University of Michigan

Fall 2009 Workshop in Philosophy and Linguistics

Ellipsis and Anaphora in a QUD Model of Discourse
Andrew Kehler


Question-Under-Discussion (QUD) models of discourse (Carlson, 1983; Roberts, 1996/98; Ginsburg, 1996; van Kuppevelt 1995; inter alia) posit that coherent discourses are structured by question/answer relationships, with the questions often left implicit. According to Roberts, for instance, by engaging in a conversation the interlocators agree to jointly adopt goals that center around finding the answers to questions, which will in turn generally necessitate the adoption and satisfaction of subgoals centered on answering sub-questions, giving rise to a hierarchical discourse structure. Understanding a discourse therefore requires that hearers not only understand the particular utterances that comprise it, but also the questions these utterances answer, all situated within an underlying strategy of inquiry.

The current paper describes several recent results pertaining to ellipsis and anaphora interpretation, cast within a QUD model. These analyses suggest that the QUD model can be used to explain phenomena that have previously required ad-hoc or untenable principles. Further, several experimental studies suggest that comprehenders not only infer latent QUDs, but also have anticipatory expectations about what QUD the next utterance will answer, and that these expectations in turn affect how anaphoric forms are processed.