not refer to
PRAGMATICS: REFERENCE AND INFERENCE
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar http://wwwdrshadiabanjar.blogspot.com
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 1
The words we use to identify things
are in some direct relationship to
those things. In discussing deixis, we
assumed that the use of words to
refer to people and things was a
simple matter. However, words
themselves don’t refer to anything.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 2
Reference is an act in
which a speaker, or
writer, uses linguistic
forms to enable a
listener, or reader, to
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 3
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 4
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 5
These linguistic forms are called :
They can be:
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 6
referring expressions can be:
(b) noun phrases (definite):
‘the Secretary of State’
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 7
referring expressions can be:
(c) noun phrases (indefinite):
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 8
referring expressions can be:
‘It’ ‘She, her’
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 9
• The choice of one type of
referring expression rather
than another seems to be
based, to a large extent, on
what the speaker assumes
the listener already knows.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 10
•Reference is clearly
tied to the speaker’s
goals and beliefs in
the use of language.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 11
It is important to recognize that not all
referring expressions have identifiable
physical referents. Indefinite noun phrases
can be used to identify a physically present
entity, but they can also be used to describe
entities that are assumed to exist, but are
unknown, or entities that, as far as we know,
do not exist.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 12
a) There's a man waiting for you.
b) He wants to marry a woman with lots
c) We'd love to find a nine-foot-tall
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 13
Attributive use / referential use
a man waiting for you
a woman with lots of money
a nine-foot-tall basketball player
This is sometimes called an attributive
use, meaning 'whoever/whatever fits
• It would be distinct from a referential use: a
specific person is referred to, although his/her
name or some other description is not used.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 14
For successful reference to
occur, we must also
recognize the role of
What are inferences?
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 15
Inferring is connecting
prior knowledge to text
based information to
create meaning beyond
what is directly stated.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 16
The role of inference in
communication is to allow the
listener to identify correctly which
particular entity the speaker is
referring to. We can even use vague
expressions relying on the listener’s
ability to infer what is the referent
that we have in mind.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 17
• Listeners make inferences
about what is said in order
to arrive at an interpretation
of the speaker’s intended
meaning. The choice of one
type of referring expression
rather than another seems
to be based on what the
speaker assumes the listener
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 18
• Words themselves don’t refer to
anything. People refer.
• Because there is no direct
relationship between entities and
words, the listener’s task is to infer
which entity the speaker intends to
identify by using a particular
Mister Aftershave is late today.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 19
Reference & Inference
• “Can I look at your
• “Mr. Kawasaki.”
Used to refer to a
“I enjoy listening to
man who always
rode loud and
This process, where
fast in his
is needed to connect
brand name is what is said to what is
used to refer to a meant, is inference.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 20
• quot;In reference there is a
basic collaboration at work:
• ‘intention-to-identify’ and
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 21
• This process needs not only work
between one speaker and one
listener; it appears to work, in
terms of convention, between all
members of a community
who share a common language
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 22
The Role of Co-text
“Our ability to identify
intended referents has
actually depended on
more than our
understanding of the
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 23
Identifying intended referents
has been aided by the
linguistic material, or co-text,
accompanying the referring
expression. The referring
expression actually provides a
range of reference, that is, a
number of possible referents.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 24
• In the examples below, the referring
expression 'cheese sandwich‘
provides a number of possible
referents. However, the different co-
texts lead to a different type of
interpretation in each case.
a)Cheese sandwich is made with
b)The cheese sandwich left without
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 25
The co-text is just a linguistic part
of the environment in which a
referring expression is used. The
physical environment, or context,
is perhaps more easily recognized
as having a powerful impact on
how referring expressions are to
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 26
Reference, then, is not simply a
relationship between the meaning
of a word or phrase and an object
or a person in the world. It is a
social act, in which the speaker
assumes that the word or phrase
chosen to identify an object or
a person will be interpreted as the
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 27
In English, initial reference is
often indefinite. The definite
noun phrases and the pronouns
are examples of subsequent
reference to already introduced
referents, generally known as
anaphoric reference, or
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 28
Peel and slice six potatoes.
Put them in cold salted water.
• The initial referring expression 'six
potatoes' identifies something different
from the anaphoric pronoun 'them', which
must be interpreted as 'the six peeled and
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 29
After the initial introduction of some
entity, speakers will use various
expressions to maintain reference:
“In the film, a man and a woman were
trying to wash a cat. The man was
holding the cat while the woman
poured water on it. He said something
to her and they started laughing”.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 30
Anaphor and antecedent
• In English, initial reference,, or
introductory mention, is often indefinite
(a man, a woman, a cat). In the example
the definite noun phrases (the man, the
cat, the woman) and the pronouns (it,
he, her, they) are examples of
subsequent reference to already
introduced referents, generally known
as anaphoric reference, or anaphora.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 31
In technical terms, the second
or subsequent expression is the
anaphor and the initial is the
• a man → the man → he
• a woman → the woman →she
• he + she → they
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 32
When the interpretation requires us
to identify an entity, and no
linguistic expression is presented, it
is called zero anaphora, or ellipsis.
