Cataphoric it and backgrounding from the point of view of coherence relations

Maite Taboada


Following Harris & Bates’ (2002) observation that cataphora is allowed in subordinate backgrounded clauses, we examine backgrounding at the discourse level, making use of the nucleus-satellite distinction in Rhetorical Structure Theory (Mann & Thompson 1988). We extract examples of cataphoric it in an RST-annotated corpus and conclude that there is no strict correlation between cataphora and backgrounding, as cataphoric it appears in both nuclei and satellites. Using diagnostics in Ariel (1990), we propose that the occurrence of cataphora in nuclei is explained by: (i) cohesion, and (ii) first mention versus continuation of a discourse referent.

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