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The person, thing, or idea that a word or expression stands for. See also:


From the Latin, "carry"

Examples and Observations:

  • "In [the transitive verb pattern] (My roommate and I became good friends), the two noun phrases have the same referent: My roommate and I and good friends refer to the same people. We could in fact say
    My roommate and I are good friends,
    using the linking be."
    (Martha Kolln, Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects. 3rd ed., Allyn and Bacon, 1999)

  • "[An] aspect of processing reference concerns the interpretation of pronouns. . . . As Just and Carpenter (1987) noted, there are a number of bases for resolving the reference of pronouns:
    1. One of the most straightforward is to use number or gender cues.
    Melvin, Susan, and their children left when (he, she, they) became sleepy.
    Each possible pronoun has a different referent.
    2. A syntactic cue to pronominal reference is that pronouns tend to refer to objects in the same grammatical role (e.g., subject versus object).
    Floyd punched Bert and then he kicked him.
    Most people would agree that the subject he refers to Floyd and the object him refers to Bert.
    3. There is also a strong recency effect such that the most recent candidate referent is preferred.
    Dorothea ate the pie; Ethel ate cake; later she had coffee.
    Most people would agree that she probably refers to Ethel.
    4. Finally, people can use their knowledge of the world to determine reference.
    Tom shouted at Bill because he spilled the coffee.
    Tom shouted at Bill because he had a headache."
    (John Robert Anderson, Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications. Macmillan, 2004)
Pronunciation: REF-er-unt
Also Known As: antecedent
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