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This paper examines whether the conjunction and degrees of formality influence people to use plural pronoun to refer the two individual characters in the prior sentence. We predicted that people would produce more plural pronoun when conjunction “and” is used in the prior sentences. Also if the two characters are introduced in the same degree of formality, people would produce more plural pronoun. The questionnaires are given to 32 participants. There were four conditions in each questionnaire-Name AND Formality; Formality AND Formality; Name WITH Formality; Formality WITH Formality. The result suggests that the conjunction “and” will increase the use of plural pronoun, but the same degrees of formality do not have the significant effect on the produce of plural pronoun. However, overall, using same degree of formality can help people to produce plural pronoun but the affection was not significant.
This paper concerns the factors that increase the use of plural pronouns. A major issue in language comprehension is deciding who or what pronouns to refer to when reading (Garnham, 2001). People are easily to understand the use of singular pronouns but not clear understanding for use of plural pronouns in a sentence. For example, (1) Ella is cleaning the house. She doesn’t like doing housework. (2)David and Lea went to the beach. They had a good time/ David jumped into the water to save a girl. In sentence (1) people are easy to understand she is refer to Ella. In sentence (2), however, it is difficult to determine when people prefer to use plural pronoun than singular pronoun. In order to understand the factors and reason to make people see two characters as a “unit” Sanford and Garrod (1981) proposed the ‘scenario-mapping theory’ – we use plural reference when two characters in a sentence are perceived to play a common role. They assumed that Characters are mapped in the scenarios based on previous knowledge. For example, john saw Sarah. If we had previous knowledge about them, this affects our continuation sentence. If John and Sarah as a known couple, they are spontaneously mapped together. These mappings are the basis of the reader’s mental model. Sanford and Moxey (1995) claimed that plural pronoun tend to be produced when two characters play the same role in current scenario or in future scenario. Because the common role can be seen as a “common agent”, who makes the characters group together as a unit. For example, (3) Lea and Sarah decorated the room. (4) Lea decorated the room for Sarah. In the sentence (3), Lea and Sarah played the same role-decorated the room. They are more tending to be grouped together. However in the (4), Lea and Sarah played the different roles, they are more easily to be concerned as separate two individuals. Moreover, there are more factors which can influence the produce of plural pronoun. For instance, the similarity of description type– when characters are referred to in similar context, we tend to use the plural. For example,(5) Jim and Sarah were in the fish and chips shop. (6) Jim and the school mistress were in the fish and chips shop. In the sentence (5), people are more likely to use plural pronoun then sentence (6). Furthermore, some Verbs can make two characters group as a unit, such us ‘play’ increase the chances of using plural pronoun (Sanford&Lockhart, 1990)
In our experiment, we tested the potation factors which can address people to group two characters together. The first factor we tested was the degrees of formality. the experiments in this paper examined if the case when two individual characters were both introduced with formal titles was more likely to influence the participants to use plural reference than in the case when one was introduced with a formal title and the other with a name. However, the result shows there was not a significant affect accrued in the different degree of formality. The second factor we examined was using the different type of conjunction (and/ with). The result shown that by use conjunction “and” in the antecedent sentence, people significantly produced more plural pronoun in the continuation sentence. But in terms of degrees of formality, using same degree of formality can help people to produce plural pronoun but the affection was not significant.
The experiment is designed as 2(Degrees of formality)*2 (And vs. With) within ANOVA. There were two independent variables the one is using different formality, the other one is using conjunction “and” vs. “with”. The first factor degrees of formality had two levels: name with title or just first name. The second factor conjunction had two levels: and or with. There were four conditions in total-Name AND Formality; Formality AND Formality; Name WITH Formality; Formality WITH Formality. The dependent variable are the number plural pronoun (they, them or their) had been produced by the participants. The hypothesis of the experiment was the sentences with the conjunction “and” encourage the use of plural pronouns rather than use conjunction “with”. Moreover, the reference to both characters with the same degree of formality would increase the use of plural pronouns.
32 participants in their age group of 18 to 50 were used in the study. Among the participants, 16 were male and 16 were female. There were 7 participants were not native English speaker.
Apparatus and Materials
96 single-sentence materials were prepared and arraigned into six conditions (Name AND Formality; Formality AND Formality; Name WITH Formality; Formality WITH Formality). Both subjects in the sentences were one male role and one female role. Eg. Mr. Eder (male) and Chloe (female) were in the post office. Materials were divided into 4 stimuli with 6 sentences for each condition. The sentences were randomly chosen to each file. 8 participants were assigned to each file.
