Term of Art: Anaphora

“Anaphora: The relation between a pronoun and another unit, in the same or in an earlier sentence, that supplies its referent. E.g. in Mary disguised herself, the reflexive herself is an anaphoric pronoun, related to an antecedent Mary: the person, that is, who is said to be disguised is the person that Mary has already referred to. Likewise, e.g. in conversation, across sentences boundaries. Thus if A asks ‘Where’s Mary’ and be says ‘She’s in the garden,’ she in the sentence B utters is to be understood as anaphoric to earlier Mary.

Thence of similar relations involving units other than pronouns: e.g. the idiot is anaphoric to John in I asked John but the idiot wouldn’t tell me; do so is anaphoric to help in I wanted to help but I couldn’t do so. Also, in a looser sense, of any relation in which something is understood in the light of what precedes it. E.g. in Her house is larger than mine, a meaning of mine, as ‘my house,’ would be supplied in part by her house.

…An anaphoric chain is formed by two or more successive unit, each linked anaphorically to the one preceding.”

Excerpted from: Matthews, P.H., ed. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.


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