We are very happy to announce the next talk in the Psycholinguistics Colloquium, which will take place on Monday, June 3, 2 – 4 pm in IG 2.201.

Professor Elsi Kaiser (University of Southern California) will present „Asymmetries in referential behavior: A crosslinguistic look at personal and demonstrative pronouns“.


In this talk, I present a series of psycholinguistic experiments on pronouns and anaphoric demonstratives Indo-European and Finno-Ugric languages, and consider the implications of the results for current debates concerning the syntactic (DP/NP) structure of personal vs. demonstrative pronouns. Although English personal pronouns have received extensive attention in psycholinguistic research on reference resolution, many languages have more complex anaphoric paradigms with a richer set of pronoun types (e.g. Finnish and German demonstrative pronouns vs. personal pronouns). Based on psycholinguistic studies on Finnish, I proposed the form-specific multiple-constraints hypothesis, according to which different referential forms can have different form-specific referential biases. For example, Finnish personal pronouns tend to be interpreted as referring to the preceding subject, but Finnish anaphoric demonstratives are more sensitive to word order and information-structural factors: These two forms are not ‚mirror images‘ of each other in terms of how they divide up the referential labor. In this talk, I will present data from Estonian, German and French that further highlights the form-specific, asymmetrical behavior exhibited by pronouns vs. demonstratives, and also reveals some unexpected crosslinguistic differences. I will explore the implications of these findings for recent debates about whether d-pronouns are syntactically more complex than personal pronouns. If time permits, I will also consider how the pronoun/demonstrative distinction relates to the null/overt pronoun distinction, using data from Vietnamese and Italian.

You are cordially invited!