All participants were signed the consent and were treated in accordance with the consent declaration. 24 sentences were presented in the participants. Then the participant was asked to create a new sentence which is sensible continuation for the presented sentences. They can write as long as they wanted. The continuation must be a complete sentence.
The result was analyzed by SPSS. The individual sentences which did not use a plural pronoun were eliminated when analysing the results. A repeated measures ANOVA performed that participants produced significantly more plural pronouns when sentences contained ‘and’ than when they contained ‘with’, F(1,33) =19.1, MSE =2.5, p<0.01. Therefore the Null hypothesis is rejected as the amount of plural pronouns was produced more by using the conjunction "and" than "with".
However, Participants did not produce significant results when the formal/formal condition was compared to the formal/name condition. F(1,33) =0.241, MSE =1.5, p>0.5. The Null hypothesis of the amount of plural pronouns was produced more by using same degree of formality.
In addition, There was a significant interaction, F(1,33) =20.608, MSE =0.93, p<0.01. For mean production of plural pronoun in the formal and formal condition was 4.21 with SD=1.32; The mean production of plural pronoun in the formal and name condition was 3.35 with SD=1.52; The mean production of plural pronoun in the formal with formal condition was 2.26 with SD=0.23; The mean production of plural pronoun in the formal with name condition was 2.91 with SD=0.27(see table 1)
Valid N (listwise)
Table 1: Mean/Standard Deviation of plural pronouns used per conditon.
As the graph1 showed that in the “same degree of formality condition”, the difference of production of using plural pronoun in “and condition” (mean difference=1.95) is significantly more than in the different degree of formality (mean difference=0.44).
Graph 1. The differences of the mean of using plural pronoun in “and condition” between different degrees of formality.
The present date revealed The participants produced significantly more plural pronouns when they were presented with the conjunction “AND” than “WITH”. The reason for this result can be explained that “AND” is more likely to be followed by plural pronoun because it is a powerful cue to group subjects into a unit, whereas “WITH” tends to give the subjects separate roles. Moreover, when “AND” is used in a sentence it visually groups the two subjects into a unit, whereas “WITH” doesn’t have the same effect. For example,
(1)Mr. Eder and Chloe were in the post office.
(2)Mrs. Woods went to the grocery store with Mark.
In the sentence (1), people more focus on the relationship. However, in the sentence (2), people more focus on the event-went to the grocery, instead of “who” is involved in the event.
In terms of the degrees of formality, The original hypothesis assumed that manipulating the degrees of formality would make a significant difference when it came to grouping the subjects. However, the result was contrary to the hypothesis. On the whole, the participants didn’t produce significantly more plural pronouns when the degrees of formality were introduced into the sentence. The result underlying, that titles alone were not enough to group the subjects into a unit. It was the use of “AND” or “WITH” that ultimately did the grouping. For example, (3) Mrs. Yates and Mr. Walker walked to the beach. (4)Mrs. Yates and Mr. Walker walked to the beach.
Different from the findings of Stanford and Garrod (1981), degrees of formality did not produce a significant effect on plural pronoun production. Thus, the difference production of plural pronoun can possibly not be ascribed to the different degrees of formality. Stanford and Garrod explained their findings by assuming that the participants have put the subject with the formal title in the “adult” role. Such us sentence–Mr. Johnson and Leslie were at cinema today. However, over the 30 year period the perception of relationships has changed. Nowadays the subject with the formal title needn’t necessarily be perceived in an “adult” role.
The result showed that there was a significant interaction between conjunction and different degrees of formality. We found that the effect of using “and” is more significant in the same degree of formality. This experiment would show that people are more likely to group two subjects together when the conjunction “and” was used. Moreover, by using of same degrees of formality made no significantly increase of produce more plural pronoun. However, overall, both conjunction “and” and same degree of formality increased the use of plural pronoun. Therefore, the conjunction was not the only factor to address the grouping of two characters together, the same degree of formality is also influenced the grouping. Although, conjunction “and” had very strong influence, and degree of formality did not have a significant affect.
However, in the questionnaire, the action reference may influence the results. The participant might have associated a certain action with plural pronouns. For example, Mrs. Pearce and Mr. Jones went to the restaurant. If the action from the first sentence is logically attributed to both subjects, it is more likely that the participant will group them as a unit in his own sentence.
Moreover, the Age, individual and cultural differences can also affect the result. According to the Scenario- Mapping theory mappings of a scenario are the basis of the reader’s mental model, therefore individual and cultural differences and age should produce results of a wide variability. During our research we have tested participants of different ages and cultural backgrounds. On the whole we have noticed obvious differences in the responses.
This should be addressed in further research, as it could be useful in Social and Personality psychology. Also, more factor like similarity of description type, or name vs. role description can be used.
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