Event and entity coreference across five European languages: Effects of context and referring expression

Luca Bevacqua, Sharid Loáiciga, Hannah Rohde, Christian Hardmeier

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Current work on coreference focuses primarily on entities, often leaving unanalysed the use ofanaphors to corefer with antecedents such as events and textual segments. Moreover, the anaphoricforms that speakers use for entity and event coreference are not mutually exclusive. This ambi-guity has been the subject of work in English, with evidence of a split between comprehenders’preferential interpretation of personal versus demonstrative pronouns. In addition, comprehendersare shown to be sensitive to antecedent complexity and aspectual status, two verb-driven cues thatsignal how an event is being portrayed. Here we extend this work via a comparison across five lan-guages (English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish). With a story-continuation experiment, wetest how different referring expressions corefer with entity and event antecedents and whether ver-bal features such as argument structure and aspect influence this choice. Our results show widelyconsistent, not categorical biases across languages: entity coreference is favoured for personal pro-nouns and event coreference for demonstratives. Antecedent complexity increases the rate at whichanaphors are taken to corefer with an event antecedent, as does portraying an event as completedthough the latter does not reach significance. Lastly, we report a comparison of the same referringexpressions to refer to entity and event antecedents in a trilingual parallel corpus annotated withcoreference. Together, the results provide a first crosslingual picture of coreference preferencesbeyond the restricted entity-only patterns targeted by most existing work on coreference. The fivelanguages are all shown to allow gradable use of pronouns for entity and event coreference, withbiases that align with existing generalizations about the link between prominence and the use ofreduced referring expressions. The studies also show the feasibility of manipulating targeted verb-driven cues across multiple languages to support crosslingual comparisons.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDialogue and Discourse
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2021


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