Coherence and Coreference


Hobbs, J. R. (1979). Coherence and coreference. Cognitive science, 3(1), 67-90.


Coherence in conversations and in texts can be partially characterized by a set of coherence relations, motivated ultimately by the speaker’s or writer’s need to be understood. In this paper, formal definitions are given for several coherence relations, based on the operations of an inference system; that is, the relations between successive portions of a discourse are characterized in terms of the inferences that can be drawn from each. In analyzing a discourse, it is frequently the case that we would recognize it as coherent, in that it would satisfy the formal definition of some coherence relation, if only we could assume certain noun phrases to be coreferential. In such cases, we will simply assume the identity of the entities referred to, in what might be called a “petty conversational implicature,’’ thereby solving the coherence and coreference problems simultaneously. Three examples of different kinds of reference problems are presented. In each, it is shown how the coherence of the discourse are solved, almost as a by-product, by means of these petty conversational implicatures.

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