“Peel an onion and slice it. Drop the
slices into hot oil. Cook for three
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 33
Zero anaphora, or ellipsis
Cook for three minutes.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 34
Zero anaphora or ellipsis
• The use of zero anaphora clearly creates
an expectation that the listener will be
able to infer who or what the speaker
intends to identify:
• 1. Peel an onion and slice it.
• 2. Drop the slices into hot oil.
• 3. Cook ∅ for three minutes.
• ∅ = ‘slices’, ‘them’.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 35
quot;the key to making sense of reference
is that pragmatic process whereby
speakers select linguistic expressions
with the intention of identifying
certain entities and with the
assumption that listeners will
collaborate and interpret those
expressions as the speaker
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 36
“Successful reference means that
an intention was recognized, via
inference, indicating a kind of
shared knowledge and hence
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 37
Successful reference is necessarily
collaborative (‘shared knowledge’).
It allows us to make sense of the
Picasso’s on the far wall.
My Rolling Stones is missing.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 38
Any observation of normal conversational
behavior makes it immediately clear that
people never say exactly what they mean,
and people always infer more than what
was said. The question becomes, how are
we able to accomplish this? How do we
manage to say so little yet communicate
so much? How do we communicate in
spite of a language’s limitations?
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 39
A: Have you seen my Yule?
B: Yeah, it is on the desk.
Inference – any additional
information use by the listener
to connect what is said to
what must be meant .
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 40
• The key process here is called Inference, it is
an additional information used by the listeners
to connect what is said to what must be
meant . In the previous example, the listener
has to infer that name of the writer of a book
can be used to identify a book by that writer.
Similar type of inferences are necessary t to
understand some who says that Picasso is in
the museum or I saw Shakespeare in London
or I enjoy listening to Mozart.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 41
The examples of inference
• (1) a. Where is the fresh salad sitting?
• b. He’s sitting by the door.
• (2) a. Can I look at your Shakespeare?
• b. Sure, it’s on the shelf over there.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 42
• Speakers------ reference------ intention
• Listeners------ inference------ interpretation
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 43
Logical understanding between reference
• These examples make it clear that we can use names
associated with things (salad) to refer to people and
names of people (Shakespeare) to refer to things.
The key process here is called inference. An inference
is any additional information used by the hearer to
connect what is said to what must be meant. In
example (2), the hearer has to infer that the name of
the writer of a book can be used to identify a book
by that writer. In pragmatics, the act by which a
speaker or writer uses language to enable a hearer or
reader to identify something is called reference.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 44
Examples of referential and attributive
a. There’s a man waiting for you.
b. He wants to marry a woman
with lots of money.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 45
• Anaphora is a subsequent reference to an
already introduced entity. Mostly we use
anaphora in a text to maintain reference.
When we establish a referent( e.g. can I
borrow your book?) and subsequently
referee to the same object( yeah, it’s on the
table) , we have particular kind of referential
relationship between book and it. The
Second ( and any subsequent ) referring
expression is an example of anaphora and
the first mentioned is called the “
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 46
• As with other types of reference, the connection
between referent and anaphora may not always be
direct. For example, In a complaint” I was waiting
for the bus, but he just drove by without stopping”
Notice that antecedent is bus and he anaphoric
expression is “ he” we would normally expect it to
be used for a bus. Obviously there is an inference
involved here: if someone is taking about a bus in
motion , assume that there is a drive. That assumed
driver is inferred referent for “ he” .The term “
inference ‘ has been used here to describe what the
listener or reader) does.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 47
Anaphora (Anaphoric reference)
• In most of our talk and writing, we have to
keep track of who or what we are talking
about for more than one sentence at a time,
we use .
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 48
A: Can I borrow your dictionary?
B: Yean, it’s on the table.
• Here, word refers back to the
word dictionary. The previous
word is called the
antecedent ,and the second
word is called the anaphor or
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 49
Antecedent & Anaphora
A:“Can I borrow and
have a referential
relationship. The first
B:“Yes, it’s on the mention is called the
table.” antecedent. The
second and any
is called the
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 50
I turned the corner and almost stepped on it.
There was a large snake in the middle of the
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 51
Indirect anaphora or bridging reference
I walked into the room. The windows looked out to the bay.
Indirect anaphora or bridging reference
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 52
Successful reference means that an
intention was recognized, via
inference, indicating a kind of shared
knowledge and hence social
• Pragmatics is the study of how more
gets communicated than is said.
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 53