1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

referent

By

Definition:

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

Etymology:

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.
    Consider:
    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).
    Consider:
    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.
    Consider:
    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.
    Compare:
    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
  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Grammar & Composition
  4. Grammar & Rhetoric Glossary
  5. RAS Syndrome - Systrophe
  6. referent - definition and examples of referent

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.