers of attention. Early versions used grammatical relation as the criterion to rank discourse entities in English, with some success. One study found givenness to be a more efficient strategy in German. This study compares three possible strategies that listeners might be using to rank the salience of discourse entities in Yapese, an Oceanic language of Micronesia: grammatical relation, linear order, and degree of givenness. It is found that information status, or the degree of givenness of a particular discourse entity, is the most efficient ranking criterion in this language, one that is fairly rigid in word order and lacks case-manipulation techniques, so that speakers have limited ability to change the grammatical relation of a particular discourse entity.
Oceanic Linguistics – University of Hawai'I Press
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