Third person pronoun forms in Estonian in the light of centering theory


  • Helen Hint Eesti ja ü ldkeeleteaduse instituut, Tartu Ülikool



zero person marker, third person pronoun, Centering Theory, reference resolution, spoken narrative, Pear Stories


This paper explains the distinctions between the Estonian 3rd person overt pronoun and the zero person marker in spoken narratives. As both forms express the most salient entities in discourse, the saliency criterion cannot distinguish them. The Centering Theory is used to explore if the overt pronoun and zero have different effects on discourse coherence, i.e. whether there is a difference between transition types relating to zero and those signaling the overt pronoun. Additionally, factors such as grammatical role, case and clause type affecting the choice of pronominal forms are studied to supplement results from the Centering analysis. It is hypothesized that the use of the zero form connects to the CONTINUE transition, while the overt pronoun combines with other Centering- based transition types as well. Furthermore, results show that the zero form is more restricted in its usage contexts and signals mainly nominative subjects in main clauses, while the overt form can appear more widely in different linguistic environments.


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How to Cite

Hint, H. (2015). Third person pronoun forms in Estonian in the light of centering theory. Eesti Ja Soome-Ugri Keeleteaduse Ajakiri. Journal of Estonian and Finno-Ugric Linguistics, 6(2), 105–135.